It has been fascinating over the last year and a half to see how students’ perceptions of online learning have changed. When we first moved everything online in a panic in March 2020, one of my students dropped the class because he didn’t want to take an online class; he didn’t think he’d be successful. Just a semester later, he popped up on my roster and ended up acing the course. Many students who were resistant to taking classes online learned that they did, indeed, have what it took to be an online learner.
Now that we are back in school, we’ve seen that, in fact, many of our students have continued to choose to learn in an online environment. In the past, online learning enabled folks who worked full-time or had families at home to go to school around their schedule. People who once might have been left out of higher learning found barriers removed. I’m not sure this is entirely the case with our younger generation. They might not all have the same kinds of barriers, but they might have found that an online class reduces social anxiety or it enables them to spend more time doing what they love.
And some of those who have come back to us on campus, those who complained for 18 months about having to take classes online and couldn’t wait for our doors to open…I have heard some of those same students wishing that the doors would close again so they could go all online. The gas money and time they would save not driving to school and the extra time they’d have to do their homework suddenly makes learning online worth it.
As for me, I’m just hoping that our institutions can roll with the punches and evolve with our students, continuing to remove barriers to education–and to employment!–for all.