The Great Online Class Experiment: What it is and what it isn’t teaching us

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SMU student Thomas Grazer of Los Angeles leaves campus before Spring Break last Friday. SMU announced that classes will continue online after the break due to the coronavirus outbreak.  Photo by Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP

SMU student Thomas Grazer of Los Angeles leaves campus before Spring Break last Friday. SMU announced that classes will continue online after the break due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP

Your alarm wails at 8:57 a.m. for your 9 a.m. calculus class. You slouch up in bed and join the course room of 200 students, double and triple checking that your mic and video camera are off. It’s now 10:15 a.m. and you decide to take a 30-minute nap before jumping into a day of productivity. 

It’s 12 p.m. and you wake up wanting a change in environment. So, you mosey all the way down to the kitchen where you eat something, talk to your parents and siblings and tune in to your favorite Netflix show for a break from an already unbelievably exhausting day. It’s 1 p.m. so you join your English Discussion Board, reply to your peers’ opinions and formulate one or two of your own. 

After, you decide to start reading for your class tomorrow and plunge into your assignment before your physics class at 4 p.m. You begin to read the first page, but then your phone blows up with messages from your best friends you haven’t seen in ages. So, you have to read them. It’s a hilarious TikTok that you all chuckle over. You think since you’re all already on your phone, it makes sense to do a group FaceTime for an hour… or two.

You hang up and realize it’s 3 p.m.. So you return to the page you started with and while reading, you begin to realize how suffocated, lazy and bored you really are. You realize you miss that 8 a.m. lecture, the freedom to go to the gym if you wanted, Dunkin runs, exchanging smiles with those floormates in the hallways on your trips to the bathroom and the library late-night group study sessions. You slowly depress yourself as you come to terms with not being able to return to campus, to your friends, to your routine until the end of August. Oh and on top of that, it’s 3:55 p.m. and you have no idea what you just read. 


In this combination of frame grabs from journalist Donna Borak's March 17 online meditation session she hosted over Zoom, she leads a group to help ease the stress of isolation from Washington. Borak decided to share her skills in both the practice of meditation and yoga to help those in quarantine recharge and reconnect.  Photo courtesy of Donna Borak via AP

In this combination of frame grabs from journalist Donna Borak’s March 17 online meditation session she hosted over Zoom, she leads a group to help ease the stress of isolation from Washington. Borak decided to share her skills in both the practice of meditation and yoga to help those in quarantine recharge and reconnect. Photo courtesy of Donna Borak via AP

Welcome to day four of Zoom University. 

For obvious reasons, this quarantine is extremely necessary to flatten the curve and keep as many individuals safe from COVID-19. However, in a more abstract sense, this “great online class experiment” as a result of the quarantine may be necessary to put our college education in perspective. Midway through any semester, it’s understandably the norm for college students to complain about wanting the upcoming break to go home to family, home-cooked meals and the freedom to do absolutely nothing. However, now that everyone has to be home, where there’s family and home-cooked meals, many of us are going crazy. We miss campus, the regimented lifestyle that kept us on our toes and the way easier face-to-face instruction of our courses. Along with the required coursework, Zoom University has definitely taught us how we take our classes, extracurriculars, access to facilities like the library or study lounges and time spent with friends for granted. 

Furthermore, this “great online class experiment” has raised some questions about human need. If we’re still surrounded by the comfort of our homes with food, technology and loved ones, just like we were before the quarantine, why are we so distraught? Why is staying inside doubly or even triply more difficult than before?

According to Simon Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Health System and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, “Any time people have a major disruption in their routine and lose their ‘social rhythm reinforcers’ — going to school or work, or attending social events — it’s a jolt.” He states that if the things that normally uplift individuals’ moods are removed — like reconnecting with a friend after a while, exercising or moving from one class to the next — there’s a potential negative impact on their moods. Individuals thus experience and feel depression, loneliness and a loss of freedom. In a recent Business Insider article, a 2015 meta-analysis reveals that individuals with weaker social relationships are 50% more likely to die over a certain time period compared to those who have more long-lasting relationships.

In other words, “Poor social connections and loneliness seems to be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Therefore, social connections are a human need. Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University Julianne Holt-Lunstad tells individuals to think of loneliness like hunger and thirst. Just like hunger and thirst are uncomfortable conditions that drive us to find food and water, loneliness is an “unpleasant state that motivates us to seek out social connections.”

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Wake up at a reasonable hour everyday, attend all of your classes, designate a spot that’s not your bed to do homework, go on walks alone or with a parent or sibling, create workouts at home for the whole family, have a virtual bake-off with your friends from campus if you really want to, allot some time for your hobby you usually never get the time for and have those FaceTime sessions but, maybe, for a bit less time.

For this reason, it makes sense why many of us are distracted, can’t focus and can’t get as much work done in Zoom University. While in quarantine our bodies are telling us to seek those social connections; we thus engage in long FaceTime calls instead of reading our books and partake in more conversations and activities with our families than we normally do instead of completing assignments.

However, given the present situation of COVID-19, we need to endure this period of isolation and loneliness for the greater good. So, to survive this great online class experiment and quarantine, recreate that routine on campus. Wake up at a reasonable hour everyday, attend all of your classes, designate a spot that’s not your bed to do homework, go on walks alone or with a parent or sibling, create workouts at home for the whole family, have a virtual bake-off with your friends from campus if you really want to, allot some time for your hobby you usually never get the time for and have those FaceTime sessions but, maybe, for a bit less time.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual writers in the opinion section do not reflect the views and opinions of The Daily Campus or other staff members. Only articles labeled “Editorial” are the official opinions of The Daily Campus.


Mehak Sharma is a campus contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mehak.2.sharma@uconn.edu.

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