Online learning


Michelle Zhu

Writer Jasmine Hou deliberates on the pros and cons of online learning

Jasmine Hou, Writer

“Welcome to CTY Online Programs!” the email read. “I will be your teacher and your guide for this intensive AP Chemistry course.” I looked at my screen and sighed. The summer had barely begun and I was already back in the classroom. Only this time, I was alone. I’ve spent months balancing equations and memorizing polyatomic ions. Although I am only three months into the course, I’ve begun to reflect on the pros, cons and impacts of taking online courses.

As I watched the webpage load painfully slowly, my frustration builds. My initial test of resilience was my first lab. As I riffled through the pages and read the procedure, I discovered that the course material did little to prepare us for our activity. This is the first disadvantage of online courses: the inability to quickly clarify concerns that may hinder full understanding of the material. After several fruitless Google searches and confusing YouTube videos, all I wished for was a teacher, a tutor or anyone to explain what was being asked of me. The stress and irritation this caused made me feel like a pile of pitiable mush.

But perhaps the most dramatic difference I experienced was the isolation caused by the absence of a peer’s or a teacher’s physical presence. Sitting alone at the library for hours on end watching videos on organic nomenclature is already a bore; without a friend willing to suffer through it with you, the hours feel more like months. With my brain often only half-awake and unresponsive to the material, I found myself easily distracted.

Many believe that the greatest advantage of online courses is the flexible schedule, but this flexibility eventually became one of my worst enemies. Due to the lack of scheduled class time or discussions, I often found myself procrastinating on my assignments and stressing about them just hours before they were due. 

This experience ultimately forced me to reevaluate my study habits. As the months went by, I realized that staying up until 3 a.m. watching videos in the dark was not enjoyable, so I learned to properly allocate time and split up the course load. To combat self-induced distractions, I began to analyze my own study habits and reconsider my optimal study environment. When I realized that I could not receive an immediate answer to questions about the material, I was forced to take a step back and use critical thinking to solve problems on my own. Online courses drive students to develop time management skills, cultivate critical thinking and reasoning abilities and allow them to learn more about themselves as students. 

After several months of taking this course, I’ve realized that online learning is not for me. Although these courses definitely taught me a lot about myself as a student, the journey required too many sacrifices, both physically and emotionally. Staying up late to study affected my behavior at school and the constant anxiety from deadlines distracted me from other extracurricular activities.

Taking a class online is a demanding endeavor. Whether it is one worth investing in depends on the student, their interest for the subject and their current learning habits. Students who cannot commit several hours every day to learning concepts that they express little interest in will only find online courses a source of unnecessary stress that may inhibit them from discovering their true passions. However, a student with high self-control and exhibits a strong desire and commitment to learn might find the experience worthwhile as it will challenge their abilities.