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How Rutgers Students Are Handling Remote Learning

by Sarah Malik
rutgers during pandemic

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has affected every individual’s life, for the better or for the worse. Rutgers students are no exception to this change, as the university joins many other colleges in the United States in becoming fully remote for the spring semester starting January 19. As of April 2021, students will have been online for a full year, and it’s important to know how this change has impacted them and their studies. From the freshmen to the graduating, this has been an intense ride. Many questions have arisen about this upcoming semester: Are online classes harder online? Is the education worth the amount paid for the school year? What changes will students see from the previous semesters? It’s best to understand the perspective of a Rutgers student directly from their lens.

As a Rutgers student, I found this topic interesting and conducted a survey in which students were asked questions about remote learning. Students from different years and different majors answered to explain their experience with handling the pandemic and remote learning. I received 50 responses.

Do Rutgers Students Prefer Asynchronous or Synchronous Classes?

While some students have expressed that a mixture of both create a good balance in their schedule, most responses argued that asynchronous classes allowed them to get a better grasp on the material. Synchronous classes require a student to log in and attend a class that may carry on for up to three hours, interfering with the student’s everyday life. Rutgers allows 20 minutes in between classes and for some students, this is not enough. 

Recorded lectures, or asynchronous classes, help students set aside a time where they are most productive, and they also allow lessons to be repeated with just a click of a button. These lectures greatly help students during exam season as the modules are more organized. Giving students their own time to learn is vital during a time like this. Having classes synchronously is not the same as having classes in-person, even though the class is summoned at the same time. In addition, students have expressed their gratitude for professors who record their lectures while teaching synchronous classes, as students can go back and rewatch them for anything they’ve missed.

Old Queens area on Rutgers' College Avenue Campus

With the option of both types of classes, students can take a break from Zoom/Webex meetings and recharge. Staying on Zoom for hours on end can be very draining, and students need time to deal with their exhaustion.

Are Certain Majors Harder to Learn Online?

Due to the diversity of majors who completed this survey, there were different replies to this particular question. 14 percent of students found that while the major itself isn’t difficult, staying focused is a challenge for them. The rest of the students seem to be split in half, claiming that their major is more difficult online, or that it’s not difficult at all. 

Most professors have done their best to create an environment to salvage what normalcy they can while teaching. However, if the major relies on in-person teaching, this can become a challenge for students. For example, biology majors have been completing labs online, but this method of learning is not as effective. Certain hands-on assignments don’t translate the same when they are completed online.

Pass/No Credit Option

In the first week of December 2020, President Holloway enforced the option for students to pass classes in which they did not do well so it would not affect their GPA. 68 percent of students who answered the survey did not feel the need to take advantage of this option, but expressed that they were appreciative of the option and hope to see it for later semesters as well.

Were Professors More Understanding in Terms of Grades or Exams?

While online learning during a global pandemic is difficult on students, it’s also the professor’s first time facing this problem, and most of them have made sure their students understand the resources they have to make online learning easier. Some professors have increased the time for their office hours, and have been very understanding with deadlines. Students, again, are very appreciative of this. Professors have always insisted students to reach out and seek extra help or counseling if necessary, and this has only been even more encouraged.

Taking a Semester Off / Transferring Out of Rutgers

Rutgers

41 percent of students who completed the survey expressed that they considered taking a semester or year off, while 31 percent considered transferring out of Rutgers. There can be a wide number of reasons for this as every individual is dealing with the pandemic differently. While many students have considered it, very few have acted upon this decision.

How Were Grades Affected?

Surprisingly, more students did better in the previous online semesters or about the same. However, the difference of percentages between those who did well and those who didn’t is narrow. Once again, there are a number of reasons why, but one important aspect to consider is screen time. Students’ attention spans have greatly decreased due to prolonged screen time.  82 percent of students surveyed expressed that staring at their laptop for numerous hours affects their learning, whether it causes their eyes to strain or gives them migraines. Exposure to blue lights is proven to cause sleeplessness and is also linked to a decrease of mental health. It is hard to stay focused when there are other factors that contribute to a student’s lack of attention. Perhaps this is why students prefer asynchronous classes. 

Were Students More or Less Motivated Working from Home?

Homelife is different for each household, and that may be a factor as to why a whopping 73 percent of students felt less motivated at home. In-person classes provide a learning environment that is unlike no other, and studying at home just doesn’t compare to that. In a classroom, there are fewer distractions and the opportunity to better communicate with peers and professors. 

What Helped Students Stay Motivated?

There are many helpful tips under this question. They include: taking frequent breaks, tucking phones and other unnecessary electronics away, creating schedules and checklists, listening to good music to drown out background noise, maintaining a reward system, changing studying locations often, and making time for their own hobbies as a college student to relax.

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Was the Education Students Received in 2020 Worth the Amount Paid?

The big question. The general consensus says no. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as many students have passed around petitions in hopes to force President Holloway and the Rutgers administration to reevaluate their decision on charging students the same amount they would if classes were in-person. Most students argue that learning in-person and learning remotely are two wildly different experiences. They should not have to pay the same amount for both.

What Change Do Students Want to See Rutgers Enforce for the Next Semester?

Responses include: reduced tuition prices, better audio equipment/training for professors, less busy/intensive work, leniency with due dates.

If Students Could Tell President Holloway One Thing, It Would be:

  1. The Pass/No Credit option should be available until in-person classes start up again
  2. Professors need to have a separate email for students (because they lose emails too often)
  3. The tuition is not worth the education
  4. Consider making recorded lectures permanent
  5. Low-income students should be given the aid they deserve
  6. There should not be a campus fee, considering there is no campus 
  7. Professors should include 5-10 minute breaks during lectures
  8. Online classes should have more sections available

There have been many twists and turns for Rutgers students, and the general understanding is that online classes and the education students received in 2020 cannot be compared to in-person classes. The amount they paid doesn’t equate to what they’ve learned over the course of the past few semesters. Some students have expressed that they are struggling more than others. While not everything is perfect, there is always room for improvement. 

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