If I had to give today a name I would call it ‘The One Where Irene Tried Online Learning”. The long-dreaded first day back at university has been and gone.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been doing lots of different courses during this lockdown #makingthemostoflockdown. Most days, I feel lucky to have a lot of time on my hands and I know this might not be the case for everyone.
As you may have read on my About Page, I am studying towards a Master in Psychotherapy and Counselling. I believe the learning over the past couple of years has been in the presence of and relationship with my classmates and tutors. It comes as no surprise that I was sceptical about attending a whole term online.
Here are my very raw, very personal first reflections on today, which I hope might help you navigate online learning.
1. It is easy to fade into the background
Now, this might be because of the somewhat archaic system that my university has chosen, but it is so damn easy to disappear. Let me give you an example. This morning during the first, theory-heavy lecture, because of the system no one could have their camera or microphone on (not even the lecturer!) which resulted into two hours of listening to an ethereal voice.
Although it was nice to know that everyone was there, it was easy to get preoccupied with making cups of tea, checking Twitter, Instagram and staring blankly into the screen before realising I had not followed one word that was said for 10 minutes.
This was also true of more ‘practice-based’ sessions, where again, the silence became an invisibility blanket under which I could hide and protect myself.
It seems to me that to appear will take a lot more work than it does to just ‘turn up’ to class.
2. It will be FRUSTRATING
There is no point in sugar-coating this. Between people appearing and disappearing, noises and voices which are maybe not meant to be heard (was that someone saying ‘duck’?) and lagging communication, online learning can be a challenge, to say the least.
Teething problems are to be expected, but it’s fair to say that the above-mentioned scenarios can make the who experience exasperating. I am great at distracting myself and procrastinating as I am. The connection problems only made it easier for me to zone out and detach myself from the experience.
3. I am not in the same ‘shared world’
This one is more of an existential one. In existential theory, we are beings-in-the-world. Although we all have our own personal experience and we cannot know what it is like to be someone else, we do live in the same shared world. To some extent, we might share the same culture, history and background. To a larger extent, we all share some of life’s facticities, for example, gravity and laws of physics. This makes it easier to know that we live in the same world.
In real-life class, I share the same physical boundaries of location, the same time limits, the same shared world experience.
This, however, is not the case entirely online. In the ether, I am at home in my space, which I do not share with my classmates. Online, I am not bounded by my physical presence (I can turn off the camera and the mic, and go make myself a cup of tea).
This makes the whole experience that bit more alienating for me.
I honestly cannot yet tell where I stand on this issue. Would I prefer not to be learning at all? Certainly not. Would I prefer to put myself and others at risk by travelling to uni? Nope. What is the solution then? I don’t know.
This is certainly a new situation and I know I can learn lots from this, if I just open up to the experience of Online Learning.