Op-Ed: Online learning, lost motivation

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Editor’s Note: A clarification is needed regarding who conducted the student survey. Dr. Deborah Pollack and Dr. Kaylee Seddio both conducted the survey with Seddio being the principal investigator.

Alexandria Leland, Photographer

A new landscape can be a daunting territory to navigate, especially when it is a black mirror sectioned into small rectangles that each hold a small face. Yes, we’re talking about online learning. 

The motivation students get from social connections has deflated. The way we learn, grow and develop confidence has been altered with no means of escaping. A glimmer of hope has started to shine as of late, but motivation still seems to be lost. 

It may seem like we have been more isolated than ever, but an apparent truth is that all students have been in this together. Students are all experiencing feelings of loss, while the extent varies, a common thread is that something is missing. Professors have been watching over the students and have hope for the future, as does the counseling center. 

But while times are still rough, online learning has been a drag. 

“When I see Zoom, I just shut down,” said Junior Kayla Viti. 

Her classmates didn’t seem to chime into discussion either, as the motivation to talk over Zoom didn’t seem to exist. 

“It’s just kind of awkward to press that unmute button to start talking,” she said.

There is no comparison between an online learning environment to an in-person educational experience. The phrase, “you’re not getting the education you paid for,” has been uttered many times to students and even spoken to themselves. 

“I don’t want to get up out of bed to go to a discussion board,” Viti said. 

At first, Viti said the online learning experience was alright because she was working off of nervous energy. Then when winter break came, her brain became loose. It seemed surreal returning to campus. 

Anxiety and depression have always been a conversation that coincides with the college experience. This past year has exaggerated these feelings. With anxiety levels seemingly higher than usual, two Utica College professors decided to conduct a survey to see what’s going on. 

Dr. Deborah Pollack, assistant professor of psychology, and Dr. Kayle Seddio conducted a survey of 200 students and the results showed that more than half of the students had anxiety in the severe range, while 100% showed at least one sign of ADHD. Anxiety and ADHD can exacerbate each other, so it can be tricky to identify what exactly is going on. While going through these hard times, it is important to remember to not take life for granted and focus on what really matters.

Deborah Pollack, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Patrick Grizzle, a junior, said that he stays motivated by remembering that he wants to make something out of himself. These times have made him miss the competitive edge sports gave him, but to get through it, he uses the Harold Athletic Center on campus. 

We are all trying to get through this in our own ways. Professors have made notice of students checking out, and they want to keep us checked in.

Utica College also offers free counseling services to active students. Their services include individual counseling, case management and programming surrounding mental health issues. Through the counseling services improvements, students can achieve greater overall functionality in multiple areas of life. 

Dave Roberts, professor of psychology and psychology-child life encourages “pockets of social connection,” in his classrooms. Every period, he says hello to everyone and asks how they’re doing. Taking special care of each other during this time is important. 

Pollack said we need to lower the bar of expectations for others and practice empathy. 

“If I see a student depressed or withdrawn, I’m going to err on the side of caution and check-in,” Roberts said. “Even if you just show someone you care, it can be just enough to pull someone out of the abyss.” 

The world is not meant to be experienced through a computer. Although students may be tech-savvy, they don’t like online learning. 

“Through this cloud of COVID, we will see a silver lining,” Roberts said.