By: Betzalel Shapiro  | 

What We Lose Through Online Education

How is everybody holding up? Are you enjoying your online classes? Passing them, I hope? 

If you’re anything like me, it’s difficult to answer positively to any of those questions, because unfortunately, things aren’t so hot right now. We’re burned out. This Zoom thing may have seemed like a feasible replacement to physical classrooms several weeks ago, but by now sitting through these online sessions is exhausting, defeating and ultimately draining. 

But why exactly, is this the case? One could argue that online classes, as is now the norm, offer many advantages and quality-of-life conveniences compared to more traditional classroom settings. 

For one, we don’t have to deal with strict bathroom policies, we can get up and effectively “leave” class whenever we feel like, and quite frankly, there’s not much professors can do about that. Additionally, we can enjoy whatever food or drinks we have at our disposal, and getting a refill is as easy as wandering over to the kitchen mid-lecture. Some students have found the comfort of their beds replacing those hard, cramped desks we’re all accustomed to sitting in. This is hardly a personal confession, but the fact remains, with the webcam turned off, the students of YU are free to pick their noses as they please and learn basic economics simultaneously. 

Effectively, some of the stricter elements of schooling have more or less gone out the window. Class is a more casual affair these days, and in a way, this quarantine has granted us new freedoms. 

But those freedoms come at a cost, one that many would agree is far too steep, and quite simply, not worth it. It’s the reason that, despite these small freedoms afforded to us, we feel more trapped than ever, and being stuck at home, bound to our online routines, becomes an increasingly soul-sucking experience. 

See, we’re losing a very valuable aspect of our college lifestyles. Under normal circumstances, the more difficult times spent in class and studying are complemented by social opportunities. I like to think of it as a work/reward scenario. Yes, we’ll spend a day stuck in class, taking notes and allotting ourselves appropriate time to study, but then we also have our social lives. For some people, this can be more robust than for others, but quite literally, at the end of the day, there is another side to our college lives that comes in the form of fun and friends. 

Some of us are lucky to share classes with our friends, or are even able to make new ones along the way. At the moment, we may not realize it, but that physical sense of companionship goes a long way towards making that time more bearable. And to those who might find it difficult to hang out during the week due to overwhelming workloads, there’s always extra time, whether it’s spending Shabbat on campus together with one’s peers or attending club events from time to time. 

The point is, there’s something to be said about the value of a proper social life serving as the backdrop to our college experience. Now personally, there have been periods during my time at Yeshiva University where I wasn’t “getting out” as much as I may have wanted to, and I recall feeling incredibly dulled by the monotony of my education, the dominant force in my life then. However, given the current circumstances, those feelings are greatly amplified and I yearn for the chance to actually “live” again, in a way that is both socially productive and fulfilling. 

I applaud efforts made by some of the student body and the YU community to create virtual events through platforms like Zoom and Facebook, and the fact that people are trying their best to maintain a sense of community and culture through these makeshift methods is admirable. I myself have been doing my best to stay connected to others, and I find that even friends with whom I may not have regularly hung out with much during a normal semester have been reaching out. 

There’s a reason for this. We’re starving for genuine social connections. Frankly, I don’t even need to be saying this, as it’s constantly on all of our minds while this quarantine drags on and on. But coupled with the fact that we’re still technically in school, attending classes and doing work, well, I think the absence of this cornerstone to our lives is noticed all the more so. 

We’re doing the work that college demands of us, but despite our best efforts to remain social online, the rewards of a true social life escape us. 

On a technical level, Zoom classes might “cut it”, despite a growing sentiment that they are more difficult to learn through. Personally, I feel as if my brain gets instantly distracted the moment I log on. But at the end of the day, I suppose it “works.” But the bleeding social aspect of our lives, much as many of us are trying to keep it alive online, simply cannot replace the real deal. 

The beauty of the traditional college setup exists in the fact that we get a proper reprieve from the stress of constant schoolwork in the form of meeting friends for lunch, going on dates and attending club events as we please. Seeing my friend in a small rectangle on my screen for about an hour a day and tagging them on Facebook just can’t compete. The days we are currently living through enforce those same isolating feelings I had during previous semesters when I wasn’t taking advantage of social opportunities, and now, we simply can’t, as much as we want to. 

In the end, we feel exhausted, defeated, and ultimately drained. 

Photo Caption: The bleeding social aspect of our lives, much as many of us are trying to keep it alive online, simply cannot replace the real deal.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons