EDITOR’S COLUMN: Online learning probably saved me from dropping out

I accidentally fell in love with online classes. That almost feels dirty to say, but they were an answer to a problem I didn’t know how to fix. I, like almost 12% of college students, suffer from an attention disorder.

Typical in-person classes have always come with their ups and downs for me. They made it so I couldn’t do other things during class times, yes, but as soon as I lost my attention once, I spaced out for good and that was that. I’m also not always the most attentive at the same time every day. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes afternoon or even 2 a.m., but there’s not a drop of consistency.

Furthermore, classes that have a longer scheduled time, or are rather lecture heavy, are even worse. An hour and 20 minutes into a two-hour lecture, my eyes are glazed over and Taylor Swift is coming out of the professor’s mouth instead of the lecture material. I thought this was just how learning was going to be for me.

Then COVID-19 took over the world, and we were ushered online. What I thought was going to be even worse for me turned out to be one of the best things to happen to my education. Whether it be Zoom lectures, pre-recorded lectures or a non-lecture-based asynchronous class, these were leaps and bounds better for me.

Zoom lectures allowed me to be a bit more comfortable during class. I could fidget about while I took notes, wear more comfortable clothes that I wasn’t so aware of and get up for a quick stretch whenever I was getting a bit too restless. I also had the option to take class where I needed it to be. From my desk in my bedroom, to my kitchen for more space or to friends’ houses for a change of scenery — anywhere I had WIFI, I could still learn.

Pre-recorded lectures offered me the flexibility I never knew I needed. I can do what works for me, whether that be pausing to catch up or taking a break for a few minutes to digest some particularly difficult subject matter. I also don’t have to consume a lecture in one sitting with this option, either. I can break it up however I need to for that day. I can also treat the more procedural lectures like podcasts and keep my hands entertained while consuming the material.

Similarly, asynchronous courses that are not lecture-based quickly became my favorite way to learn. I get to fully pick when I get to do any and every aspect of the class. Readings at 2 a.m.? No problem. Inspiration strike for an assignment over lunch? Cool, that’s just fine.

These flexible options are not just enjoyed by me, either. Entire universities have been born based on these concepts, and more brick-and-mortar institutions are expanding their options to meet students where they are. According to Univstats, in 2021 nearly 3,000 Ferris students were enrolled in exclusively online courses.

This alternative option allows a greater number of students to further their education in a way that works for them. I don’t know if I would have been as successful in college without these options. What I once thought would feel like a pandemic prison turned out to be one of the best things to happen to my educational experience.