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Is online learning getting harder, or is it just me?

by Alissa Mann 2 months ago in student

We could all do with a break right now.

Headache inducing lighting conditions

Fellow students, are you too feeling demotivated, deflated, defeated? Getting headaches, nausea or muscle cramps? It feels like we’ve been staring into this vortex for far too long and it’s sucking the soul out of us...or maybe that’s just me?

At the end of last semester, half way through the final year of my course I couldn’t have been happier with the virtual learning situation. Studying from the comfort of my own home seemed the ideal setup - minimal commute, constant access to tea and snacks, no need to brave inclement weather and so much time saved by not running from building to building for different classes.

By Alena Ganzhela on Unsplash

I would wake up refreshed, study for a few hours after enjoying a leisurely bowl of porridge, maybe join a seminar, before working out and eating lunch. A few more hours of studying in the afternoon, then finish for the day and relax.

But now we’re three weeks into this grey and wet spring semester and, honestly, I am sick and tired of this virtual learning malarkey. Whoever I was just a few months ago is a stranger to me now. Frankly, her easy life and optimism are a bit off-putting. Who feels that great in a pandemic anyway? I’m filled with envy and disdain for how easy she had it.

By Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

My revised schedule looks more like this:

7am: Wake up and contemplate the mountain of work still to be done.

8am: Spend far too long chewing over breakfast and scrolling through the news in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

9am: Sit down to study - some reading perhaps, or grammar exercises?

10am: Remember that using the computer without my glasses makes me feel sick now, and so sprawl on the bed in self-pity for half an hour as I wait for the nausea to subside.

2pm: Rub on some mascara to give a semblance of life before joining a seminar.

3pm: Regret the mascara as now I’ve rubbed my eyes and look even more undead.

5pm: Close the laptop after staring blankly out the window for an hour.


I only wish I knew what has brought about this u-turn in attitude. I’ve come up with a list of theories as tall as my stack of module reading for Politics and Culture in the USSR. Perhaps the tinny sound from my pathetic laptop speakers is disrupting my brain waves? Or maybe it’s my mismatched prescription causing the sensation of seasickness after an hour of work at the computer?

Or perhaps it's the blue light disrupting my circadian rhythm?

It probably doesn’t help that I rarely leave the house anymore. Cooped up on my stiff wooden chair all day with the curtains drawn to improve the picture quality through the webcam makes me desperate to get back outside and take a long, deep breath of moist and earthy air. Eight hours on a screen doesn’t do anyone any good, but what alternative do we have? We're grateful for the technological wonders which have kept us together this past year - social lives held together with liberal amounts of gifs and voicenotes, businesses kept running via wires in the ground, and students in classes hundreds of kilometres away from campus. But we’re flagging.

Eyes strained, neck stiff, energy depleted; we’re feeling the consequences of long-term virtual life alright. To make it through, we’ve got to be kind and understanding - so if your friend turns down your Zoom quiz invitation, perhaps they’re just tired of the virtual world, not of you.

More importantly, we’ve got to take care of ourselves and treat ourselves with the sort of radical kindness usually reserved for children and beloved friends. Just like you would with a child, remember to check in and ask: How long have I been sat here? Am I feeling okay? Is this task going to use up all my energy? Is there a way I can do this without using a screen?

So tell me, how are you coping, living life through a screen? Are you still as optimistic as I was only a few months ago? More likely you’re rolling your eyes thinking, Alissa, you’re late to the party! and can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to this point. Me neither, to be frank.

Take care, work hard, be kind. Online university sucks (and sure as hell isn’t worth nine grand), so no wonder we're all struggling. We're all in this together - virtually, at least.

Alissa Mann
Alissa Mann
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Alissa Mann

Linguist, explorer, food lover


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