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  • Collegian staff

Student productivity, mental health challenged by hybrid learning

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Piper Lehr

Staff writer

This past year, students have had to adapt not only to online learning, but also an increasingly turbulent political climate in the wake of COVID-19, BLM protests and the upcoming election. These factors, especially in combination, raise questions about how students are coping in terms of productivity and mental health. Two Willamette students, Jason Lange and Erica Steinberg, detailed their experiences with these changes.

Jason Lange is a senior English and humanities double major. He is living at home and taking a mix of in-person and online classes. When asked about which teaching style he preferred, he said, “It’s a split answer. I think when the class is large, I would rather have it online to be honest. If it’s smaller, like a discussion class, in-person is better. Either way, I would prefer in-person [like it used to be] because you can’t see each other's faces.”

Erica Steinberg is a senior psychology major and chemistry minor. She is living at home and taking all of her classes remotely, even her in-person class. She would prefer everything to be in-person like it used to be, but she does not have any strong opinions against staying at home. “Two of my three classes would have been remote anyway. I only have one class in-person,” she said. She then elaborated on what taking face to face classes remotely was like. “It’s not necessarily bad, it's just kind of annoying because obviously the students are wearing masks. It would’ve been difficult to hear them anyway because they don’t have microphones. It definitely makes things more difficult because it’s muffled and you have to kind of strain your head to hear them. But my teacher fixed that by repeating her words.”

Lange thinks that his productivity has been negatively affected by online learning. He said: “I’ve had problems with getting assignments in on time and attention span issues. I would say that my scores are definitely affected, also because I don't have that much bandwidth. I’d say I'm taking like an eight percent dip on average.” Lange is also working this semester. He said: “Also, my job is really stressful. I think I'm going to quit next week because I'm falling desperately behind and not every professor is being super sensitive. Some of them are like, get it together.”

Steinberg, on the other hand, does not think that her productivity has been affected that much by online learning. She said: “I’m only taking three classes and it’s mostly reading homework. For Spanish we just have small assignments and stuff. Sometimes I’ll forget about them and it’ll be nine or ten and I’ll be like ugh, but I get them in on time.” She went on to say, “attention span during classes has been okay. Naturally it’s boring whenever I've heard teachers repeat the same thing I've been learning the past four years, and that’s difficult to not tune out. When I do homework sometimes I get up and pace around the room. Some of that would have happened before, but it was a lot worse in the spring. It’s better now as I’ve had more time to get used to it [remote learning].”

COVID-19 has introduced many students to new teaching methods. When Lange was asked about the most useful, novel teaching style he’s encountered since Willamette’s shift to online, he said: “I think just opening up like different times in schedules that aren’t rigid, like just your office hours for students to talk out the course load, or whatever paper, or classes in general. That access, it’s kind of consoling to know that not only are the adults around us taking this seriously, but also it’s stable. It’s nice for them to open that up. I think also finding a really good balance between keeping your expectations up but without drowning anybody. I don’t think taking the pedal all the way off is going to help anybody, but some professors have found a good balance.”

Steinberg said, “I can’t think of anything specific, but I do like the breakout rooms.”

When asked about the least useful teaching style he’s encountered, Lange said: “I think what’s least useful is treating this semester like it’s like any other time when the world’s had difficulty. Sometimes there's this vibe where it feels like the teachers are like, oh come on I’ve survived Chernobyl, can you guys man up a little bit? Any energy like that.”

Steinberg said: “The thing I definitely don’t like is asynchronous lectures. It’s not only hard to get yourself to watch them, but it also is kind of counterproductive. Yesterday or two days ago when my teacher put up chemical structures and stuff on the slides I got super interested and went on a tangent for a couple of minutes, which is something that you can’t do asynchronously.”

When asked if he had anything to note about his mental health in the wake of online lectures and world events, Lange said: “I'm not sleeping. When I do, I fall asleep by accident with books and stuff all around me, like the full regalia, my computer, my notebook, and like whatever just littered all around me. My sleep schedule is totaled.”

Steinberg said: “Especially with the election and stuff it has made me anxious. In terms of politics I'm trying to stay optimistic and hopeful which is difficult to do. If it’s like a bad politics day, I'll stay off of Twitter. Staying off some social media is good. Otherwise I don't think it’s been impacting my grades at all.”

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