Bay Area Students Debate Quality of Online Learning

By Natalia Bogdanov 

Staff Writer

The transition of Bay Area college students to online course management systems like Canvas, Ilearn, and Zoom has resulted in students feeling as though they are receiving a sub-par quality of education. 

Political science student and The Guardsman Editor-in-Chief Claudia Drdul works on an anthropology project through Canvas at her home on May 14, 2020. Photo by Jacob Edelman/Contributor

City College Trustee John Rizzo said in an email on April 24  “the Chancellor tells me that in the past 3 weeks, 2900 students have asked for the COVID-19 refund that the state is offering.” He said that it was unclear as to why so many students asked to drop their classes, though about 200 classes were unable to transfer to the online management system which did contribute to the overall number of students dropping. 

Rochelle Schott, a City College Business and Marketing student, said that she wants to drop one of her classes because “it is just too much to handle.” Kiarra Dolan, a college of San Mateo Biology Pre-nursing student said, “I haven’t dropped any classes but I have thought about it. I am supposed to transfer in the fall so dropping any courses isn’t really an option at this point.”

University of San Francisco (USF) student Emily Lowery said, “I am enrolled in 4 classes this semester. It’s definitely harder to manage classes online due to the amount of work given. I feel that with lecture videos and alternate assignments, I have a lot more to do. There is more work in terms of learning the material. I feel that every week I am loaded up with hours of lecture videos to watch, on top of multiple other assignments. I definitely spend a lot more time working on my classes now that they are online.” 

A junior at San Jose State and a Child Development major, Carlos Lopez, said that he also spends more time due to the new format. However, he feels that it is to ensure students are keeping up with their previously assigned work. He spends “more time on classes now because teachers are giving more assignments out. For example, one of my teachers is giving us a daily quiz on a book we’re reading to make sure we’re actually reading the book, which he was not doing before school went fully online. Also some other teachers are giving more work to keep us on track,” Lopez said. 

Leilani Harvey, a student from Cañada College, a community college in Redwood City, also attested to the larger workload that has been given out since the transition. “Although there is most definitely more work given out after transferring classes online, I actually spend less time working on my classes because not having to physically be present and have a person reminding me of the due dates makes me less motivated to study and succeed,” Harvey said. 

However a Political Science major at USF, Anisa Alazaraie, said, “I am enrolled in 5 classes. I don’t find it very hard to manage them, time-wise, as they are being conducted at the same times online as they were in person.” Although Alazaraie is also experiencing the same kind of lack in personal motivation that has proceeded since the online format took place.

Jack Gilmore, a sophomore at American River College, is having a similar experience. The online format “makes it less interesting to keep up with classes that don’t hold a zoom meeting. It seems that classes that were using largely online components for work before and that now use Zoom are easy to manage whereas Econ and Geology have become more difficult as they are designed to be taught in person,” Gilmore said. 

City College student Shevaghna Milton said, “switching to online courses was really difficult for me! Before the school closed, I relied on the CCSF library for access to a computer. Accessing Canvas, Zoom, and completing assignments through a smartphone is less than ideal.” 

Another area of concern for most Bay Area college students is the possibility that the online system will result in a lesser quality education then what they were promised and are paying full price for. 

This is true for Lowery. “I definitely feel a lack of necessities in my courses. I am learning an entire semester of a language through a workbook and the assigned videos,” she said. “As I know times are tough for everyone, I would like more contact with all of my professors. Not one of my professors hold mandatory zoom sessions, we learn strictly from videos which can be difficult at times.” 

Harvey is “definitely disappointed and dissatisfied, as a science major, I’m taking mostly hands-on classes. For instance my Physiology class, which is a Lab, has moved a lab to the online format. This is frustrating because it is the best way to learn the material, and the most exciting. Lab was the part of this class that I had the highest hopes for and it was cancelled along with any other face-to-face mandatory meetings. I do feel this will affect how much I take from this class at the end of the semester.”

Alazarai said that she has found “that for classes that are reading-based, I am receiving just what I need to get my worth out of my education. However, for classes that involve community interaction and a lot of class projects, I am not learning what was promised. For example, I am in a service learning class that studies conduct resolution. We traveled to Northern Ireland in early January to study conflict resolution and we were meant to bring what we learned back to the Bay Area so we could apply those lessons to conflicts within our own community. Now, we will not be attending any of our planned community service hours or events.”

San Francisco State University student Roque Coral, said that his educational quality has “absolutely lessened. Almost all of my classes engaged in constant group work and active learning prior to the online format. Discussing the material with classmates isn’t easy now that classes are online.”

Some students suggested another downfall of these online management systems is that professors are not putting in as much effort for their students as they had before. For example, Lowery said her “professors are being lenient due to these difficult times. As I know some other students have it harder, I still feel like they can do more. I honestly feel that this online system is more about grades than actually learning. Exams are open notes, multiple essays were dropped, and other weekly assignments have been taken away. I feel like the learning aspect has been taken away.”

Lowery further explained that she finds it difficult to learn American Sign Language online with no one-on-one contact. “I am basically teaching myself to learn a language. I feel that a major drawback is just the lack of communication and outlets for guidance. I feel that I am strictly teaching myself material and could receive this type of education somewhere other than a private institution like USF,” she said.

Lopez feels that his professors are putting in effort, however, professors can sometimes take an hour to reply and do not have a scheduled time to meet with students who have questions. Dolan also reported to have the same experience where teachers will not respond to her questions before it is time to turn in her assignments.