KYLIEBYTES: Students are struggling with online learning

We need our professors to listen to us

Kylie Robison

This semester, I feel constantly overwhelmed. My anxiety has never been worse, and some days I seriously contemplate dropping out for the sake of my mental health. It’s hard for me to even write this. But in the course of writing this article, I found out I’m not alone.

I posted to all of my social media platforms admitting that I was having a really hard time, and I wanted to know if anyone else was too. Unexpectedly, I received dozens of messages from my peers who all echoed the same sentiment.

That sentiment boiled down to three key issues:

First, it doesn’t feel like our professors are taking the time to truly teach us anymore.

Second, despite the lack of communication, we feel like we’re receiving even more work than ever before. 

Third, our personal lives have drastically changed during this pandemic and that isn’t being accommodated. 

Overall, they noted that they don’t believe professors are taking the student perspective into consideration.

I agree with my peers — some professors seem to have checked out. I have complete sympathy for Sacramento State’s staff and administration, however, this is an institution that we pay thousands of dollars to so we can obtain our education. It isn’t out of line to demand a quality education.

“Most of my classes were labelled as asynchronous, so there is hardly any balance or structure with my learning,” said Josh Dougan, senior childhood development major, via Instagram direct message. “It feels like there is no personality so I feel lost.”

In person, we’re able to ask our professors questions or stay after class for immediate clarification. Now, we have to pause a video and wait a few days for our professor to email back. It isn’t nearly the same, but on top of it, we’re expected to do more work than before.

Undeniably, it feels like my professors have given more work online than they did in person. I told my roommate, who graduated with the same major, business management information systems, that I was feeling really overwhelmed by the exams and homework from our senior project class. She blinked, and said, “We never had homework or exams.”

According to my therapist, and Reddit, I’m not alone there either.

Story continues after Reddit post.

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Isabella Lacefield, a sophomore pre-nursing major with a full-time job, reached out to me via Instagram DM and put it perfectly.

“Many professors don’t seem to understand that in having a full time job it’s difficult to balance everything because my employer seems to think online school takes no time, while my professors think I have all the time in the world.”

This was a consistent point touched on by several students. 

Jennifer Garcia, senior business administration major, detailed her disappointment via email after seeing my Reddit thread.

“I think professors forget that students work outside of school.” Garcia said. “I’m on my last semester, working 30 hours a week with 5 classes to worry about. I feel like no matter how much I try in my courses I just can’t reach an A. It’s funny because most of my professors don’t read their emails.” 

Garcia added, “If I had another semester left I would have dropped out already honestly, all this work for zero resources from the university is disgusting.”

As a senior at Sac State, I’m not new to the stressors of higher education. I knew that online learning was a necessary transition, and I looked forward to it over the summer. I would have time to study, I would save money and I wouldn’t have to get ready for class anymore. Although I miss pretty much everything about going to school now, I had a positive outlook for the semester.

Since the semester has started, I’ve truly felt my mental health plummet. Much like Jennifer, Isabella and Josh, I’ve struggled to cope with this online format even as someone who studies computers for their major. 

Honestly, I put so much of my worth on being smart and doing well in school. As a first-generation student, I’ve had to work, and fail, incredibly hard to get where I am. Now I’m apathetic at best, depressed to be truthful. 

I saw this meme on Instagram and thought, this is exactly how I feel right now.

Story continues after Instagram post.


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Winston Lin, sophomore electrical engineering major, saw my post on Instagram and said via DM, “The learning atmosphere has changed drastically because we are in our bedrooms sitting in front of a screen for hours. It’s hard to find the will to open Zoom and attend lectures because my mind thinks it’s summer vacation.”

It feels like professors are not recognizing the truly crushing reality of what many students’ personal lives look like because of the pandemic. 

My grandma has late-stage dementia, and as I get updates of her worsening condition, I have to consider that I might never see her again. These personal struggles are happening, and professors are not checking in.

Dhruvisha Budhani, sophomore business marketing major, offered her experience via Instagram DM. She said she moved back to her hometown of Gujarat, India in June. 

Budhani said she planned to come back to Sacramento for the fall, but after Sac State announced that the semester was online, and the complications of ICE’s intervention, she decided to stay in India for the duration of the semester. That’s a 12 ½ hour time difference. As I write this article, it is 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento, and 2 a.m. in Gujarat.

“I tried to take classes according to my timezone but it didn’t really work out so now I stay up all night and sleep during the day,” Budhani said. 

Dhruvisha’s post-class snack at 3AM

The massive time difference isn’t the only school related struggle Budhani is experiencing.

“Also India is a developing country and I’m from a remote area, so internet connections are super bad here.” Budhani said. “There was a point where I almost missed my math exam and I had a breakdown.” 

After working with coordinator Alex Shigenaga and director Stephanie Ingvaldson from the International Programs & Global Engagement department at Sac State, Budhani said, Paul Hoffman, the assistant vice president for International Affairs, provided her a permission letter allowing her to come back to Sacramento next month. Despite her economic hardships, her dad was able to get her a plane ticket.

This is the reality for more of our peers than our professors realize. Instead of being met with sympathy, often it feels like our professors are doubling down. More work, harder exams and teaching ourselves their material, while also hiding from a deadly pandemic is the reality of online learning.

Some institutions are recognizing this struggle. The University of South Carolina’s student newspaper said they are, in their own words, “not Ok,” and took a one-week hiatus from publishing stories for the sake of the staff’s mental health.

Sac State briefly followed suit by changing grading policies last Spring, which allowed students to choose how their semester grade was recorded. That sympathy quickly dissipated, and now we are left with less tools and harder lives.

COVID-19 is only getting worse, with 768,338 new cases in the United States in the last 14 days alone. The stress of the pandemic is only doubling, and students feel like Sac State, and more so our professors, aren’t seeing the true impact online learning is having on us.

This lack of structure, communication and empathy cannot continue for another semester. Students will drop out, or fail, if this system is not fixed. We need to be accommodated, and at this rate, I’m sad to say this is not feeling like a #hornetfamily.