MSU students struggling with continued online learning format


The MSU main library/ Photo credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Caroline Miller, News Reporter

EAST LANSING— Virtual learning has been the primary way that students have been learning this spring at Michigan State University. However, survey results have shown that 80% of people feel that they are learning less online. 

Bill Chopik, an assistant professor of social/personality psychology at MSU, said the vast majority of MSU students prefer in-person classes compared to virtual learning because a lot of interaction is missing in an online format.

“There’s so many nonverbal things that we communicate to other people that are easily seen and integrated when we’re in person with each other,” Chopik said. “So you strip it of all that context actually when you move to an online environment.”

Chopik said online learning is a good replacement for lecture-heavy courses that have no interaction with people, and it can be convenient to attend class while still being at home, but Chopik said he still worries about the other classes that are not lecture-heavy.

“There’s some people that think learning primarily occurs through lecture-based format where I’m just telling you facts,” Chopik said. “Then there’s another school of thought where we learn from discussing things with other people, learning from their experiences, they fill in gaps of our knowledge, and I would say we’re probably more worried about the latter.”

Chopik said his department conducted surveys in the fall semester, and the results showed that over 80% of people feel like they’re learning less, over 60% of people feel like they’re falling behind in their classes, and 58% of people think that in-person classes are better than online classes.

“People are really struggling, especially with college students, a lot of them struggle with anxiety and depression, then you lop on the fact they can’t hangout with their friends,” Chopik said.

MSU psychology professor Bill Chopik/ Photo Credit: MSU University Communications

Ashley Haluch, a junior studying nursing, said her mental health has not been great recently due to virtual learning on top of other stressors.

“It just makes the whole situation harder,” Haluch said. “And not being able to leave my apartment just because I’m working at the hospital, so I always try to self-quarantine, it definitely makes it a lot harder not being able to see friends, I never see my family, so adding not ever leaving for classes on top of it, it takes a toll.”

Haluch said she feels like she would be learning more content if her nursing classes were in person.

“I know that with a lot of students, it’s really not the same,” Haluch said. “I know I don’t do as well online as I did in person.”

Haluch said she thinks her professors are adding too much information into online classes than they would have tried to cover if the class was in person.

“Now that it’s online, they think they can fit in more information and throw in more assignments and stuff because now that we’re not going to class, that just means that we have more time on our hands which that’s not really the case,” Haluch said.

Kendyl Jarski, a senior studying elementary education, said she feels she isn’t learning as much because all of her classes and observation hours have been virtual.

“We are only observing and not able to participate in any lessons or helping the teachers with anything,” Jarski said. “Also, our lesson plans that we are creating, we are not actually able to do with the students like a regular year would look like, so we’re just creating them basically I guess for practice rather than actually implementing them into the classroom.”

Jarski said her professors have been accommodating and lenient with due dates, but she feels that her professors are giving her more work than normal.

“Two of my classes are supposed to be three hours long, but they reduced the time but just gave us more work instead,” Jarski said. “I would have rather had the class be three hours long and less work.”

Jarski said she feels more drained with virtual learning and has developed back problems from sitting at her desk so often.

“It’s just hard to find the energy to put into entertaining someone if I were to hangout with someone,” Jarski said.

To combat these feelings, Jarski said she keeps a good sleep schedule and goes on walks frequently to make sure she is taking breaks from her screen.

Although more classes have been in-person in the spring semester, the majority of classes are still online for MSU students. For students like Jarski and Haluch, it seems likely that some semblance of normalcy will not return until the fall of 2021 at the earliest. Much of the future plans for in-person classes will be dictated by how soon students can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as how diligent on and off-campus students are at maintaining social distancing. 

It is not known at this time what possible COVID-19 in-person preparations, if any, are being enacted for the fall semester of 2021 by Michigan State academic staff members.