03 Oct, Tuesday
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Arguing in favor of Online Learning

In the last couple of years since the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become normalized as a great way for people of any age to get an education. For something that once felt reserved for working adults trying to pursue a higher education, it has come a long way in the last three years and I am very grateful for that.

Considering this is my first article with the UIS Observer, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Annalise and I am an online transfer student from Elgin Community College (ECC). I live in Bartlett, Illinois which is about three hours from UIS and I am beyond grateful that I have the opportunity to earn my degree online. I began my education at ECC majoring in social work, and I quickly switched to retail management when I fell in love with the retail job I worked at for a couple of years. It was my passion for a very long time but I slowly rediscovered my passion for writing and decided to pursue a communications degree instead. Rediscovering my passion for writing has become one of the greatest joys of my life and something that I don’t think would’ve happened if I had not been taking courses online.

First and foremost, I am (unfortunately) a workaholic. I say unfortunately because I have a lot of trouble when it comes to giving myself a break, but I am very grateful that I am the way that I am. It started in June of 2020 when the store I was working at reopened and I was able to go to work every day and socialize with my friends and customers. It was an escape from spending every day at home during the pandemic, and I found myself loving the structure of working eight hours a day and then coming home to do my school work. Granted, it has gotten a bit more difficult as I continue to take on more credit hours, but I find myself enjoying the challenge more often than not.

Secondly, the structure of online classes allows me the free time to still have hobbies outside of school and work. I am a night owl so it is always nice to come home after work, relax and catch up on reading or tv shows, and give myself time to decompress before I start my school work. I had so much free time last semester that I started picking up new hobbies. I started running for the first time in my life and then I started writing creatively again for the first time since I was a kid. I don’t think this would’ve happened if it wasn’t for the extra free time I had, so I am really grateful for it.

A lot of people tend to say that I am missing out on the true experience of college if I am only taking courses online, but I don’t feel that way at all. I think I am gaining valuable work experience by continuing to work a full time job throughout college. I think what a lot of people mean by this is that I am missing out on valuable friendships that I would make if I were on campus and taking in-person classes, but I also don’t feel like that is an issue. I am a firm believer that friends can be made anywhere and I’m very lucky to have made friends at work and kept quite a few friends from when I was younger. I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all in that department and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to gain so much work experience due to having such a flexible online learning schedule.

I am also grateful for online learning because it allows me to learn in a way that’s best for me. Growing up, I always thought I hated school because I couldn’t stand to sit still in a classroom all day. I learned when I was finishing up my last year of high school online due to COVID that I actually love school, I just needed to learn in my own way. I find school so much more enjoyable when I am able to take breaks as often as I need and have music going in the background. These are things that help me be able to focus and make me a better student.

All in all, I totally understand why online learning doesn’t work for some people. I admire people who are able to sit in a lecture hall and focus for hours on end, but that is just not who I am and I am grateful that online learning has advanced enough in the past few years to become a great option for earning a degree. It obviously depends on the person, but it works best for me and I am glad that I am able to share my journey as my first article at the UIS Observer.

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