The majority of classes being online has brought about a number of fundamental changes to the structure of semesters
for Brooklyn College students. According to a recent Facebook poll, many students feel as though they are contending with heavier workloads this semester than when taking classes in-person.
“How does your workload in a fully online semester compare to an in-person semester?” was the question posted by Mike Ruparena, a junior majoring in Psychology. The question on the group, “BC: In the Know 2,” was accompanied by a poll which gave participants five responses ranging from “I am required to do much more work” to “I am required to do much less work,” with more moderate responses between the two poles.
While there isn’t any quantitative way to determine how much more or less work students are being assigned, the results of the poll suggest that students are feeling the weight of a heavier course burden while taking classes online. At the time of publishing, 123 students cast a vote in the poll that was posted on Monday, September 14. Nearly 76% of the participants, or 93 students, checked the box labeled “I am required to do much more work.”
“The main reason I wanted to make this poll was because I wanted to know if my experiences were typical or not,” Ruparena told the Vanguard via e-mail.
Not going to class, no longer waiting for a professor to show up, or not brushing shoulders in the hallways, also means not being able to check with classmates about how they’re handling the assignments. While a lot of this sort of checking-in can happen online, it’s far from a one-to-one replacement.
“The connections I’ve made over my first two years with classmates and professors all occurred due to being in the same room with them and talking to them,” said Ruparena. “Since March, there has been absolutely zero of that. I think it’s a huge chunk of the college experience that we are all missing out on.”
Students like Ruparena are experiencing a range of professors and accompanying workloads. Not all professors are using their online classrooms as training grounds to see how much homework their students can handle. A source within the history department assured the Vanguard that they “know for a fact that we are trying not to overwhelm students.” It is unlikely that any professor is intentionally trying to overwhelm students, but there is little question about the difficulty in gauging how much work students can handle when combined with other professors trying to determine the same thing.
Ruparena said he doesn’t think the poll should be taken at “face value,” because he felt some students may have answered more negatively in order to bring attention to the issue in hopes of lightning their workload. While this may be true, the results overwhelmingly suggest that Brooklyn College students are feeling the weight of this semester in the form of more assignments.
“I feel as if I am only trying to submit assignments, not like I am learning or enjoying what I’m learning,” said Kiara Donaldson, a senior History major and President of the Brooklyn College Historical Society. “There is always an assignment due and a never ending pile of to-do’s. In person, on campus, we’d be able to have in class discussions [and] if there were any misunderstandings and uncertainties, we could go over [them],” she said.
With many students seemingly struggling, there are still a number whose course load hasn’t fluctuated all that much. “…Right now I’m taking a lot of music classes and honestly the workload feels about the same as it did last semester while we were still on campus. I’m not sure if this is because they have set plans that they keep the same each semester or what, but I’m actually finding it really similar to a normal semester for me,” said Lauryn Andrews, a junior studying political science and music.
So while students like Andrews are able to stay on top of their course load, many are feeling the weight of taking an entire semester’s worth of classes from home. Without the traditional in-person support from library staff, learning center tutors, department advisors, let alone the comradery shared between students, a semester online presents new challenges. Whether or not students are actually being assigned more work, the virtual campus has a long way to go before it can be as accommodating to students as an in-person one.