When the COVID-19 pandemic sent students home to learn remotely, Cierra Christensen had to learn how to be a nurse from home, rather than a classroom or hospital.
In the year and a half since the pandemic first hit, Christensen, a nursing major at Ameritech College of Healthcare, has taken a total of 10 online classes.
“With those classes, I didn’t have an option to take in-person classes because my school didn’t allow it,” Christensen said.
Now that reduced state COVID-19 restrictions are allowing students to return to the classroom, they’re able to get the full college experience, which is positive news for Christensen.
Aside from getting easily distracted while at home, Christensen feels that distant learning takes away from that experience and creating relationships.
“I feel isolated and not connected with my classmates and teachers,” she said.
However, there are a lot of benefits to taking online classes, including a reduced commute and the ability to learn from the comfort of home.
Megan Lee, a recent business major graduate from the University of Utah, chose to take some online classes due to flexibility.
“Typically, those who take online classes have a very busy schedule,” Lee said. “I was able to learn at my own pace and if I didn’t understand the material, I was able to go back and re-watch any lectures.”
When it comes to difficulty, students may find no advantage to either format because it all depends on the teacher and the class itself.
Matthew Merkel, associate professor of communication at Salt Lake Community College, feels that online classes are only getting better.
“There is a real quality to online that makes it convenient for us as professors as well,” Merkel said.
On a personal level, Merkel does prefer to teach classes in person.
“I love the classroom! I want to be with students, I want to feel that energy from them and give them my energy. That is always going to be something that’s missing from online to some degree,” he said. “The online medium can’t do what face-to-face [learning] can do. I find that online discussions aren’t nearly as vibrant and interactive.”
Merkel added that his overall priority is the student and what he or she needs. If that means teaching classes online, he said he’s happy to do so.
Merkel also acknowledged that online classes require more responsibility from students. With less professor interaction, students need to be proactive about learning the essential material and getting their work done.
SLCC offers online and in-person classes for most degrees, which provides opportunities for students who learn better in an online setting.
Lee felt that a mix of online and in-person classes created the perfect balance for her college education.
“I enjoyed the flexibility of online and the environment of in-class,” she said.
Christensen prefers in-person classes but said there’s another option.
“My favorite is a hybrid class where some is online and some is in person,” she said.
For SLCC students, this preference may depend on the student and the class. Someone who wants more interaction and instant feedback could benefit more from in-person classes. For someone who is more of a self-starter, who wants to go at their own pace and doesn’t really care for that interaction, the online method is a great opportunity that offers a lot of flexibility.