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Students report less motivation, higher stress levels with the transition to online learning

Students report less motivation, higher stress levels with the transition to online learning

Students report less motivation, higher stress levels with the transition to online learning
September 25
12:00 2020

Students have reported higher stress levels with the transition to online learning, citing at-home distractions, rigid deadlines, and the national political climate as contributors. 

In a series of polls the North Texas Daily conducted on Twitter, 84 percent of 685 respondents reported feeling less motivated, 10.7 percent felt the same level of motivation and 5.4 percent felt more motivated to complete their assignments compared to previous semesters.

Of 400 students polled, 64 percent reported feeling it is more likely they will fail a class this semester, 23 percent reported the same level of likeliness and 13 percent reported it was less likely.

Pre-medical freshman Hakeem Werra said the self-pacing of online classes creates a stressful learning experience. 

“It’s stressful in the sense that the workload is more than it would be in person since the classes are more self-paced,” Werra said. “It gets stressful at times, not wanting to keep up and doing other things.”

Werra does all their coursework from home and said family members play a part in learning distractions.

“Being around siblings and parents who want you to help with something or run errands definitely contributes towards that distraction and stress because you are trying to get things done,” Werra said.

Students generally perform worse in online classes compared to in-person classes, according to a 2017 study published by the American Economic Review about college students’ success in online classes.

“Online courses substantially change the nature of interactions between students, their peers, and their professors,” according to the study. “First, in online courses, students can participate at any hour of the day from any place. That flexibility could allow students to better allocate time and effort, but could also be a challenge for students who have not learned to manage their own time.” 

The study cites the lack of face-to-face communication in online classes as an issue for students because students feel less obligated to engage with the professor’s questions.

Human resources junior Caroline Clark said completing schoolwork feels pointless during tumultuous times, like the pandemic, which may also contribute to the decline of students’ motivation. 

“With this semester it almost feels like there is no point in trying,” Clark said. “I’ve noticed with me and my friends, we have no motivation. It feels a little hopeless.”

Clark, who is diagnosed with major depressive disorder, said students are dealing with multiple stressors this semester — including mental health issues, an election year, a social justice reform and the pandemic — which could overwhelm them.

“I took a year off to work on my mental health and it almost feels like I need to take another year,” Clark said. “It doesn’t feel worth it to stay in school. There’s already a sense of unease, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, [there are] all these really important things that need to be talked about but [they’re] all being talked about at once. Then on top of that, you have school.”

Clark said professors could give out a lighter workload for students to improve their online course experience.

“It’s a scary time,” Clark said. “So you have to give grace. You have to be kind about it.”

Werra said while they do not expect professors to give lighter workloads, it is important to be more accommodating toward struggling students.

“I can’t say less workload because it’s college, maybe make it more flexible where students can get an extension instead of rigid set times where they turn stuff in,” Werra said. “Consider the fact that they are at home and have to deal with other things. In these times people are dealing with a lot of stuff. Not being accommodating adds to the stress.”

Students who are struggling with their courseloads have the option to drop or withdraw from classes. However, some students rely on scholarships and financial aid, which could have a requirement of full-time workload of 12 or more hours. 

Psychology senior Makayla Cruz, for example, relies on Hazlewood benefits due to her dad’s military service, which requires students to take 12 hours of classes and meet a certain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP.) 

“With all of the new changes, I’m a little worried about meeting those requirements,” Cruz said. “If I were to drop [a class], I wouldn’t meet the 12-hour minimum. There’s not really anything I can do.” 

Although the university reported a record-high enrollment this semester, Clark said they believe the drop-out rate will rise. 

“I would not be surprised if there is a heavy, heavy drop out rate for this year,” Clark said. “I don’t think people are going to be able to handle everything that is going on and finish school.”

While most students polled reported feeling worse with more online courses, interior design junior Alesis Lewis said she feels positive about the transition. 

“I am actually a little bit more motivated,” Lewis said. “I am more in charge of managing my time. It has kind of forced me to be more productive that way because we are basically teaching ourselves.”

Despite feeling more motivated, Lewis said she still feels more stressed out this semester than previous ones. 

“I think in regards to everything going on right now including COVID and other influences like political stuff going on, it’s a lot of mental congestion,” Lewis said. “With these online classes, it is a breeding ground for stress. Students are dealing with a lot of other factors in day-to-day life. Being distracted by all of these things going on personally stresses me out a lot.”

Featured Image: Inside Willis Library, a row of students at tables all work on their laptops on Sept. 22, 2020. Image by John Anderson

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McKenna Cowley

McKenna Cowley

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