Opinion | Online classes won’t work for everyone

Illustration by Mai Lan Ireland

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Remember when we used to wish for snow days that would cancel classes and keep us at home for days when we were younger? Coronavirus has completely ruined such memories for me. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m tired of being in my house and, surprisingly, I’m ready to be back in class. However, that’s not looking like a reality for this semester.

As we are all aware, VCU and a majority of American universities have extended their spring breaks through the end of this week and moved classes online for the rest of the semester. While I appreciate the university’s effort to continue our education, making classes online isn’t as viable an option, or as accessible, as some might think.

I talked about this in my previous Tea Time with Tagwa, where I discussed the problems with closing on-campus housing. A lot of the same issues apply: low-income students are at a disadvantage.

I understand VCU is dedicated to our education, but online classes aren’t easy for many students. In this digital era, we take things such as our Wi-Fi and devices as rights, rather than privileges. Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate as to have access to reliable Wi-Fi, or internet at all for that matter. 

I am blessed to have my own laptop, however, I know many people who either have to share one computer with their entire household, or have no devices at all. What does one in that situation do when they and their sibling both have a 10 a.m. lecture on Zoom but only one device to access it on?

Applications such as Zoom are an even bigger ask of students. If some students don’t even have access to a computer, how can you expect them to have webcams and microphones at the ready? While you can dial in from your cell phone, the issue of such programs can still affect students who are living in more disruptive households.

I comprehend that VCU is doing the best it can with the situation we are in, however, I just cannot grasp how the needs of those less fortunate are not being taken into consideration. These are not normal or predictable circumstances we are under, but we can’t expect students to be able to keep up with online classes. While students can check out laptops from Cabell as usual, some students don’t live near Richmond anymore. Implementation of pass/fail grades or providing students with their midterm grades as final grades might be necessary to fully accommodate students. 

Illustration by Mai Lan Ireland

Not only is access to these remote classes difficult, but the environment students are in is also an issue for many. Most of us live in the Richmond area during the school year and are used to our education and studies being our only priority and concern. Now that many people have returned to their parents’ homes, we have other things that will hurt our abilities to focus.

I have an 8-year-old brother who is off of school until April 10. While the adults are at work, it is up to my sister and I to keep him entertained and safe. Therefore, there are going to be times when I am playing with him or watching over him, while trying to keep up with school work. He’s a rowdy kid so I won’t put it past him to jump into one of my lectures on Zoom and disrupt the whole class.

The illustration for this story is actually inspired by what it’s like in my house at times. I love my family, but sometimes my house can be a handful. And, I’m not the only one in this situation. Many of us have to readjust ourselves to living back in high school times after years of being on our own. 

I know the set of circumstances we are all in is difficult, but we need to continue to be more vigilant and considerate of students who don’t have it as easy as others. Online classes are just not viable and accessible to all. From the lack of access to wifi, laptops, computers, microphones and other devices; to the chaotic households many of us are living in. 

Regardless of my studying environment, I’m thankful for my accessible Wi-Fi and personal laptop. However, others cannot say the same. Nevertheless, they are students too and their needs must be considered at the same rate as everyone else. 

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