Welcome to Zoom University! The class of 2020 will now be completing the remainder of the semester online with professors and teachers using remote tools in order to maintain a semblance of normality. Together with the stress of a global pandemic, this adjustment has taken a toll on students’ mental health.
“I’ve never been good at doing anything online,” said Sarah Bedoya, a junior at Florida Atlantic University. “I learn better when I’m actually in class, there’s zero distractions for me and I’m forced to stay there and learn … Mentally I can’t handle online school right now. It was easier when I had to go to class.”
Schools across the country started closing in mid-March as reported cases of coronavirus increased. At least 21 states have already extended closures through the end of the academic year.
“Being stuck at home, it’s tempting to sit on my laptop all day long [and avoid homework] rather than knock out 15 assignments,” said Bedoya. “I have four papers I need to write that are due in two weeks and I’ve only started one.”
The nonprofit advocacy group Rise conducted a survey of 500 students across the country and found that 75% of students are “experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression or stress” as a result of the coronavirus.
Katrina Lorenzo, a family therapist at Counseling and Wellness Center of South Florida in Cooper City, spoke about the stresses that students, especially young adults, might be facing in dealing with remote learning while social distancing.
“I’ve heard various people saying different things where some classes make you be on video with the mic on or some just check in and that’s it, it’s an adjustment to say the least,” she said. “I could see this having long-term effects depending on how much longer we’re in this crisis for. I could see things like depression, things of that nature, coming into play the longer [students] are out of a routine.”
Some students have also dealt with the stress of moving from their dorms or other housing arrangements. Harvard University was one of the first to inform their students that they must leave in a matter of days.
“It was definitely stressful, I was surprised that I was able to get everything packed up,” said Sydney Robinson, a junior at Harvard. “It was emotionally draining to figure out plans, say goodbye to friends and arrange travel.”
Robinson has handled the transition from in-person lectures to online classes fairly well, but she noted that it may be more difficult for some of her peers. “I have friends who were in labs or needed to rent expensive equipment for their classes, so I can imagine that it will be near impossible to replicate online,” she said.
College students aren’t the only ones who are feeling the effects of transitioning to online education. Francisco Nunez, a senior at Everglades High School, said he doesn’t have the same motivation for his classes anymore.
“I’ve pretty much already lost the motivation to try harder in these classes which have been simplified, especially after all of the senior activities have been canceled,” he said. “I think I speak for a lot of my peers when I say that students aren’t in a learning mindset anymore. It’s more about finishing the year.”
Besides the simplification of courses, Nunez is also struggling with the reality that some teachers are not well prepared to teach online and are just as lost as the students are. “My AP calculus/physics teacher was prepared for the fate with instructions and plans to prepare us for the updated online exams, while my micro/macro teacher has been slow to accommodate the transition and is leaving students in the dark,” he said.
Lorenzo suggests students maintain some sense or normalcy during these abnormal times. “I’d say the best thing for adolescents to do is to maintain a routine: getting up, having your breakfast, doing classwork … staying active,” she said.