Online Classes: One More Obstacle to Overcome


Many students are bringing the classroom into their dorm room as curriculum moves from the whiteboard onto Blackboard. (Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram)

Broadcast from the smudged screen of my Macbook Air, my philosophy professor drones on about Kant’s system of ethics. My notebook lays untouched, only the date written at the top of the page. For the first time in my life, I can watch TikToks in the middle of class. With my Zoom camera off and my computer microphone muted, I am invincible. 

However, even with all the potential for ignoring lectures to scroll through social media, online classes are strange. None of us thought we would be stuck in our childhood bedrooms for half of the spring semester. One of the best parts of college is leaving the nest, moving into a tiny dorm room and trying to befriend complete strangers. 

Fordham students travel from all over the world each year to live and attend classes in New York City. Many of us did not plan on ever living with our parents longer than Christmas break ever again. 

Now, things have changed. The country is facing a global pandemic, and it is largely unprepared to combat the rapid spread of the coronavirus. We’ve had to fly home, some of us across the country and others across the world. Some students are still stuck in apartments in the city, isolated from friends and family. The world sometimes feels like its ending. A lot of us are lonely and scared. And we still have to go to class.

There are obvious drawbacks of moving classes meant to be held in-person to an online format. A lot of Fordham classes are discussion-based, and the transition to remote learning has not been smooth. There is a major difference between sitting in a classroom discussing complex topics in philosophy and theology face-to-face with faculty and peers and trying to communicate over discussion boards and video chats. 

Classes on Zoom and Google Hangout just aren’t the same. Students are more hesitant to participate and it is harder for professors to know when people are confused or unsure of a topic, as a lot of students feel nervous about being the center of attention. It is a strange feeling to have every person in your class looking at you through a webcam, getting an exclusive look at your family’s living room.

For some classes, online learning is near impossible. Biology students no longer have access to school laboratory equipment. Dance and theatre students cannot have in-person rehearsals and performances. Students learning photography aren’t able to borrow expensive department equipment to hone their skills. 

More generally, the transition to online classes has forced many professors to adjust curriculum and edit syllabi. Students’ inboxes are flooded with new assignments, deadline extensions and announcements about new class times. For the less organized among us, it feels impossible to keep up with all of the new information. The wall above my desk is covered with sticky-notes, trying to keep track of the dozens of new deadlines and class requirements. 

However, there are at least a few aspects of online learning that students may learn to appreciate. Several of my professors have decided to forego synchronous classes, choosing instead to lay out the rest of the course in discussion board posts and recorded lectures. This gives students the opportunity to work at their own pace, something relatively hard to do with set class times. Some students might want to work ahead and get tedious work out of the way sooner than they would be able to normally, while others might take advantage of a less structured format to give themselves mental breaks on particularly stressful days. 

We also have more time on our hands in general. Those fifteen minutes it takes us to get to class really add up over the week, not to mention commuter students who no longer have to take early subway or bus rides to make it to morning classes on time. We could all use those extra hours for studying harder than ever before … or to binging all of “Tiger King” on Netflix in two days. 

I’ve also had at least two professors decide to drop final exam requirements, recognizing that the new format makes it harder for many students to understand difficult concepts and prepare for important tests. For those of us with test anxiety, this is a huge relief and a reason to celebrate. Not to mention the new Fordham pass/fail policy, which allows students to avoid subpar grades caused by the uncomfortable transition to online learning while still earning credit for the course. 

Not all of us are going to love online classes. Honestly, a lot of us will probably hate them. But this is our current situation, and it’s our job to make it work for us. Every member of the Fordham community is in the same boat because none of us could’ve anticipated this sudden change of plans. 

We must remember that things won’t stay this way forever. All we can do is try our best and say safe. For now, that is enough. 


Abbey Delk, FCRH ’22, is an English major from Wheeling, West Virginia.