From elementary and middle, to high school and college, every student of all age groups was forced to take online classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The giant push towards online learning was necessary for public safety, though it may be causing problems in the education system at large. 

In Jan. 2022, 61 students at The University of Alabama took an anonymous poll which asked about their online learning experience. While classes have been taught completely in-person since Aug. 2021, every student has taken an online course at some point in the last two years.

The long-term effects of online learning are unknown, though the poll showed a variety of short-term repercussions. For example, online learning may be causing problems for college students’ social lives and grades. In fact, the overall sentiment of, and expectations about the college experience, seem to be plummeting.

“Online learning made it harder for me to focus in school,” one anonymous poll-taker said. “I fell behind and my grades were poor, I wasn’t practicing good study habits, and as a person I felt like I had a hard time socializing with people.”

The social aspect of learning in a group setting was eliminated, as was the community that came with it. Arguably, the class of 2024 was hit the hardest because their freshman year of college was taught completely online.

As such, the majority of students who answered the poll are current college sophomores, then juniors, freshmen, and seniors.

The poll was anonymous and consisted of five questions with an opportunity at the end to leave a comment about any other feelings the student may have about attending college partially or entirely online. The poll received mixed reviews, with some students heavily preferring classes to be taught in-person, while others not really caring either way.

“It was really hard for me in my first semester freshman year. I never left my dorm, I gained weight, I procrastinated all the time and I didn’t really care about my work,” one student said.

“I liked hybrid learning because it helps me manage my time better,” another student said. “I was able to save the trip [to campus] and have more time to spend studying the information.”

When asked whether they would rather attend class in-person or online, the vast majority of students, (68.9%), answered they would rather physically attend their classes. 

“Chemistry should never be taught online; you need to be in-person,” a student said. “I realized after going online that I have ADHD and a reading disorder.” 

“If you never have to see someone face-to-face, you never have to own up to your poor grades,” another student replied.

On a larger scale, 42.6% of students answered that their idea of the state of the world worsened, though we cannot attribute this solely to online learning. Similarly, 32.8% of poll respondents said their expectations about the college experience lowered, though whether this is a larger effect of the pandemic is unclear.

While this poll was informal, it may show a larger trend of how online learning is negatively affecting the education system and the individuals within it. More information is required, but one thing is certain; online learning may be decreasing the value of a collegiate education.