This is Sick: Online Learning During Coronavirus
An exhibit by V. Gwyn Hartung and Mikel Baxter.
We are first semester students in the Public History MA program at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. The fully online nature of our program has inspired us to devote our exhibit to the challenges that students face while learning online.
This exhibit showcases some of the struggles students, professors and coaches have had to contend with while learning mostly online during a pandemic. Anxieties such as technological issues, fears of becoming sick, a lack of income due to the pandemic and mental health issues due to isolation are the most mentioned problems.
With the advent of social media, students have taken to documenting their educational troubles through memes, photographs, and text posts. We also have presented some oral histories to provide a comprehensive look into the life of a pandemic student, that we find give context and balance to some of the news articles showcased here as well.
What we discovered upon examining and grouping these different items is that the stresses of being a student during a pandemic is a unifying theme that brings people together in ways that transcend the limitations of how COVID-19 is keeping us all (six feet) apart.
Fuzzy Felines named VIP's of Pandemic
We both wanted to showcase our cats in this exhibit as a tribute to pets everywhere who have provided comfort and stress relief to their owners. Pets have no doubt been a huge comfort to not only students, but others as well, and even though that's just what our animal friends do, they deserve a section of their own to showcase how special they are.
Memes have become a universal form of social relation on the internet. Students of all ages have been making meme after meme, humorizing the woes and trials of Zoom classes, the COVID19 stimulus checks, getting used to mask wearing, and the struggles of learning online during a global pandemic. These memes provide humor during a time of so much fear.
We conducted several interviews with students continuing their education during the pandemic. These accounts provide varied perspectives of how different people are handling the stress of COVID19 and school. The plight of those continuing their education is evident when you hear it in their own voices. Also presented are various interviews conducted by others, to give a wider diversity of who is suffering through the problems presented by pandemic learning, and how they are handling them. Professors, students, coaches, teachers everyone is suffering in similar ways due to the Coronavirus.
Issues range from simple time management and getting used to a new schedule to taking care of their mental and physical health to working on a different time zone and fighting Zoom fatigue. Students seemed anxious and distressed by the year, but there are minor notes here and there that show the resilience of human nature to maintain a spark of hope, no matter how small.
Personal photographs give the audience an inside look into what people's lives have been like during the COVID19 pandemic. They show what students find comfort in, be it a mask given by a university, or a reassuring e-mail or a partner to rely on when things are tough.
It also presents how normal life has been thoroughly altered, and how universities have rallied to try and find ways of adjusting to the "new normal", and what opportunities have been made available because of the pandemic.
Articles and Journal Entries
Articles and journal entries provide in depth information about online learning during COVID19. News articles provide a foundation of proof for the fatigue that students and others who work and learn from home are experiencing. They also give a national context that acts as a reminder that we are not in fact alone in our stress and anxiety. Journal entries also provide a humanizing aspect that gives an intimate look into the mindset of a student experiencing a COVID-19 semester.
Through the process of creating this exhibit we have discovered that most students and teachers, at the undergraduate level or not, struggle with online learning during the COVID19 pandemic. The key problems most people deal with are: tech fatigue, mental health issues stemming from isolation and worry, a lack of access to technology, and inflexible teachers and universities. It also shows us that everyone is facing the same problems and we are more alike than we are different. In a way, COVID19 has brought people together better than ever before.