I took classes online and on campus during the pandemic. Here’s what I learned.

socially distanced classroom setting with masks

In the spring semester of 2020, it was announced that classes would continue completely online after Spring Break due to the coronavirus pandemic. My freshman year was cut short, this new class format was extremely confusing, and I didn’t know what was happening; I was scared and I was mad.

When I first heard about the classes staying in this strange type of format into the fall semester of my sophomore year, I was terrified of what was ahead of me. I thought, if it was anything like last semester, it would be a disaster. Professors weren’t prepared, the students didn’t have any motivation, and everyone was disappointed and bored.

I thought about taking a gap semester, not returning to campus, dropping out, etc. I didn’t want to go through the whole process again. I would be taking 16 credits in this upcoming semester: two in hybrid format (part time in person, part time online) and three completely online — all while living on campus. I had seen other people posting about how nearly all of their classes were in person. I, on the other hand, had to tune into two or three video classes a day. I was upset. I told myself I would try to make the best of it, though.

But once my classes started, that fear and anger turned to relief. The classes in this new semester were nothing like last semester. In fact, it was so much better than I could have imagined. There was structure. Every teacher — hybrid and online — had a full schedule, homework assignments already posted, and enthusiasm to teach us despite not being in person all the time. I was going to enjoy virtual class with no strings attached.

With all of that said, though, that perfect outlook on a virtual or hybrid class can only last so long. After about a month and a half, things got a little more difficult. Some professors were trying to compensate for a virtual class by giving us more homework, and I felt like I was drowning in it. Other professors were difficult to reach and didn’t have teaching assistants, so my questions about an upcoming test or homework went unanswered. Even one of my hybrid classes switched up the schedule, so I had to check the class announcements every day to see if I was supposed to be there in person or not. It all became too much all at once. Between the homework and the messy mid-semester changes, I was more stressed than I had ever been before. I felt trapped, so I did two things that saved me and could help others when learning through times like these.

I made a physical schedule with the due date of every quiz, test, and essay. Making that schedule was my lifesaver. In it, I was able to see everything written out and everything not on the Canvas calendar, which was a mix of assignments all over the place.

I also emailed my teachers and talked with them after class. I explained that I was having difficulty with organization and keeping up in class. They all had tips, tricks, and advice for me to go forward with. Without them, I don’t think I would have had the confidence I needed to go on with the semester.

Now, I can happily say that I’m signed up for 16 credits again for next semester (four online and three hybrid classes), and I’ve never felt more prepared.

I know not everyone has the same experience with online or hybrid classes as I did, but I have three big tips.

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Professors and teaching assistants, especially when teaching online, really love talking and helping you.
  2. For asynchronous (classes that are prerecorded or done remotely outside of class time) and sometimes even synchronous (classes that are done live during class time and also remote) classes, due dates aren’t set in stone, so keep up to date with your lecture videos! They can pile up and contribute to more stress.
  3. If you’re feeling overly stressed, take a breath. Everything will be okay. I’ve learned the valuable lesson that taking it one homework assignment at a time is best — don’t overstress about future due dates.

Remember, we’ve all been there at some point and it’s a learning experience for all of us (including the professors). Stay upbeat — things will get better soon.


Cavan McCabe is a sophomore at CSU from Lawrence, Kansas. She is double majoring in Natural Resource Tourism and Business Marketing and minoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is an Admissions Ambassador and a Resident Assistant in the dorms, and is a part of the CSU Honors Program. She enjoys hiking, going on adventures with friends, singing along to 80’s hits in the car, and spending time with her cat, Bertha, and her chocolate lab, Finnigan.