By Grace Davert
I miss learning in a classroom. As a junior at UC Berkeley, I never imagined that over a quarter of my college career would occur not on a sprawling college campus, but at an IKEA desk in my bedroom. Learning in a classroom provides so many benefits, from networking and making new friends to a distraction-free environment. After six months of virtual school and two months as a remote intern at IQC, though, I have come to find that there are a number of benefits to online learning as well, three of which stand out.
1. New opportunities
As a college student, I am lucky to have access to a massive variety of classes and resources. For most people, this is not the case. Online courses open up educational opportunities to anyone with access to the internet and a desire to learn. Interested in taking a physics class from Harvard? Now you can. Want to learn how to become a better leader in your organization? Take an online class. The new virtual opportunities brought about during the pandemic even allowed me the opportunity to participate in a remote internship at IQC, where I am developing a new and exciting offering (coming your way October 15th)! Virtual learning lets us connect with and learn from people all around the globe like we never have before, giving us a unique chance to broaden our horizons.
2. More Flexibility
Have you ever sat in a room in the eighth hour of an all-day training and found your mind wandering? Maybe you need a snack, maybe you need to stretch your legs, or maybe your brain is simply fried after hours of taking in all that new information. One of the most beneficial aspects of an online class, in my opinion, is the freedom to take a break. In a virtual course, you can hit the pause button, take a five-minute break, and return without having missed anything. If you are an avid note-taker, you can slow playback speeds or pause a video to write down important information. Perhaps you have a dentist appointment on Wednesday, so instead you work on your training on Tuesday. Online learning allows you to learn on your own timeline and at your own pace, ensuring that you never miss out on even the smallest tidbit of information.
3. New Skills
Most of us attended school in a traditional face-to-face setting for some fifteen years. We know how to learn in a typical classroom, we know how to write a report, we know how to discuss what we learned with our colleagues, and we know how to lead an effective in-person meeting. Since the world went virtual in March, though, many of us have had to figure out how to use Zoom and Microsoft Teams and a myriad of new programs. I spent hours teaching my mom, a kindergarten teacher suddenly faced with virtual instruction, how to use breakout rooms, document cameras, and dual monitors after spending hours figuring it out myself. My peers who had tried online learning before the pandemic were miles ahead of the curve. They already knew all the tricks to succeeding in an online environment, from time management in an unstructured environment to the ins and outs of videoconferencing. Aside from the actual content that online courses teach, the latent skills you pick up whilst enrolled in these electronic experiences will serve you well in your career, particularly as basic technical prowess becomes increasingly expected in the workplace.
So yes, I miss the clamor of a lively lecture hall, and yes, I miss walking through the towering redwoods on my way to class here in Northern California. I even miss the collective anxiety of the final minutes of an exam, but I have also learned to appreciate the skills, opportunities, and flexibility that learning in a virtual setting provides, and I encourage you to seek out this growing format and this powerful opportunity to further your own skillset.