Many have the comfort of doing an online degree in their trousers and sweatshirts from anywhere in the world, but do they know what they actually miss? To get to know about this, I did an interview with some of my friends back in India who are currently studying online because of the COVID-19 scenario. These are the results I got back from my interviews. I have not used real names because they didn’t want to be named but for the sake of the article let me call them John Doe and Jane Doe with numbers as their tags.
When asked about the pleasure of having all the comforts of home and food being laid out in plates and not being required to plan for the next week’s groceries and stuff as a normal off campus student would do and attending online lectures, John Doe_1 said, “You don’t have the slightest idea of how difficult it is to adapt to the time zone.” Then it hit me that there are asynchronous courses at Illinois Tech and how people are taking them online from all over the world, adapting to the course and assignment deadlines?
Talking further with John Doe_1, I learned about the other difficulties that he faced during this semester. He had to wake up at 3 a.m. to attend a lecture until March 14, 2021 when the daylight savings started, after which he has to wake up as early as 4 a.m. He had submissions when his friends were partying on Saturdays but it was still Friday night in Chicago. He said, “Sometimes it makes me think is this really worth it?” Similar responses were obtained from Jane Doe and John Doe_2 as well. I had to do a group interview on what they thought they missed out on during the online semesters. The interview highlights are as follows: networking, friends, the American students' life, and the university feel. All my friends accepted, or I should say gleaned, over one point again and again that they are rather not productive when it comes to taking the online exams and submitting online assignments. This was not it; John Doe_2 added that the university was taking less fees but the actual loss could not be reimbursed because this was an option chosen by themselves.
“Online semester,” the word actually dreads me. I had to spend six months of my life in a nationwide lockdown in India crunching certification exams so I can become worthy enough to go to college and get A’s in all subjects I touched. But that certification journey was not productive enough and neither was the feel that I was wasting six months of my life. If my own experience can be this shocking, then I can imagine the experience of taking an entire semester online. I can empathize with all three of my friends whom I interviewed. This puts me to question whether an online degree is really worth it or not.
Imagine taking an entire degree online. You not only miss the comforts of college life but also the networking, which is very crucial for job interviews and also for the projects and fun that we have on campus. Let it be an elite ivy league college or a third tier college the results are the same: you save money but at what costs?
The real thing they miss out, from my perspective, is the core part of engineering degrees: the labs and the projects. The comforts of home are okay, but the experiences that we get in college are being missed by all students earning their degrees online. I accept that they graduate with half the cost of our studies, but what are they actually doing with the loans once they graduate? They need to network to get jobs even if they are as talented as Einstein himself. To end on a funnier note, they miss hanging out with friends, sipping juice, having a chill night out near the beautiful downtown of Chicago, and the most important thing, making a new set of friends across various cultures, countries, and languages. Now I leave the question to the readers: is it really worth doing an online degree?