Clackamas students explain the struggles of distance learning

Aaron Epperson and his iconic beard. Photo provided by Aaron Epperson.

Students across Oregon have spent nearly eight months trying to adjust to the challenges of distance learning. With COVID cases spiking and more mandates impending, it will likely be months before students go back to in-person learning. 

Clackamas Community College students Aaron Epperson, Bailey Bonney and Samuel Dunbar weighed in on how distanced learning has been difficult for them.

Epperson, 33, is working towards a degree in conflict resolution. Bonney, 19, is studying digital media communications, and Dunbar, 19, is aiming to get an associate of arts transfer degree. 

The problems that have made education harder for these students are numerous; whether it be an increased workload or a lack of social interaction. Students are also unsure as to what might help them through these challenges as most students haven’t experienced a situation like this before. What many students are considering is if they are receiving an adequate education in light of the current pandemic.

Of the students I interviewed, those that were currently enrolled in classes were taking more than 10 credits, ranging from 11 to 16. When I asked how their current workload compared to a normal year, almost every student said they felt they had more to do. Epperson said, “I think it’s pretty close to equal,” whereas Dunbar explained, “(The) perspective’s a little different, because it feels like it’s all I have to do. So it just feels like a lot more.”

A place where students had a diversity in perspective was in what they said was the greatest challenge they faced currently in their education. Epperson relates to a lot of students and said, “I think being motivated is the big one. Just cause, Jesus God, it’s the same thing every day, forever.” Bonney agreed that finding motivation was hard and added, “It’s very hard to focus, especially with all the distractions at home.”  Having to do the same thing every day and being distracted by the things around you are things almost every student during COVID can relate to.

While agreeing that motivation is one of the greatest challenges, Dunbar also interjected, “the other big issue I personally have is I’ve always thrived in lively environments. And I was actually really looking forward to making new friends in college.” Students who were looking forward to the normal college experience are undeniably disappointed. 

The question that students struggled to answer was what could help mitigate the challenges that have arisen. When asked, Dunbar stated plainly, “Let’s get rid of Kate Brown.” Epperson’s answer had a little more nuance. He explained, “The school can’t really help you get out of the COVID funk of just being in a room by yourself for 19 hours a week trying to do schoolwork.” He suggested that perhaps a study buddy system could help. 

When asked if they thought their current education was adequate, Epperson said, “ I think that the only complaint is, it’s very obvious that Moodle was not a training priority for a lot of the teachers. So some of them know how to use it, and other professors have no idea what they’re doing.” He added that his professors seem engaged and that it is more the fault of the technology. Bonney hinted that responsibility falls more on students and said, “ I think (people) our age shouldn’t get too comfortable with not engaging in learning, because we don’t really have to. Google’s like one click away on tests and it’s like really hard to learn things when it’s that easy.”

Dunbar said the responsibility shouldn’t fall on the teachers and, “It’s more falling back on me.” He explained how the stress of this year has been building up for him, which every student can relate to in their own way. He explained saying, “I’ve had to turn my camera off, because I’m about to break down. I’m like, holy, I don’t know what to do.” What Dunbar says here would work well as the motto for the 2020 school year.