How quarantine will change higher education


With many states extending stay-at-home orders until June to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country have switched to alternative online learning for the rest of the semester. 

Like many universities across the nation, the University of Minnesota has transitioned to online learning for the rest of the semester. To address concerns over the difficulty of this transition on students, the University has allowed for the option to take classes Pass/Fail. 

Usual class sections have been replaced with online lectures through Zoom, an online video-conferencing application, and a lot of coursework has been consolidated into independent learning. 

Some students find this new way of learning to be more adaptive. Abdull Ibrahim, a junior at the University of Minnesota, sees the benefit in moving aspects of classes online, “Although I prefer learning in-person, I like how online learning gives me the opportunity to do my work at my own pace and when it best fits my schedule. When things return to normal, I think a lot of our coursework could be moved online.”

Ethan Graham, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, believes that his new online curriculum has not changed much in his education, “The new format for online classes hasn’t been very different for me. A lot of my learning was done independently anyway.”

Aside from having a more convenient schedule, other benefits of online learning are reduced cost and higher class volume. Obtaining a college degree is the most expensive it has ever been, with the average tuition from a Private university at $36,801, and $22,577 for out-of-state Public universities and $10,116 for in-state public universities. Much of these costs go to paying for physical spaces and the University’s administration, not the education itself. Moving coursework online has shown that much of these expenses are not necessary and that there is a cheaper solution to earning a college degree. 

Another benefit of online learning is that students are not restricted by physical space. Applications like Zoom allow for classes to be taught from anywhere and with more people. This can lead to collaboration between Universities to offer a broader education that they could not independently. It also eliminates capacities that physical classrooms have, which causes many students to be waitlisted for desired courses. 

Universities are not the only schools moving online. High schools across the country have transitioned to remote learning as well. Ryan McBride, a sophomore at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, is adjusting to his new online curriculum based on Zoom. “I would rather be in class. The person-to-person experience is better because it is easier to learn in person and to go to teachers with questions. Being at home is nice, but I still prefer the in-class experience.” 

While many people find it easier to learn inside a physical classroom, the transition to online learning has revealed how much work that does not have to be bound to a classroom. 

With higher education costs increasing every year, this new online curriculum brings up one important question: Why are we paying so much money for an education I can receive on our laptop? 

The coronavirus quarantine has exposed the unnecessary costs of a University-education. When the outbreak is over and students return to physical education in the fall, students will start to question what exactly they are paying for. Online learning has shown how much money goes to the unnecessary bureaucratic administration of universities that keeps tuition costs high. 

After having experienced a new form of learning, students across the country are going to start to question how their tuition money is going. The quarantine has shown that we can learn differently, and now the best option to combat the rising cost of college is to consolidate as much learning as possible towards an online solution. 

Online learning is not going to eliminate our education, it is going to enhance it. This quarantine has given us the opportunity to reevaluate the way we do things, and hopefully, when it is done, we can make moves to fix the things we were doing wrong in the first place. An in-person/online hybrid education is our best option to solve the rising cost of education and make it more accessible to more people.