By Breegan Petruska
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, have turned to online learning to safely teach their students from home. For some students, online classes have led to stress and heightened anxiety. For others, it has offered an opportunity to take more affordable classes from a community college while living out of state.
Ryan Langrick, who lives in New Zealand, just finished his second year studying computer science at Grand Rapids Community College. Langrick and his wife traveled to New Zealand to experience different parts of the world and learn about different cultures, but when the world shut down, his two-month stay was extended.
“We had a pretty strict lockdown right when the pandemic started which just happened to coincide with the time where I was waiting for my new VISA to be approved and wasn’t able to work,” Langrick said. “The immigration offices closed during that time and were not processing applications. As a result, I went almost six months not being able to work. That was great for having time to do classes but was awful for the bank account as I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve had to work quite a bit to recover financially from it, but I’m getting there.”
Luckily, because everyone was going online for classes, Langrick was able to further his education at GRCC while staying in New Zealand. His biggest hurdle was logging on to virtual classes due to the time zone difference. New Zealand is 16 hours ahead of Grand Rapids.
“Online classes are great. It allows me to fit classes into my schedule instead of having to schedule around classes,” Langrick said. “Outside of having a harder time taking advantage of office hours to ask questions due to the time differences, the asynchronous style classes are pretty much the same overseas as they would be back home. As long as you stay on top of your classes and don’t leave everything until the last minute there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to do them while traveling.”
Although he’s not sure when he will return to the states, Langrick has finished studying at GRCC and has been accepted to Arizona State University to study software engineering.
Whether it’s traveling overseas or choosing to explore within the US, virtual classes have become beneficial for students. Collegiate reporter, Jennifer Morrison, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, has found virtual classes extremely beneficial.
Morrison, who grew up in Grand Rapids, attended Hope College for a year before deciding to travel and live in different parts of the country. Moving down to Miami, Florida, she enrolled in online classes at GRCC, but like many other students, found herself struggling to keep up with the workload. When the pandemic hit and virtual classes were introduced, Morrison took it as an opportunity to re-enroll at GRCC.
“The fact that virtual classes have been introduced was a huge benefit for an out-of-state student such as myself,” Morrison said. “I was able to take classes at GRCC from afar, while still having the accountability of class times and a face-to-face (over a screen) relationship with professors. There was a drastic improvement in my academics in virtual classes compared to online classes. Until I decide where to go next, I want to continue academically here, and as long as virtual classes are offered here, I do see myself happily continuing for a while.”
For Morrison, virtual classes have been more beneficial due to the fact that like in-person classes, you still have a set meeting time, a professor you are seeing every week, and classmates that you can talk to. That face-to-face interaction has helped her keep herself accountable. Not only was she able to improve her grades, but Morrison was also able to pay for tuition when the pandemic made it seem impossible.
“Financially, GRCC was a huge blessing to me. Tuition is hard to fund regardless, but add a pandemic on that and it’s a whole new level. When everything went virtual, I couldn’t imagine paying that insane amount of money for online learning. I was so thankful for the opportunity GRCC has given me to further my education in the midst of a pandemic.”
Online classes can be a pain to students who prefer in-person classes, but for students that are ready to travel and see the world, online classes at community colleges are the perfect opportunity to make that dream a reality.