A college student’s experience: Balancing school and working remotely during a pandemic
- McKenna's transition from working in an Ellucian office to working from her room at Virginia Commonwealth University has given her an advantage in the sudden shift to remote learning.
- She has learned how to work independently, how to be held accountable for her work, and how to have honest conversations with her manager if she’s struggling.
- McKenna worries that physical distancing and remote learning may carry over into the fall semester of her senior year. This time away from her peers has established the importance of connecting and collaborating online.
Most of the courses I’ve taken as a communications major have been in-person, but this year has been slightly different. Two of my six classes during spring semester at Virginia Commonwealth University were online before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In conjunction with my college coursework, I also work remotely as the content marketing intern for Ellucian.
At first, I was excited about the thought of remote learning because I can work at my own pace. Online learning gives students the opportunity to pause or go back over material without missing content. And personally, I need breaks as I work, and remote learning allows me to do that. Other than missing campus and my friends, I thought I’d be happy and comfortable with remote learning from home. Nothing like working in sweats on a couch to make your work environment feel “homey.”
However, it’s now week four of remote learning and I’m beginning to think I was wrong. If I’m being honest, I find myself missing the human element. Not to mention, being home isn’t an ideal learning environment with my three siblings running around. Although working remotely for Ellucian has certainly given me a huge leg up in this sudden shift to remote learning for college, I’ve realized that I prefer in-person learning.
I’m thankful, however, that Ellucian has shown me how instrumental it is to have the ability to connect and collaborate online. I’ve seen firsthand the impact of online work. Having had the opportunity to work remotely for Ellucian has not only taught me how to be independent, but also how to be a team player. Working with my manager, who also works remotely, I’ve gained experience in being held accountable for my work—even when there’s no physical interaction. However, when I’m struggling with a project, I’m sure to reach out to my manager to have an honest conversation.
My intent is to carry over what I’ve learned through my experience with Ellucian into my online coursework throughout the rest of the semester. It can be tough to work from home—whether it’s school or work—and I’m balancing both right now as a student and intern, but it is possible. Here are a few tips I’ve learned:
- Setting up a workspace where you can focus is extremely important.
- Having an open discussion with others in your home about what you expect is also essential.
- Creating a realistic schedule that incorporates mental health breaks is a great way to be productive and not burn out. One of the most important things I learned at Ellucian is the importance of open communication when things get tough, rather than keeping quiet.
- Remembering to have patience with yourself and those around you is also critical for everyone during these unusual times.
While I don’t believe that remote learning could ever replace the human element that comes with in-person learning, it’s incredible to have the ability to continue one's college education online during a pandemic. However, I do worry what will happen if the pandemic worsens and the quarantine is extended into the fall. Remote learning can’t replace a year’s worth of in-person classes. As a rising senior, I fear that I may not start on schedule in the fall, but only time will tell, and until then we must make do with what we can. It’s not what I and most of my peers signed up for, but an online education is far better than receiving no education during this time.