Sosa: Changing my mind on online classes

Columnist Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa adapts to the brighter side of online classes, and with reason. 

Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa

I used to hate online classes. In fact, the first time I attempted one, I ended up dropping the class because I was failing. That was about seven years ago. As my 8-year-old nephew tells me, he doesn’t like anything that he isn’t good at. I made up my mind then that online classes were not my thing and that I didn’t like them either. It took a global pandemic to change that.

A global pandemic

It was mid-semester when Iowa State went online in spring 2020. I remember the constant polls amongst students during classes, recitations or meetings, “Do you think we are going to go all online after spring break?”

By the time we did go online, I was glad. I was taking the most challenging classes of my college career at the time, and driving a two-hour commute was eating into my studying time. Even though I had disliked online courses, I quickly came to have conflicted feelings about it.

Transitioning online was hard for everyone. No one knew what was going on or what they were doing. The one exception would be Steve Butler. Perhaps he was one of the most prepared people for this transition, as he had been recording lectures online for some time. 

Many classes had lectures with terrible audio, and many times, you couldn’t make out what was written on the whiteboard. Other lectures were prerecorded, with varying degrees of quality. Not to mention that some lessons were so long that it was tough to stay on task. 


Now, I’m a non-traditional student in terms of being in school for a second time, but I learn best the old-school method: going to class, taking notes, asking questions, etc.

As I sat in front of the 14-inch screen of my laptop for countless hours, something magical happened. I got used to it.

Going to a Zoom or WebEx class became a routine; stressful online exams, a norm. As all of these things were happening, I actually began to enjoy it. It was my new normal.

Sure, I missed being in a class, seeing the room’s energy and knowing no one is getting what the professor is saying. But there was something good about just going from my bed to my living room or kitchen, grabbing some coffee and being able to pet my cat while learning about physics or Calc 2.

Whenever something hard was going on, I would just rewatch the lecture until I understood what was going on. I would even find other professors across the country who had YouTube videos on the subject and hear their take on the material.

It did feel like I was teaching myself a lot of the time, yet somehow, this made me feel more confident about what I could do on my own.

It is somewhere here that I knew my old way of thinking was dying.

I started to like the freedom and confidence that online classes brought me. I wasn’t tied to that chair in a classroom or to only one professor’s lecture.

Because I had to learn to survive in a new situation, I was compelled to change, which in turn shifted my way of thinking about online learning.

A heavy price

COVID-19 has changed the world.

One of the latest reports puts Americans’ death rate from COVID-19 at 420,000 with over 25 million reported COVID-19 cases.That doesn’t even speak to the number of cases that will have long-term effects from COVID-19.

I believe the full ramifications of COVID-19 will not really be understood as we stand in the midst of them. Until then, we need to do what’s best for our country and follow health and safety guidelines.

“C’s get degrees”

In the obscure corners of Reddit, amongst the many subreddits sits r/iastate. In it, I learned that many students were struggling alongside me.

With the help of many threads posted there, I was able to let go of my fear of failing a class. One of the mantras students there proclaim is that “Cs get degrees.”

I didn’t need to push myself to get an A when it wasn’t feasible nor healthy to do so (hello, middle of a pandemic!). Understanding the courses’ main concepts is a much better measurement of how much I know rather than how well I can take this test online in 50 minutes. Of course, the lesson is not to do mediocre work but to do the best you can with what you have.

Being forced to do online learning changed the story I had written in my head seven years ago.

There are times when we need to adapt and change with the circumstances to come out the other end. This whole pandemic business is one of them. Don’t be afraid to change with it. Don’t be afraid to rewrite the stories in your head.