An environment for growth

Distance learning, though necessary, does not cater to the needs of students.


Over the past year, schools all over the world went virtual because of the COVID-19 virus. During the first two weeks of the pandemic last March, I was excited for an “extended spring break.” After a month, I was anxious. After a year, I am desperate for my college experience. 

Although both students and teachers have been working to make virtual learning more efficient, there isn’t the same sense of community that pre-pandemic classes offered. Some students prefer to have their cameras off and extracurricular activities have become scarce. College has become a chore instead of a transformative experience. 

Students have been struggling with everything from poor internet connections to mental health issues. The challenges of the shift were evident with technologically illiterate professors who couldn’t figure out how to turn on their microphone.

But I am fortunate to be enrolled this semester in a partially in-person course within the district at Diablo Valley College. We hold lectures via Zoom and have labs on campus. 

Arboriculture, the study of trees, is an ideal in-person class due to the outdoor nature of the field.

On the first day, I showed up to the DVC greenhouse in the Horticulture area. There were chairs staggered around to allow social distance and the professor was seated, waiting for the class to start. We made introductions and engaged in the awkward icebreakers I had been missing. 

From the start, my classmates followed an unspoken, courteous pandemic protocol. Students wore their masks properly, kept their distance and even brought in hand sanitizer for others.

It feels good to be in an environment where you can have a direct line of communication with each other. As a result, we were more likely to ask questions and build connections.

We also get to take walks on campus to look at trees and plant life. It allows us to better understand the lectures through firsthand experience. In an online format, we would only be able to see pictures and then must memorize the information instead of interacting with nature in a guided tour.

In this on-site lab class there are no breakout rooms, no poor connection and no pajamas. 

Students and professors share a commonality. When they are excited about a subject, they are more likely to take pride in their work, creating a quality learning environment.

With the number of vaccinations on the rise, I hope we will be able to safely hold more classes either partially in-person or fully in-person by the fall. According to recent federal and state reports, more than 25 million people have been vaccinated so far in California, meaning that in-person fall classes are a possibility.

Although things may not be completely normal, we are seeing a reopening of schools now that more vaccines are becoming available. And more in-person education means students should once again be able to get the resources they need and develop the skills to succeed in college and in the workforce.