SCAD Savannah’s Trustees Theater, Wikimedia Commons, by Daniel (DXR)

A College Student’s Reflection on E-Learning

This post is a copy of a “reflection” I was to write for each of my three E-Learning classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design — which has a world-class E-Learning program they’ll have you know. Hopefully you’ll find my comments fair, insightful, and at the very least, entertaining. Enjoy, Quentin (a senior advertising student at SCAD, and participant of SCAD’s most recent “Quarter in Quarantine”)

he challenge is reinforcing what you learn. The challenge is learning. The challenge is embracing uncertainty and sitting with the discomfort to follow. Under normal circumstances, any one of these is no small feat. Virtually, however, it’s a near impossibility. It’s not that virtual learning can’t happen, but rather, we’re not conditioned to allow its happening. We don’t have the experience, and we surely don’t have the right tools.

It’s my tendency to skip online ads, to skim non-fiction for content, to listen to podcasts at 1.25x speed, to never watch a show’s title sequence, and to prefer, more generally, haste. It’s not that I oppose the maxim, “Haste makes waste,” but rather, waste has become my greatest distraction. I waste hours lost in “high-glucose” internet content. And I could blame the internet, but the web is not the problem. Just as food is not why I gain weight. I’m merely eating the wrong food.

On YouTube, I eat sweets, I watch Late-Night comedy, I watch the latest gadget-reviews, I watch the news, I watch tinkerers tinker and gamers game. Occasionally I click on a Ted-Talk, but I rarely finish it. Sometimes I watch an AfterEffects tutorial, but I rarely open AfterEffects to practice it. And when I do watch a Ted-Talk, I’m quick to scrobble past the intro and the clapping, and all the parts which bore me. And when I do watch a tutorial, I’m quick to ignore the parts I don’t understand, parsing for all the parts I do. Why? Because learning is a challenge. Learning exposes shortcomings, and shortcomings aren’t comfortable. They also aren’t quick, they’re not linear, and they’re not guaranteed to resolve. And so I remain a “high-glucose” internet consumer.

I mention all of this to say, my personal online tendencies transfer to my professional online tendencies. I race to finish work as quickly as possible. I skim all the content and scrobble through all the tedious lessons, videos, and podcasts. I index the textbook to help me take the quizzes with keywords instead of by memory and knowledge. I certainly do not learn anything when I work this way, and I certainly don’t enjoy it. But can you blame me?

I’ve “indexed” the Cengage textbook, meaning I’ve copied + pasted all sixteen chapters we were to read during these eight — calendar — weeks of school. That document has over 200,000 words, or three novels worth of content. And the quizzes ask detailed, single-answer questions about names and specifics. Alternatively, most “on-ground” classes ask thematic questions where many possible answers exist. Not-to-mention, daily lectures cover a significant portion of textbook content, whereas virtual classes offer no lectures at all. Plus, should an “on-ground” class struggle with the material, the professor can adjust the syllabus as needed. Of course, virtual classes follow strict accreditation and thereby, the professor cannot amend the curriculum — not even for special circumstances like, ya know, a world pandemic.

So, what did I learn during this business class? Absolutely nothing. Nothing about business, that is. And it’s not the professor’s fault, and it’s not even the pandemic’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the reality. The answer is our best response to this question: “How can we promote a rich and challenging curriculum which does not prompt a student to cheat and circumvent the system to ‘just get it done’?”

I must believe part of that answer is lowering the number of grades while increasing the opportunities for professor and peer feedback. Another piece is considering how the majority of humans use the internet. We consume a lot, we learn a lot, but at the end of the day, how much do we actually know? How committed are we to our discoveries? We’re not. There’s too much content. In that sense, we don’t turn to higher education to overwhelm us with even more content. We turn to higher education to refine the black sea of content that currently drowns us. Of course, students have few options except to voice feedback, or if they can afford it, drop-out or transfer to a school with a better curriculum. But don’t worry, SCAD, I’ll merely pause for a couple quarters before I dropout again. Until then, have a great summer, everyone!

A designer in training, and a consumer by nature. I don’t intend to write, except in those times when I come upon a unique idea and feel compelled to share.