The Reality of Online Learning at Hunter College

Enrollment at Hunter rose from 23,193 in 2019 to 24,052 in 2020, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office. 

Sophomore developmental psychology major Jenny Wen lives at her family home, sharing the space and internet with her siblings. She said the most recent semesters have proven to be more difficult than the first semester online in spring 2020, blaming a lack of motivation from being on screen so often. 

“I wanted to graduate on time,” Wen said. “I considered taking time off after the first semester online, but I pushed through it.”

History major Gilpreet Singh said she is feeling the same type of burnout. She never thought about putting a pause on her academic studies and continued to attend classes as planned. Singh said some days are good and productive while others consist of late nights and no sleep. 

Before the pandemic, over 85% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed with stress, according to a National College Health Assessment by the American College Association. 

“I’m trying,” Singh said. “I’m thankful classes are ending soon.”

Singh shares a bedroom with her younger sister, who is currently in high school. She said they sometimes have classes at the same time and must strategically plan when one of them will open their microphones to speak. 

“Remote learning is definitely a luxury for people who have access to their own space,” she said. 

Besides the struggle of completing online coursework, Wen said she was finding it difficult to stay connected to their peers without the help of in-person classes, library spaces and commuting.

“I find it really hard to interact [with Hunter] right now, with everything being online,” said Wen.

Singh said there is really limited interaction between students unless it’s forced. Zoom breakout rooms are mostly filled with silence and black screens, according to the sophomore. 

“I’m taking a lab class and I can’t even do my experiments,” she said.

However, Singh said online classes aren’t all bad. As a history major, most of her time is spent reading and writing independently. She said that she actually enjoys some classes more because she doesn’t have to spend money on subway fare to sit in a lecture that can be done over Zoom.

In an attempt to find community, Wen joined a K-pop club that celebrates the South Korean music genre and top artists. The meetings happen sporadically, but she usually tries to log on to the Zoom. Wen said it has been fun to connect with other students stuck at home over a shared interest. 

Singh said she found some sense of community in group chats, like Discord and WhatsApp. Singh said it’s nice to study together and talk through assignments, even if it is remotely.