The Disconnect: A Commuter’s Experience With Online Learning


Photo courtesy of Dominic Trabosci.

When I open my laptop every morning, Moravian College exists.

When I close my laptop every evening, Moravian College disappears.

This is the life of a commuter who, for the first time in his entire life, is getting 100% of his schooling through a computer screen.

I want to make it clear that this is not a rant about COVID-19 restrictions, nor is it a plea for all schools to reopen. I believe that online learning is truly the safest option for the health of students, teachers, and staff, at least physically. 

Mentally, however, I have felt a decline in my health. It’s likely that anyone reading this has been suffering mentally as well. The World Health Organization found that the pandemic is putting tremendous strain on mental health services, likely due to the increased demand for treatment and resources.

As someone who only leaves the house to go to work, the isolation I experience on a daily basis feels like being trapped in a cocoon. I desperately want to break out of it and stretch my legs. 

I never know what’s going on at the college anymore. I don’t have that time to sit down at lunch with my friends in Clewell Dining Hall to discuss the class we just got out of or share our thoughts on some drama happening at the college. I can’t hang out with a group of friends in a booth at the HUB or play a game of Super Mario Party in a friend’s dorm room.

When I meet with The Comenian every week and Professor Mark Harris asks us what’s been happening on campus, I don’t know what to say. Sure, we may have online events and presentations, but my motivation to go to any of those is extremely low because it only reminds me of the dull monotony that is online classes.

It sometimes feels like Moravian College is on the other side of the planet when it’s really only a 15-minute drive away.

Each day, I wake up in the same room I’ve lived in for my whole life and log onto my Zoom class. Then, I’ll listen to a lecture for an hour and almost immediately forget about half of what was discussed by the end of the day. Learning this way simply isn’t engaging for me. I find it extremely difficult to pay attention in this online setting.

Many times I feel like I’m teaching myself the material of the course. Many of my teachers assign an overwhelming amount of reading between classes to supplement what little information they can squeeze out of hour-long classes filled with awkward pauses and the occasional internet hiccup.

My motivation to do well has also declined. Having to drag myself back to my computer screen to complete another task is about as fun as it sounds. I simply care less about school when I’m not there. Everything feels less significant.

It doesn’t help that I’m easily distracted in all parts of my house. My room is filled with things to play with and pull me from my work. 

Anything on the main floor of my house is often too noisy between my brother (who also does online schooling), my dog (whose favorite activity seems to be barking), and my mother (who is a real estate agent constantly making calls). I also don’t want to have to mask up and leave every time I have a class just so I can look at my laptop in a different setting.

Last semester I took part in Moravian’s Wind Ensemble, which provided a much-needed escape from my own home and to hang out with a close-knit group of friends. We were able to make music together and do it safely. 

I don’t have that class this semester. I only get to speak with them over the occasional group chat message or Discord call. Most of the time, we’re all too busy to meet up at the same time anymore.

My own family is starting to become the bane of my existence. Deep down I know I love them, but even the sound of their voices set me off sometimes. As a 20-year-old, I was already itching to get out of the house, so it doesn’t help that I’m now forced to be home almost every waking hour for my own safety. 

Even the people you love are hard to be around for extreme amounts of time.

My bedroom feels smaller and smaller each day. I’m living through a seemingly endless case of cabin fever. 

It’s been too cold to go outside comfortably for a while, so I can’t enjoy a run around my neighborhood as easily as I used to.

Music and writing have certainly been places of solace for me. Whether I want to write down my frustrations about the college’s tuition costs or space out to one of my vinyl records, it provides a temporary escape. However, even my passions begin to wear thin as the walls of my house shrink in on me.

The only thing keeping me going at this point is the promise of a vaccine and a return to normalcy. Until then, I’ll have to keep gritting my teeth and faking a smile for Zoom calls.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please look into the following sources:

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The Crisis Text Line


A list of other mental health resources from