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“Everyone that I know is just sad and anxious”: Online Learning in Profile

Bridget Landry says with online schooling, just taking care of herself comes at the cost of marks.

Bridget Landry’s day starts at 8:30 a.m. After waking up, she begins her virtual school day at her desk in her room. She does schoolwork for a bit before stopping for breakfast. Then she resumes schoolwork. And for the rest of the day, she doesn’t stop. 

Landry is in her fourth year at King’s. She’s taking a bachelor of science and majoring in marine biology. She’s from Sackville, NS, but taking her five courses from an apartment in Halifax she shares with four roommates.

How’s her online school year going? “Horrible.”

“It’s just really hard,” Landry said. “I think that everyone’s doing the best that they can, but all my profs just expect me to be able to spend 25 hours a week on only their class.”

It’s difficult for Landry to focus, find motivation and manage her time without in-person classes with her professors and classmates. She feels disconnected. Her only connection consists of Brightspace notifications sounding every 25 minutes.

“I want to be on campus so badly,” she said. “I just want to be sitting in a class.”

 All of Landry’s courses are at Dalhousie University – she’s actually never taken a King’s course. In high school, she planned to attend Dal. But in her senior year, King’s recruited her to play on their rugby team, so she transferred from Dal to King’s.

Even though all of her courses are at Dal, Landry wasn’t worried about recent news that there could be a faculty strike. She’s confident she’d be able to study as normal. Before Dal agreed to form a conciliation board with the Dalhousie Faculty Association, eliminating any chance of a strike this semester, one of her professors sent a message about what she would do if there was a strike. The professor said she’d be locked out of Brightspace and her university email and unable to contact students. She made plans for her teacher’s assistants to mark assignments and continue as usual. Landry says she thinks some of her other professors would have done the same thing.

But Landry “kind of wanted a strike,” she said with a laugh. “I would have loved a good week off with nothing to do.”

Landry also works part-time at a pet store. She works two shifts during the week and one on the weekend. Each shift is usually eight to nine hours long.

On top of her five classes and 25-hour work week, Landry is still playing rugby. Because of COVID-19, the Blue Devils aren’t playing games, but they are still practicing. Landry, a co-captain, has two-hour practices twice a week. Practices are usually at Gorsebrook field. Before the pandemic, Landry had three practices and one game every week. When she found out her rugby season would be affected because of COVID-19, she cried.

“This is my last year,” she said. “I can’t come back. I don’t have that opportunity to take a fifth year just for rugby.” 

Landry said that playing in a flag league is still on the table for the new year. Flag rugby is a non-contact version of the sport where each player wears a belt with two velcro tags attached – one on either side of their body. It’s considered a tackle when an opposing player pulls a tag off. Landry said the flag season would probably begin in January and end in May, but she’s unsure whether the season will go forward.

“Honestly it all depends on our insurance,” she said. “I hope we can do something. I’d like to play rugby no matter what.”

“I don’t even know how to explain what rugby means to me but it’s a lot.”

After practice at 6 p.m., Landry studies some more. She used to spend all night studying in the library. Other nights, she would get drinks with her friends at the Wardy. With the campus bar closed, that can’t happen this year.

“I just miss the social culture of it so much,” she said, “I’m not going to get this opportunity to live the way that I’m living my life ever again.”

Her online classes have affected her mental health, too. Her anxiety has gotten so much worse that she’s started taking medication. “I think everyone that I know is going through it right now and everyone that I know is just sad and anxious,” said Landry. “There’s no end in sight.”

Within her busy schedule, Landry does make time for herself. But it has a cost.

“I know how important it is, just personally, that I take time and I unwind. I look after myself. But to do that, I do sacrifice my marks. I hand in assignments late and I cut corners,” she said, “because right now, that’s the only way that I would find time for myself.”

Despite how different her school year is, some things are consistent for Landry. At 11 p.m., she goes to bed.

“That hasn’t really changed since online school!”

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