Online classes make education more accessible to student-parents – The Daily Texan
The term “student” typically conjures up an image of young people between the ages of 18 and 22. However, approximately 14% of UT’s undergraduate population is over 22 years old. Nationally, more than one-fifth of university students are Parents.
Student-parents are an active and important part of our campus, but unlike many of their peers, they prefer online classes to in-person learning. For these students, online learning promotes financial stability and academic success.
Kayla Edwards, junior social worker, is a mother of four children aged 4 to 13.
“I really enjoyed when it was COVID, and all of my classes were online because again, if one of my kids was sick, I don’t have to miss classes.” Edwards said. “I can sit and comfort them while I’m online with my camera off. It’s a lot less pressure and a lot less stress when there’s online availability.
Edwards, who juggles work, school and parenthood, sees online learning as a way to make higher education more manageable. She doesn’t have to miss class time or take care of her children, because she can do both at the same time.
Online learning is not for everyone. Virtual classes can seem impersonal and boring, sometimes even pointless. Many students need social, physical, emotional, and academic support from staff and classmates. However, for student-parents, online classes are a way for them to be equally involved in their family life and schoolwork.
Hanyue Zhang, a senior social worker and mother of a 5-year-old child, is forced to travel all the way from San Antonio for her in-person classes. Zhang prefers online classes despite the benefits of in-person learning.
“It’s not just my decision. … It affects my whole family,” Zhang said. “Although I don’t mind driving there and enjoying my time on the way to school… (it’s) a lot of inconvenience for my family.”
The rise of online courses in a post-COVID-19 world has opened new doors, opportunities, and economic stability for students like Edwards and Zhang.
Both students expressed a similar sentiment – their children are part of the reason they are in school. Edwards wants to lead by example and show his children that they can achieve their goals. Zhang wants to make the world a safer place for her daughter to grow up.
“I think (college is) one of those things that’s a lot like parenting where it’s hard,” Edwards said. “But the duality is that it’s also one of the most beautiful and beneficial things for a person’s soul.”
Edwards really values her education and online classes don’t impact the level of education she gets. With parenthood being her top priority, it’s not always possible to attend a class in person.
Choice is the key. There is plenty of evidence that online learning puts a strain on students Mental Health. Yet for others, it’s the stress of going to school, paying for parking, finding care for their children and juggling work that weighs the brunt.
Online courses allow for more flexibility and less of the financial burden of transportation and childcare. This perspective should be recognized as essential information in the ongoing conversation about the future of online learning.
Lawrence is a senior social worker from Austin, Texas.