The Impact of Remote Learning on the Liberal Arts

Lucius Bryant ’22

Staff Writer

At the end of my high school career, and the beginning of my college application process, I was tasked with determining the criteria I would consider ideal in my future place of education. I had not yet decided what I would devote my studies towards, but I had a feeling it would involve writing and the arts at some level. My advisor and I determined I would prosper most at a smaller college with an emphasis on liberal arts that was no farther than a short drive from home. Trinity was top of the list when it came to these criteria. The school’s size would regulate average class numbers, ensuring that I would have a more personal relationship with my professors and fellow students. It had been a popular choice among alumni of my high school, and carried a positive context when brought up in conversation. The reputation of the school made me look forward to what was to come.

For the most part, I feel satisfied with how the school has met these expectations. I can still mention I am a student at Trinity in conversation to illicit inquiries of possible acquaintances I had made, or how the hockey team is performing, or if I had started any businesses with my peers; I still enjoy the implications of one day being a Trinity alum with my own stories. 

Functionally, the school has let me down a bit. Most of the disappointment has come out of this semester, where the remote learning shoves a wrench in the intimacy of small classes and the rules of quarantine inhibit my ability to meet new people. On one hand, the pressure of being presentable at all times has been taken off my shoulders, while on the other I feel my self-discipline slipping as a result. 

From what I have witnessed and inquired about from other students and faculty, I know this semester has been tough for most. It is clearly not everyone’s ideal situation, which is why I am skeptical when online learning is referred to as the future (mostly from those no longer associated with academia). If online learning were ideal, I have a feeling we would be witnessing a stark contrast in behavior in the students than what we have seen thus far. I believe the students, if the pressure of being restrained to a single location was less severe, would make it a point to avoid social gatherings, and the number of active cases would remain steady at a hopeful zero.

One of the perks of liberal arts is the necessity to take classes in several disciplines. Every school has its own version of this. Here, it is our General Education requirements. The upside to this system is the possibility to turn a student who is perhaps tunnel visioned on their path to becoming an engineer onto the writings of 20th century poets or the details of classical oil paintings and sculptures. Alas, no more than ever I have felt the pressure to focus on prioritizing the future when it comes to my education. The frustrations of quarantine have impacted both the patience required of students to be open to new ideas as well as of professors in order to expose these new ideas. There is less risk to be taken when the engineer sticks to his physics lectures and the art students to their studios. This is the unfortunate reality in which we currently exist.

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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