A Side Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic? Reading Got a Lot Harder

Emma Pettit:

Margaret Chapman wanted to know how her students were faring after her institution, Elon University, shifted to remote learning. When the dust settled, she sent a survey to the students in her course on women, gender, and sexuality studies.

The feedback was united: Ditch the textbook. We can’t focus on it.

That didn’t really surprise Chapman. “Neither can I,” she thought.

Typically, Chapman, a lecturer in the English department, has no trouble parsing dense texts. But since the Covid-19 pandemic shifted into high gear and higher education entered fully into emergency distance learning, Chapman has observed a change in herself. She notices she has trouble concentrating on student papers. She can no longer submerge in an argument and wade around. Even a beach read at the end of the day cannot hold her interest.