PHOENIX — For many students, shifting education online during the pandemic posed a lot of problems and learning curves, but for some in college, it presented an opportunity.
Austin Davis just graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in creative writing, a little more than a week ago.
He tells ABC15 he actually spent more of his education on a laptop than in a classroom and although some of it was by circumstance with the pandemic, some of it was also by choice.
"I kind of found that I had the freedom to pursue my other passions as well as my education," Davis said. "Once everything went online, it was definitely an adjustment period but I think that a lot of people also saw that, ok, you know, this can also allow me to kind of change my education model."
Some of his other passions include helping people on the streets experiencing homelessness, which he did through a Valley organization called AZ Hugs for Houseless.
He also found the time to write and get published a book of poems called Lotus and the Apocalypse.
He then toured the U.S. with his work during his final semester of senior year.
"I was doing my school on the road, at airports and got the inflight Wi-Fi on planes and hotels," he said.
A survey conducted by Cengage last year found that Davis wasn't alone - 73% of students surveyed said they preferred to take some of their courses online even post-pandemic, while more than half said they felt more optimistic about online learning than they did prior to the pandemic.
Ryan Lufkin with Instructure, the maker of online learning platform Canvas, tells ABC15 the perception of online courses is changing for the better.
"I think before the pandemic, online courses were sort of viewed as easy to cheat in, less interactive with your professor," Lufkin said. "One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that that bar on technology-enhanced learning has been raised...colleges and universities took the time to support their educators to develop really interactive online courses that really can challenge the level of engagement of an in-person classroom in an online environment."
And while the classroom experience is still an important one, and online isn't for everyone, Davis said keeping an open mind is what helped him achieve the most.
"It might not work for some people because I think online education is definitely something you have to get used to and there's a lot of diligence with having to get everything in because it's all self-paced," he said. "College is a time to figure out who you are as a person, who you want to be."