And just like that, semester one has already come and gone. Now that we have made it halfway through the academic year, I took the opportunity to discuss with other students the transition into the “new normal” of classes on Zoom. Most of whom indicated that they have previously taken classes online but mentioned that the format for this semester has changed the shape of online learning. This year has offered a more dynamic classroom experience with an increase in ways to attend class, which has also required more diligence to know how each class will be conducted. With some classes being held only in person, some only online, and some a mixture of both the variety in attending classes has never been so diverse.
Like other applications we utilize, students have found some benefits as well as problems with using Zoom for online learning. Overall, the interface to use Zoom is rather straight forward but Jeremy Ring, a Cyber Operations Major, offered me possibly one of its most glaring problems. Many students have several classes through Zoom, all of which require a separate room, and it can become tedious using a password each time to join class. Jeremy offered Discord as a comparison indicating that the ability to easily switch between channels is something that Zoom should consider adding. Another flaw that was mentioned is that for those students that don’t have the luxury of multiple monitors it can be difficult to take notes or use other applications while on a Zoom call.
With hybrid classes becoming popular it is now typical for professors to record lectures during the scheduled class section and upload the lecture after class. Senior Anna Fields mentioned that when students are “not feeling well or otherwise can’t make it to campus” Zoom allows them to still join in the lecture or discussion. With snow already falling it’s easy to see how remote classes could offered instead of canceling classes when the weather makes the roads can’t be travelled. This is also a great benefit for students living off campus as the dread of driving through the snow is eliminated allowing us to focus on the stress of the class itself instead of traveling to campus safely.
For those living on campus the disconnect between classroom and dorm room has made it difficult for some students to focus on getting homework done. One thing that Anna added was that scheduled Zoom classes “helps hold me accountable to pay attention and watch the whole lecture” compared to just watching a prerecorded video. She also said that she misses “the social aspect of seeing classmates and professors” which seems to be the thing that is hardest to replicate with technology. For some of us there is nothing better than learning with a group of others in front of someone who is able to answer questions and ensure the information being taught is understood.
Another Senior, Racquel Meyer, also mentioned that limiting interaction with professors, and even other students, has made the experience of learning more difficult. While Junior Bin Huang mentioned that “it’s difficult to make sure everyone is paying attention” when teaching through Zoom. He emphasized that professors can, and do, ensure students are turning on their cameras to have a visual indication of the student’s attentiveness. Though I can add that I have personally seen a number of people that have appeared to have fallen asleep during a lecture. Admittedly this certainly isn’t a new problem but seems to have been enhanced as we are able to sit at home in our most comfortable element during class.
One of the biggest downsides to having class through an application is that it can be very easy to focus on everything else on our computers while a lecture is being conducted. Bin summarized it by saying it’s “less like an in-person class and more like a YouTube video lecture.” With the disconnect from the classroom it also makes it easier than ever to use phones during class. Racquel Meyer sums up the general experience of most students stating, “it’s easier to fall asleep without a physical space dedicated to learning.” With most of us now working and learning in the same place as where we relax it has become difficult to dedicate time to focus on learning.