One month of Zoom U

In a time when everyone is tired of staring at their computer screens, as they have been the most practical use of communication for the last six months, many students are forced to attend their classes through Zoom – a video communication source – instead of joining them in person. 

While it seems as though many colleges have transferred to all online courses, luckily or unluckily enough, Allegheny has provided us with the opportunity to join in person, with a few stipulations. 

After months of being cut off from the social world, I for one was excited to get back to campus and attempt to enjoy the “new normal” of face masks and social distancing. 

Quickly after returning to school, my expectations for classes and the hope for my healing social life were rapidly shut down. My classes took over a hybrid approach to meeting, meaning that the majority of on-campus students would join in person while the off-campus students would attend through Zoom, along with a few on-campus students here and there in order to allow for proper distancing within the classroom. 

While some students find it comforting to roll out of bed three minutes before their Zoom class and join with their cameras turned off and microphones muted, doing the bare minimum to be marked present for the day, I do not find it so appealing.

Sitting in on a Zoom lecture from the desk in my dorm is not something I find conducive to good learning.  As it turns out, neither do the professors.  Lecturing to a laptop screen composed of majorly black boxes with only a few friendly faces is not the ideal way to teach students who have already ruled off the class as a “blow-off” since it is remote.  There is relatively little to no interaction between the students and professors during Zoom classes, making it difficult to be entertained by the subject and easy to be distracted.

Although Zoom meetings may not be the optimal environment for learning, I have found that these lectures do supply at least one good aspect, recorded meetings.  The ability to go back and listen to a full lesson again and capture every word a second time is definitely a plus. Oftentimes, I find myself missing key aspects of an explanation because I was scribbling down notes before my professor changed the slide, so having an entire lesson at your fingertips is one benefit we cannot overlook. 

Zoom meetings may have presented some trouble in the classrooms, but for students of other universities that did not have to abide by strict quarantine rules, “Zoom University” has allowed for some unexpected fun amidst the pandemic. Since joining class remotely was the encouraged option, many students have taken it upon themselves to make the most of it.  Being able to access class from anywhere in the world means students did not have to wait for breaks to take a little vacation.

Zoom University has gone from being stuck in your dorm to following your lectures beachside, or taking that promising trip to the mountains to blow off the quarantine steam. For many, remote classes have allowed students to travel during a time when they otherwise could not, but as for those of us in the hybrid situation, travel is not an option. 

But let me tell you, having taken full advantage of the hybrid situation, I can confidently say that I learn significantly better being present in the classroom than I do from the “comfort” of my own room, or even the beach for that matter.

Zoom University has had its pros and cons in the classroom environment, but I bet the majority of Allegheny seniors find it agreeable that it has turned the senior comprehensive assignment into a whole different beast. With the inability to use the campus’s resources at your convenience, it has flipped the entire project upside down.

The dreaded comprehensive assignment is one that every senior has heard about for the last three years, and now it has been adapted to accommodate the hybrid setting. For many students, this means no experiments or real-life experiences, period. No hard data to work with or reference.  For everyone, it means extensive research on a topic that many of us will not be able to fully test out. For me, this means experiments on the computer, completely neglecting the laboratory skills I spent years preparing to utilize in my final project.

For the majority of us, Zoom University has turned our worlds upside down from college life as we know it, but for the lucky few of us, it has presented the unexpected opportunity for a much needed break from reality.