By Kaleb Vining
With many students quarantined and others in isolation, learning has become harder than ever during the pandemic. While Zoom may provide a new way to learn virtually, it will never be as effective as face-to-face classes.
Zoom has been good for those students who are not able to make it to class. However, students begin to take advantage of Zoom in many ways. One disadvantage to Zoom is when students turn on their scheduled class and do not turn on their cameras. They do this to sleep, watch movies or play video games while their professor is working hard at keeping them involved in their course.
While it is the students’ choice not to pay attention, it does not help that there are more temptations to avoid learning while quarantined or isolated. Many students live with friends, have pets, or are stuck at home.
Parents are constantly in and out of the house checking on them. Pets are needy and want the attention that students cannot give if they are truly focused on class. Friends want to do fun things and hang out rather than paying attention to a computer screen for an hour or more.
One easy fix would be to have all students leave their cameras on. Several professors at the college enforce this rule, and it enables students to stay involved in that day’s lesson. It also provides the student with discussion to help them apply the lesson’s different concepts. Students then receive a more face-to-face experience without ever having to leave their quarantine or isolation.
Virtual learning has helped keep students involved while stuck in their dorms and apartments, but Zoom’s reliability is often tested. Many students deal with technical difficulties while using Zoom. This ranges from bad internet connections, laptops not being up to date and even sound issues. These problems often prohibit students from learning to the best of their abilities.
Face-to-face classes provide students with a smooth experience of interaction between themselves and their professors. They can respond to prompts that the professor may have without worrying about their session crashing because they are there in person.
Not only that, but professors never have to question if a student is making up an excuse about an internet connection if they are teaching a face-to-face course. Many professors are required to give students the benefit of the doubt due to the pandemic, but many students don’t feel like learning virtually in reality.
There is also the interactive process that goes into face-to-face classes rather than Zoom classes. In a face-to-face class, professors can see if a student is paying attention or not. However, on Zoom, teachers call on students to answer a question or prompt, not knowing if that student is paying attention or not. This then leads to awkward silences and the potential loss of points for the student.
Interaction with students in face-to-face classes tends to build a connection between professor and student. These connections enable professors to identify the specific needs of students who need more help than others. Not only that, but professors can take a more hands-on approach to show students they care when they are face-to-face.
Virtual learning, however, does not allow for these connections to be made. Professors may not know if a student is struggling because they cannot physically see their students at all times. They also cannot interact with them on assignments to see where they are going wrong as easily as they could in person.
Professors also have to schedule meetings with students virtually when using Zoom. Students can no longer walk into an office to ask a quick question when classes are moved to Zoom. They have to schedule a meeting, making the students feel less important than they would in a face-to-face setting.
The college is doing the best that it can under the current circumstances, but professors have a few choices to combat these struggles with virtual learning. One option is to set up guidelines such as students having their cameras on for the entirety of class.
Another option is to have students respond to prompts throughout the class period to keep them engaged. The last solution is to use breakout rooms to have students collaborate on an assignment to make them think critically about a prompt or question.
If professors can develop interesting new ways to interact with students, virtual learning can only improve.