With the pandemic coming to a close, students are still feeling the effects of “Zoom university.” One of the most notable effects is the ability for professors to change in-person classes to Zoom lectures on a whim.
Since beginning classes at Drew University, I have had upwards of seven of my in-person classes changed to online. This has transpired over the course of one full semester and the first few weeks of the current semester. What brought my frustration to a head was the change of platform causing me to miss class time.
During this semester’s first week, I was unable to attend the first meeting of the last class of my day because it was switched to Zoom. Being that I had registered for the class the same day, I had no way of accessing the Zoom link and, thus, planned to attend the next class.
The next class comes around, and it is again moved onto Zoom. The problem this time: I did not have my laptop with me and I am a commuter student. Most of the professors I have had so far at Drew frown upon the usage of laptops, so I had become accustomed to not bringing mine to classes with me. I ended up attending class almost 40 minutes late because I had to drive home before I could attend.
With this in mind, teachers should not be allowed to move classes online for any reason. The change in platform can lead to student inability to attend, less fulfilling classes, and a disregard for the choices and reasoning made by students when selecting classes.
Attending the aforementioned class in the room agreed upon by all related parties, the university, professor and student, caused me to miss the very same class because it was moved to Zoom. Therein lies the problem; I, the student, have attended the place instructed. Yet, I have missed the class time I paid for because the professor changed the platform where the class is meeting. As a student, I am left at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the class, and at risk of suffering an absence upon my record.
Discounting forgetfulness, taking an online class in a public space on campus can be quite difficult. I do not regularly carry headphones that work with my laptop. If I were to take an online class on campus, I would have to blast the class out of my speakers in a place that is, hopefully, semi-private. Ideally, the classroom could work in a pinch, but I am now relegated to the restrictions of an online class. Participation is more difficult and less fluid, and the issues for why the class was moved online often come to the forefront.
Professors move classes online because they are unable to make it to campus for whatever reason. One reason is the professor being sick. I respect the teacher for choosing not to come in-person, but taking a class from a sick professor is vastly inferior. They are easily distracted and scatterbrained when explaining topics in class and the energy of the class drops dramatically. But the material “covered” is still vital to pass the course. Students get no leeway in this regard, only disadvantaged by the professor teaching while sick. If the class was canceled and left for the students as an out of class assignment or planned to be covered in the future, students would ultimately benefit more.
I believe that Drew professors are able to teach online classes successfully; many did it for about two years. But I have yet to find a single professor who says that online classes are better than in-person classes. From my experience, in-person classes are a better way to learn and lead to better information retention and class engagement. An online class pales in comparison to the levels of engagement and interaction achievable in-person. Giving teachers the ability to opt into online seems unfair to the education students are paying for.
I am a terrible student when it comes to online learning. I sign up for in-person classes specifically because I have difficulty paying attention throughout the entirety of class and find participating in class near impossible. Gauging the energy of a discussion is near impossible through a screen, and even the best discussions are still broken apart with pauses of uncertainty. I went on leave for a quarter (my previous college functioned on quarters rather than semesters) because, by learning online, I was not receiving the education I deserved for the money I was paying. I continue to select in-person classes because the education received is superior to a class conducted on Zoom.
So why am I still forced to take classes online? I sign up for in-person classes every semester, yet my teacher can still move it online when it suits them? Is the money we pay for classes not enough to value in-person learning? I asked my mother, an adjunct faculty member at Montclair State University, what she thinks of this topic, and she told me how Montclair State requires teachers to meet in the manner their class is created for and no other. So if it is in-person it is in-person only, no questions.
To me, that was the nail in the coffin. Students are not extended the same luxury of changing how they plan to attend class because it would negatively impact the class as a whole. Professors should not be allowed to move class to Zoom for any reason due to the negative impacts it imparts on students.
Brandon Dennis is a junior majoring in English