How Zoom Positively Affected In-Person Education
After a grueling few semesters of online school, the return to in-person classes has come. We all had different experiences with Zoom University; you may have struggled to make personal connections with classmates, gone to class in your pajamas, or chosen not to turn your camera on when you just were not feeling up to it. It’s hard not to think of the many drawbacks that came with this time, and the impacts they had on Arcadia’s students.
Before this semester, online college was all I knew. I was excited to have the experience of being on campus and in a college classroom. My professors also expressed their joy at returning to their original methods of teaching. I think most of all, the students and staff at Arcadia looked forward to being able to converse and make interpersonal connections once again.
We came back to the classroom with the knowledge of online school under our belts, and though most of us are happy to be rid of Zoom classes, having gone through that online immersion may have benefited teachers. While it is easy to acknowledge that many aspects of Zoom were less than enjoyable, one of my professors has taken inspiration from Zoom to better our class.
I take Interpreting Literature II, and Professor Matt Heitzman orients his classes toward discussion, allowing students to freely converse and explore ideas about texts together. Conversation is such an essential element in this class, and since there are only 10 of us, everyone has the opportunity to share and hear each other’s ideas. The small class sizes that are so often present at Arcadia support opportunities for engagement and community building.
Yet, Matt felt that there was something missing. He explained to our class that he felt the absence of the chat feature on Zoom allowing students to share their thoughts about discussion topics at any time, without having to speak if they didn’t wish to or without worrying about interrupting the flow of conversation in class with new ideas.
After my class voiced our agreement with the benefits of this facet of Zoom, we brainstormed ways to simulate a chat in-person. We considered having a shared Google Doc or GroupMe open during class, but the ultimate consensus was to create a class Discord server. I had never used Discord before, but many students in my class were familiar with it, and it has so far proved to be a great addition to the group discussion. We can write anything regarding our conversation or discussion questions, and the class can keep up with it along with our dialogue taking place out loud. Matt even puts the server on the TV in the back of the room so that he can refer to it. If anyone doesn’t want to voice their ideas, or they want to address a topic that had come up in the discourse a while ago, this is a great way for them to still participate.
Many Arcadia professors like Matt truly understand the importance of discussion and inclusion. They identify the need to make their classes supportive and accessible to all students, so that they can have the opportunity to participate and engage with their peers in ways that make them comfortable.
We have all developed a new appreciation for fruitful conversation and the ways in which we can connect with others. The students and teachers in this new era of education have also learned many lessons from their experiences with technology and online schooling. In this instance, Zoom life resulted in an improvement to a classroom setting and the facilitation of in-class discourse. Even though the world is reverting back to more of a normal state, we can acknowledge the ways in which the advancements and new norms that came about during the pandemic have had a positive effect on people.