Online School: Yay or Nay?
The Effectiveness of Zoom Classes
By: Julie Jacques and Jessica Gearey
Managing Editor and News Editor
Photo Illustration by Shruti Talekar
I was less than pleased when I heard that I, along with most of my peers, was going to have to transition from in-person learning to online learning. I had never actually considered what online classes, or “Zoom University,” would be like before they began, but now it seems like I’ll graduate from Dawson before higher education students are allowed back into class full-time. I am trying to look on the bright side of things, but I’m still not sure whether online learning is effective. How are we learning this semester?
Andrea Strudensky, a teacher from the English department, gave her two cents on the subject. “I don’t get feedback from my students,” she says, emphasizing that the non-verbal feedback of students which clues her into classroom dynamics isn’t available to her anymore. This makes things more difficult for teachers, especially when they’re in a state of evolution themselves. They must learn a whole new way to teach, without access to any familiar tools.
Even as a student, I see how it can be difficult for teachers, especially those who tend to connect with their students on a more personal level, to do their jobs. “You don’t get to know the students in the same way,” Strudensky says, explaining that she can’t discern the different things that will make individuals react, their habits (like how they sit), or what their different facial expressions mean.
Despite the perceived downsides, Strudensky admits that the experience has forced her “to really assess what it means, what [her] pedagogy is”. Tests, quizzes, and different assignments may be much harder to grade in an online context, and it can be difficult to discern whether or not your students are learning anything when they have constant access to online resources. Teachers must reconsider their teaching methods, and the process “might encourage more teachers to find ways to engage students when we finally get the privilege of being back in the classroom.”
"More practice is required before online classes can be fully effective."
As Strudenksky says, in this “very lonely, isolating time” both students and teachers are experiencing difficulties. Even if teachers are doing their best, many students are having trouble adapting. “It’s definitely not ideal,” Jay Murphy, a second-year Cinema and Communications student, announces. There are positives and negatives, she points out, saying her stress and anxiety levels are the same, if not greater, and that some classes aren’t as fulfilling. However, Murphy points out that she’s “thankful that education is still available at a time like this.” Kyla Coyle, another Dawson student, reports having difficulty “finding a structure and routine” which works for her. I have to agree with the both of them – my stress this semester compared to my Fall 2019 semester has heightened, partly due to the fact that I’ve been having trouble settling on a routine.
All that said, it’s difficult to discern whether students are receiving the same quality of education as they previously were. Personally, it seems impossible to me that students who are so used to learning in person, and teachers whose methods have been interrupted, come away from this with as much knowledge as they otherwise would have. “A lot of the material you end up having to teach yourself,” Coyle points out, saying that her Zoom classes often run out of time to cover all the content. However, she acknowledges that no one has “fully adapted yet.”
More practice is required before online classes can be fully effective. It will be interesting to see if schools begin to offer online classes once the pandemic is over – maybe some teachers actually find it more suitable, and continuing education or student-parents may find it easier to follow.
What with lack of teacher-student connection, a mute button which allows students to opt-out of class, and a lack of routine, many, myself included, are finding online school arduous. Would I say it’s a waste of time and money? It’s tough to be sure before the semester comes to an end, but yes. And no. I have trouble justifying a 10 dollar hike in student fees for an online semester, but I recognize that I am gaining valuable experience every day. I have learned to (semi) adapt from one rigorous schedule to another, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t gained at least one unrequited Zoom romance from it all.