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Zoom University: The Real Platform We Are All Earning a Degree From

By: Bianca Viana

It has been a year since the on-going pandemic drastically changed all of our lives. A year ago this month, Zoom was an application that probably most students had never heard of and probably thought that they would never have to use. Fast forward to today, and Zoom has become an everyday word in our vocabulary. Millions of students and faculty across the world are using Zoom as a means to communicate, learn and teach daily.

Zoom has significantly changed the future of higher education, and many are not happy about it. Zoom can be beneficial in that we can actually see human faces, interact with others while learning and we can stay connected. But Fernando Krause, an adjunct professor in the Psychology Department at Adelphi University, called it a double-edged sword.

“I believe Zoom is here to stay. On the one hand, Zoom has facilitated people’s access to the classroom since you can watch your class from anywhere you want. That means, people can stay at home with their family, sometimes even out of state, and still have the education they seek. This could also represent saving time and money with commute and other expenses.”

Zoom has had a drastic effect on our education, and is changing the future for higher education. Distance learning via Zoom is here to stay.

However, the side effects of the program include Zoom fatigue, unstable internet connection, and finding a quiet space for class. We have all been kicked out of a Zoom meeting or missed a chunk of class because our computers froze. The difficulties of using Zoom are there and it needs to be talked about.

Michael Moore, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department, also weighed in on how he thinks Zoom has changed the future of higher education. “I think the more-or-less mandatory switch to online instruction, mostly via Zoom, means that now every instructor and college student in America (and in most other countries, as well, I suspect) has experience with online education,” Moore said. “We have all made this transition to online education, and many of us are still adapting to it today. For many, we have grown up in the classroom having face-to-face interaction with others and learning directly in the classroom for pretty much all of our lives. Having to adapt to online school within days was challenging and it still is.”

Moore added that for students, “…it has clarified why they sought out in-person education in the first place and the value of having face-to-face interaction with an instructor.”

The idea of online education when having face-to-face instruction may have seemed amazing at first but we have all reached a point where we would do anything to be in the classroom. The level of education students are receiving online versus in the classroom is not the same and no matter what efforts are made that won't change. If your internet cuts out and you miss what the professor said you automatically get shy to cut in and ask for them to repeat what they said. If you have a question while your professor is lecturing it is hard to just unmute and interrupt without sounding rude.

Moore said, “For faculty, I think the difference between high-quality online instruction and low-quality online instruction (e.g., just putting PowerPoint slides and some supplementary videos on Moodle) is clearer. Good online instruction requires a lot of preparation on the part of the instructor and can definitely come close to the in-person experience, when done well.”

Many students have had a variety of experiences with online classes and the way in which the material is presented to students can really impact the students’ outcome in the class.

Only making things worse for many of us is our work-from-home situations. Many of us live at home with parents, siblings or other loved ones, which we continuously have to ask not to disturb us. With other people who may also be learning from home or even working from home we have to learn to tune them out as they take a Zoom call of their own. Sometimes we find ourselves having to scramble across the floor to grab something from behind them. Many students do not have the luxury of a private space to work from at home, making online school all the more challenging—and unequal.

Moore said he had to make some adjustments as a professor. “We all have had to learn how to work from home…. [some of us] restructuring the physical space, figuring out where there is a quiet, private, temperature controlled space with sufficient internet access. However, for many, this space doesn't exist in their home and work/study from home has really highlighted systemic inequities as a function of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity and gender identity, to name a few.”

As Moore pointed out, with online school many challenges come about, and some of these are not often considered by many faculty members. Not all students have access to the essentials that are needed for being a successful online student. Some students were already facing difficulties to affording a private education, and now with the added stresses of the pandemic and having to attend school from home it only makes things harder.

Krause said that Zoom is really changing universities and other institutions of higher education. “It is a big deal since they can get more students without having the limitations regarding location. In fact, I also think the hybrid or mixed models of education will be a factor. I can see, although that’s just my opinion, how classrooms might accommodate both in-person and online students at the same time.”

Zoom is cost-effective for many universities and might be a reason why we continue to see Zoom being used even when things return to some sense of normalcy.

Krause added, “We see this possibility with the fact that Adelphi has updated all classrooms on campus to fit this model.”

Adelphi is already offering hybrid classes where students are given the opportunity to come to class or watch from a livestream right at home.

However, as Krause pointed out, there are downsides. “On the other hand, it is going to be hard for universities to justify their tuition when most of their classes, or a good part of them, are online and not in person. Students pay high tuition rates with the expectations that they will have the college experience and will start their lives as independent adults.”

Since the pandemic Adelphi has raised tuition by about $2,000 for all undergraduate students in this academic year. Many students were upset for the same reasons mentioned above. Having an increase in tuition all the while not feeling satisfied with the current mode of instruction is hard.

Zoom will most likely not be going away any time soon. The vaccine, however, does offer hope in possibly seeing a full re-opening of campus in the fall semester. The more we continue to practice social distancing and other safety guidelines, the quicker we can hopefully kiss Zoom goodbye.

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