The Zoom Classroom
When the world shut down and we moved classes from brick-and-mortar classrooms to online, everyone struggled. My struggle came in the form of professors and students who thought the Zoom classroom should be treated exactly like an in-person classroom, while I believed a Zoom classroom should be treated like an online classroom.
I had the privilege of attending community college before transferring to the University of Washington. Out of my twenty-one community college classes, eight were in person. The other thirteen were online courses, which I took because I wanted the benefit of doing school on my own time. While I still had due dates, I could do the work any day of the week, any time of the day. This was not the case when my university transitioned to Zoom. I was required to attend Zoom meetings as often as I would have been required to attend in-person classes, and my work was due the morning before the Zoom meeting. If I had Zoom every day, I had work due every morning. This betrays the fundamental benefit of online classes. When professors and students cried that Zoom sessions were the only way to have class discussion, I recalled the lengthy discussion boards I’d been a part of in Canvas. When anyone pointed out that I would have been in class anyway during a Zoom meeting, I argued that it is more exhausting to stare at a screen than it is to stare at people. Because I had experienced competent online courses, I disliked what I considered incompetence in moving brick-and-mortar classrooms online.
Then I had a golden professor. She did not treat her classroom as an in-person or online classroom but somehow bridged the two kinds to create a new kind of space—what I call the Zoom classroom. We still had two, two-hour Zoom sessions each week, but they were optional. We had a participation portion of our grade, but we could fulfill it either by coming to the Zoom sessions and engaging in class discussion or by writing in the Canvas discussion boards. She posted mini lectures each week that could supplement our readings but were again not a graded requirement to pass the class. All other work was always due Friday at midnight leading into Saturday morning. We were expected to read before attending Zoom or posting on Canvas only so we could engage well in the discussion. We were not graded on the readings until our Friday work. Every announcement made in class was also distributed through email and Canvas so that everyone was given their best opportunity to be aware of changes and updates. This professor blended the discussion and lecture portions of an in-person classroom with the freedom of an online classroom to create something that was neither a brick-and-mortar classroom taught on Zoom nor an online classroom. She gave us what I, at least, needed in this pandemic—a new kind of learning community that lets me learn as well as I do in an in-person format through multiple discussion options and also offers me the freedom to work at my own pace through the panic of this pandemic.