Art by Leah Bae
With two and a half weeks plus half of spring 2020 under our belts, students and professors now know what works well in online learning environments and what does not. Each person has their own style of teaching and note-taking, but everyone also has pet peeves for Zoom etiquette.
While it is natural to become frustrated with certain aspects of distance learning, we are all responsible for making Zoom as welcoming and supportive as it can be.
The Graphic compiled a list of expectations for students and professors as well as suggestions to improve the admittedly unfortunate online situation.
Expectations for Students
Students have the right to be critical of professors’ virtual teaching styles and expect professors to deliver a high standard of education in the virtual classroom, but students also must act in a way that is conducive to a constructive learning environment. This means participating but also allowing others to speak. It means arriving on time, muting yourself immediately if you are not speaking and perhaps using the raise hand feature in the participants tab if you’d like to speak.
Show empathy to fellow students and the professor; everyone deals with technological difficulties and distractions at home, so take that into account when you are frustrated that someone’s screen freezes or they appear disinterested.
If you feel comfortable speaking to strangers on your screen, make others feel comfortable as well. Don’t simply stare at other students in breakout rooms or be engrossed in your phone — engage.
Further, don’t joke inappropriately in the chat, as you might accidentally share information with the host that you don’t want them to see. Do not outwardly express your disdain for being in class. You don’t need to dress up, but laying in bed in pajamas or cooking lunch during lectures is disrespectful to your professor and classmates.
Ultimately, act as if you were in the classroom to make the learning environment worthwhile for everyone involved.
Expectations for Professors
A side effect of teaching students virtually is not knowing if students are paying attention and interested. We care, or else we would not be enrolled in your class. Students show interest in different ways; just because students are not engaged 24/7 does not mean they do not care about you or your class. Shutting our cameras off for a few moments to stand up and stretch may be what we need to get through a lecture.
Students still want to feel seen and heard equally, so put your Zoom screen on grid view when possible. Make sure your students are not feeling alone or lost in their classes; this means holding synchronous conversations that are accessible to students outside of the continental United States. Realize that it is hard for us to learn through a screen with multiple teachers talking at us.
Recognize that students are not seeing each other on a daily basis anymore, so they may need more reminders or explanations than usual.
Be aware of economic disparity between your students. Understand some do not have unlimited access to a stable WiFi connection, high-quality camera or quiet study space.
For example, Ronald Highfield, professor of religion, said he does several things to accommodate his students: He makes material available asynchronously via voiced-over PowerPoints and text-only PowerPoints, meets with students individually if they are in time zones more than four hours from Pacific Daylight Time and stays until the final person leaves a synchronous meeting in case a student lingers with a question.
“I want to make the class equally accessible for all students,” Highfield said. “So that was my goal — to get as close to that as I could.”
Ask for consent before recording your classes. It might be easier to record the class to later post for those who were unable to attend, but some students have privacy issues that they would prefer to keep, well, private. In this case, be especially understanding if the student does not want their camera or microphone on.
Professors are busy too. We understand that, but refusing to teach on Zoom when students are paying upwards of $1,800 per credit hour simply is not fair. We are willing to put in time to learn from you, so be willing to put in time to teach us.
Do not stress about your lack of familiarity with technology. Students are going through problems too, so we will be as understanding and helpful as we can be.
Similarly, do not put too much pressure on us. It is an adjustment for us to start classes and new relationships without the personal foundation usually established during the first week.
Our Message to the University
There are many pros and cons of synchronous learning that can be beneficial to the student and professor. Synchronous classes can keep students on task and hold them accountable for their classwork. The engagement element is still there, whether in a quick unmute or chat.
Most importantly, attending classes in sync provides the most realistic educational environment that can be achieved remotely.
The cons fall into much of what makes up Zoom. Requiring students to attend synchronous classes can put a ton of unwanted pressure on international students and those who face economic disparities. Before setting unrealistic Zoom norms, remember there are students who do not have their own space or stable internet.
Since students are scattered around the globe, professors need to be aware that students may be facing fire season in California, hurricane season in the Gulf or other natural disasters that may prevent them from having stable power.
The University could also explore alternate videoconferencing platforms that may be more affordable or WiFi-friendly — RingCentral, Google Meet or Skype. Google Meet is included with Google’s G Suite, which Pepperdine already provides for its students.
Be understanding, no matter which side of the screen you sit. Do not be afraid to take a break or ask for help. We are here for each other, not against each other.
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