Nov 20, 2020 | LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
At first it was just Block 1 online. Then, as the college struggled to keep the number of COVID-19 cases down, the majority of classes listed on Banner became entirely online. “Hybrid” and “Flex” classes changed to fully remote, one by one.
Now, already halfway through November, we see ourselves looking with hope to Blocks 5 through 8 but knowing, with reluctance, that we very well may be facing another full semester of online class.
As a first-year student, I have never known Colorado College without the stressful COVID-19 uncertainty. I have never stepped foot in a classroom on campus. I don’t know the names of the buildings, let alone what classes are taught inside of them. I keep myself from thinking about what could have been and stay focused on the small but present positives of online class.
Finding the benefits of online class is kind of like scraping the last bits of brownie batter off the sides of the bowl — it seems like all the good is gone. But what about being able to sit on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, during a Zoom class? Or making yourself another cup of coffee during a 10-minute break?
Small comforts such as wearing sweatpants to Zoom class, drinking numerous cups of coffee, or zooming from a different location every day are small things that, when reminded about, can help improve our attitude toward signing onto Zoom every morning.
Staying focused during class when it seems as though you are just a single square within many is another huge obstacle. Sometimes, I stare at the squares on my screen and wonder if I’m actually talking to people, or just government bots.
The process of a productive discussion on Zoom requires students to see their peers not as squares, but as real people, mentally present though physically separate.
As a way to limit distractions, I’ve discovered that putting my phone literally across the room (so far away that I would have to leave wherever I’m sitting to get it) keeps me from checking my email, social media, texts, or anything else during class.
You could also put your phone on airplane mode so that the constant beeping and notifications don’t catch your attention during a class discussion. But with all the icons just a click away on our screens, it is more difficult in practice than in theory to eradicate all these distractions.
I’ve found myself working on the mental motivation of online classes as a way to keep myself focused during classes. Most of my classes so far have been seminars, not lectures, so I cannot speak to how lectures and/or discussion in lecture classes usually work.
The less I mentally check out of class, the more I actually find myself engaged in the discussion, excited to discover new meanings in a section of writing or to debate the author’s intention within a particular essay.
But, of course, it only takes a single beep-boop of my phone to pull me away from a productive discussion. This is the cycle of effort that paying attention in Zoom class requires. Being engaged, especially in online classes where it is too easy to disappear as a square on a screen, is something that I have to work on for every minute of every class.
So next time you find yourself clicking “stop video” or unlocking your phone screen to check a text, ask yourself what you are gaining from mentally disengaging. The class discussions that you are missing may be the ones that could remind you of what is possible in the process of learning, despite the online setting.