Zoom class reforms are not working

February 19, 2021

If you’ve had humanities courses or probably any course on Zoom this past week, you probably have noticed slight changes in the way how professors are formatting class schedules and rules. It seems to me the university has talked to professors in an attempt to re-organize and better the way Zoom classes are held and have instituted a number of policy changes. Whether professors have actually listened and implemented these policies to the best of their abilities and for the betterment of the student is a completely separate issue. 

Most humanities professors have gotten rid of midterms and finals, probably as a way to curb cheating, prevent unnecessary stress for students and address the clear problems standardized and forced exams have on students’ learning capabilities. As a result, it seems that nearly every humanities class is now implementing a semester-long project with paper due dates scattered across the next few months. While I personally appreciate the cancelling of midterm exams and finals, as I believe cumulative exams always prove to be more harmful to actual learning than essays or projects, I now have the looming fear of having to conduct five separate intense long-term projects all at the same time that ultimately will determine my entire grade for each class. I truly wonder how stressful the next few months will be as these due dates all seem to fall along the same schedule, and I question whether professors have taken into consideration that every other professor is instituting a timeline parallel to theirs. 

Moreover, it is plenty apparent that the university has “encouraged” professors to implement a 10-minute break into their Zoom classes. While it was clear to me that professors felt extremely taxed with the time limitations, Zoom fatigue was overly present last semester, so having a break is an excellent and crucial idea. I definitely do not shy away from and did not shy away from taking my own personal breaks during class last semester, because I refuse to sit in a space for an hour and a half when I’ve honestly lost interest within the first 40 minutes. 

It was consequently so surprising, and frankly angering, to me that, to my knowledge and the experiences of several of my friends, many professors have been fluctuating between five-minute and 10-minute breaks and going well beyond their allotted time. The clear irony that some professors have built 10-minute breaks into their syllabi but have not followed through only signals to me that the future of these breaks is extremely rocky. 

If they’re not being followed as an actual feature of class now when we are just getting started with course materials, they definitely will consistently be up to professors’ discretion as we go into the semester and leak into their stressed-out phases. What’s insulting is the fact that these breaks are absolutely needed to prevent Zoom fatigue, the subtle growth of hatred of doing classwork from a bedroom and the annoyance with hour-and-a-half-long lectures. 

As professors continue to only half-implement policies that clearly aim to better the mental and academic well-being of students, I truly wonder whether there exists the possibility for the American college system to expand beyond its outdated grade-based system without pushes like this. 

The growing implementation of “peer-grading” and self-assessment is one that seems incredibly conducive to student’s capability for educational retention and one that I will be sure to ensure continues to be adhered to the fullest of its reach and instituted across all classes as mandatory. If this pandemic has proven anything in terms of academics, it is that the way we have been educated is most definitely not the best nor the only way, and it is imperative that we adapt and continue to push for the protection of our mental and educational growth.