Zoom classes: Soon to be a memory or here to stay?


A masked student studies in the William T. Young Library during the first day of classes for the fall 2020 semester on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Shawn Clancy

In a post-COVID world, should UK still offer a greater amount of online and hybrid classes than they did pre-COVID?

Ask any student or professor about “zoom fatigue” and I guarantee you’ll receive eye rolls. It’s a term that has been coined rather recently, but it sums up how many of us are feeling one year into the pandemic.

While services like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts have become an essential part of our day-to-day lives, many people have grown tired of the contactless world we find ourselves in. For the students, there are certain extra challenges that come with online college, such as a lack of motivation, internet connectivity issues and confusing interfaces. Professors have also often complained about a lack of motivation due to reduced participation during class. Despite this, these virtual services don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

According to Business of Apps, in April 2020, Zoom saw its highest peak in daily users at over 300 million. Skype also saw itself hitting a peak with 40 million daily users in March 2020. 

When the University of Kentucky decided to implement a hybrid learning program for the 2020-21 school year, there were understandably some concerns regarding tuition, student access, and ability to effectively learn from home. Although heavily criticized for the move, the university has reported increases in both enrollment and retention rates this year.

My personal experience with the move to online learning at UK has been mostly good, as I feel that my professors have put significant effort into adjusting their normally in-person lesson plans to fit the new interface; however, there are still definite concerns I have if this is to remain a commonplace option.

 For one, I think many would agree with me that the Canvas interface is not always the easiest to navigate. The biggest problem I have found is that there are inconsistencies in how professors use the service. Where one professor may use “modules” to organize their lesson plans, others upload to the “files” section. Some professors do not input grades until the end of the semester while others grade right away. I believe this should be consistent across classes in order to put less stress on both the students, trying to figure out college in this new world, and the professors, who are not familiar with web design and must learn on their own.

Apart from interface issues, I have heard from many students that feel as though they are not getting the level of education or which they are paying. While the online classes are useful and have allowed for the university to continue educating through COVID, I think that there should be some future consideration put into making sure that first-year students do not have too many online classes in their schedule. This would allow the incoming freshman to have a true college experience their first year on campus which would acclimate them to a normal learning environment. Being able to attend in-person classes and events is also essential to having a healthy social life on campus. Too many young adults have been suffering through this pandemic as they have not been able to connect with others in the ways that they used to. By leaning too heavily on Zoom, UK would only be exacerbating that problem.

Although having an online option is useful, traditional learning and social environments are undeniably important to university students. Despite this, I have a feeling that online classes, along with working from home via Zoom or similar services, is around to stay. There are a lot of benefits associated with this, including higher productivity rates and higher satisfaction rates among workers, as organizations like Great Place to Work and CNBC have found. These trends point to a future where working and studying from home are more commonplace, though the long term effects of this on our society are yet to be seen. 

It seems inevitable that the university will continue to utilize Canvas and Zoom in the future. While we may be suffering from “Zoom fatigue,” being able to provide access to quality education for more people, such as those unable to leave their homes, is never a bad thing. I hope to see UK make certain adjustments on an administrative level, but I am optimistic that as we return to a new normal, we will find a balance that provides everyone the education they deserve.