In-person or online?: Professors and students reflect on second semester mostly on zoom

By Katie Fiannaca, Media and Communications student

Due to the vast increase in COVID-19 cases at St. John Fisher College, students were sent home with the instruction of all online classes for the remainder of the semester, much like last spring.

MORE | SJFC students vocal on social media in response to school’s online transition

“It’s easier for me to pay attention and the new information stays with me more I think,” student Shelby Hey said of in-person classes. “It’s easier to retain the new information in person rather than trying to listen online.”

Hey believes that she does better while in class because she is more focused and can remember what she is taught much better than on zoom. Hey said it is much easier for students to focus because they do not have all of the distractions their house consists of such as family members, pets, phones, etc.

“We have all the same distractions that you do,” Professor Jessica Robinson said. “Some of the faculty in the psych department have kids that are trying to do school from home at the same time as they teach so it can be a lot. It’s a lot for everybody.”

Despite zoom having its inconsistencies and setbacks, there are indeed instances that showcase zoom being more practical than in person classes. Before the shutdown, there were already students who were permanent remote learners. Since the shutdown, everyone is now in one place. “I think for students who were already having to be remote learners, it’s nice to have everybody be remote now and I feel like they were kind of missing out on a little bit before. It’s nice to have everyone in the same boat,” Robinson said. She added it’s more convenient for professors as they are now only speaking to one source, instead of trying to make sure both those in class, and those who are on zoom could hear everything and follow along.

Another aspect of zoom is breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are a feature on  zoom where a professor can break students into different rooms or groups to either work on projects, or discuss something with their select group. While breakout rooms can be extremely beneficial and engaging, they can also be a time where no work gets done. “I do really like breakout rooms. But, they work really well if you have one leader in each of the rooms,” Snyder said. “I’ve had breakout rooms that I have gone into where no one is talking but the rooms do help break up the monotony of listening to someone lecture for a while.

Student Alexandria Short says one thing she enjoys about zoom is that  you do not have to put as much time into getting ready, and can simply “roll out of bed” if you really want to. Since no one can see you from face down, it is very easy to dress down and stay comfy while in class.

However, with the benefit of the ease for students, comes another potential hiccup for professors — turning cameras on. While it is not technically required, the majority of professors ask students if they are willing to turn their cameras on for class. Snyder said asking students to turn their cameras on helps her to see how students are doing and whether they understand a topic or not. She also feels it helps her when teaching because she doesn’t feel like she is talking to blank screens as she would if the cameras were off.

Students feel that when professors ask them to turn their cameras on, it helps to keep them accountable. “My professors have been having small discussions where we all have to talk which helps us stay engaged,” Hey said. “They also make us keep our cameras on which is easier to stay focused.”

In October, the school announced it is delaying the start of the spring semester until February 1. However there is no decision yet if classes will be in-person, or fully remote again.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college recognizes that these tentative plans are subject to change between now and February. Despite this uncertainty, one goal remains clear in the college’s plans: “It is our plan to complete the spring semester together on campus.”

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