One student walking on college campus alone

Photo by Chris McCarthy

On March 18, Cal State Fullerton completed the switch from in-person instruction to fully online classes for the rest of the spring 2020 semester. While COVID-19 has come as a shock and disruption to our normal routines, we will overcome the challenges and continue on the path to our educational goals. Between managing the struggles of finding toilet paper at the grocery store to logging on to your Zoom class for the first time, life has changed quite a bit for us Titans, but we are in this together.  

Let’s Talk About Zoom

Zoom is now the way lectures are to be conducted for the near future – so we are going to have to get used to it. Thankfully, the Zoom platform is easy to set up and use. The whole process of getting professors to understand an entirely new method of teaching via a screen without our in-the-room smiling or non-smiling faces to give them feedback is a new thing for most of them. We are used to discussing our lectures by raising hands and interacting with peers for group projects, but we are now talking to screens instead. OK, that’s not such a big change for those of us raised with screens on everything, but it’s an adjustment as it comes to our education.

Zoom has some helpful tools to make virtual lectures feel a bit more like an in-class experience. The “raise hand” feature allows professors to receive questions in an orderly manner instead of everyone talking at once, like we all did in our first Zoom class. I know the struggle of trying to get involved in a discussion and accidentally talking over someone, resulting in multiple people saying a polite “you go first” over one another, creating another awkward moment. Professors can also get feedback with buttons such as “go faster” or “go slower,” which perhaps may not be their favorite feature of the Zoom platform. There’s also the chat feature, which is useful for sharing links and messages that everyone in the lecture can see. You also have a “mute” and “no video/video” button to choose whether your classmates see you at your 8:30 a.m. prime or merely get the pleasure of hearing your voice. 

Taking Tests

Students sit on campus looking at cell phones

Due to this move to online learning, our test-taking practices are vastly different, operating on an honor code rather than in-person supervision. For some professors, they have changed their entire way of administering exams due to the fact they cannot personally monitor them. This has adjusted test dates and cut out some material to alleviate the sudden switch, which is helping to address this complicated situation. 

On the bright side, students will be giving their speeches and presentations to a webcam, which may be a welcome change to those of us who get nervous standing in front of a classroom filled with our peers. Maybe this is just the kind of practice we need to get over our stage jitters. 

Staying Motivated

Motivation has been one of the biggest factors talked about in the discussion of online learning. While it is tempting to go on Instagram to search for the one Baby Yoda meme you haven’t seen yet, we need to hold ourselves accountable without having a professor to tell us not to do it. This is testing our self-control and our ability to focus on the task at hand. It helps to designate some time in your schedule to take breaks and move around, even if only to walk around the block or take a few trips around the apartment building. Chatting with friends over FaceTime or Skype may be a great mental break and help you cope as we all learn to attend college far away from familiar hallways and the friends we greet between classes.

Eliminating Distractions

There are so many other distractions we need to get used to. There are snacks in the kitchen vying for our attention. Parents are beckoning you to have lunch with them. You feel you need to hit the streets to refill your toilet paper supply. It will help you to take scheduled breaks and to let household members know that you have school, and it is important that you do not miss lectures just as if you were on campus. It makes things easier when people know you’re in class to not be using the blender or asking you random questions while your professor is explaining economics. 

Overall, virtual learning is going to be a new challenge for everyone. But we will adapt and make the best of a difficult situation as Titans always do.