The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the higher education landscape and yet Cengage’s third Digital Learning Pulse Survey reports that faculty level of satisfaction is moderately high when it comes to student engagement, learning, and the overall move online. Some examples of best practices have been provided by FHSU faculty in our Zoom best practices series. As we approach the end of the spring 2021 semester, we offer some feedback from students on their experiences participating in Zoom learning.
For some students, staying engaged in a Zoom session proved challenging. This was due to issues such as home environment, lecture delivery style, and Internet connectivity. Yet, FHSU students, who have continued their education via Zoom since the pandemic begin, should be commended for the relentless efforts to log in and stay connected. Their continued perseverance has allowed continuity in the learning process.
What students tell us they miss most are the various options for interaction available in a face-to-face classroom. Learning in a virtual environment has certainly altered the way students receive and retain information. Some strategies offered by faculty in the Zoom best practices series were conducting review games and using an external tool to help students learn. Students reported that they appreciated faculty efforts to replicate the interactive aspects of the face-to-face classroom experience. They also highly valued faculty support and encouragement.
It may come as a surprise to some faculty that many students feel awkward and uncomfortable in a Zoom environment. This discomfort has not necessarily gone away by virtue of frequent Zoom usage since many students haven’t been taught the skills to effectively use ed-tech tools used in higher education. In addition, Zoom policies requiring students to turn on their cameras have exposed the digital and social inequity among students. Many students may not have been aware of how to use Zoom virtual background and that FHSU has also created a selection of images students can use. It would be time well spent to help students become familiar with your expectations for how you want them to use the ed-tech tools in your specific courses. How, for instance, do you want them to participate? Is there a specific etiquette that needs to be followed?
All in all, Zoom, and the other EdTech tools we have deployed during the COVID era, have certainly given us a new perspective on teaching and learning. It has forced us all to tap into resources and strategies we may never have previously considered but, at the same time, it has proven how resilient we all can be when we learn from each other.