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College Students Prepping for Zoom University

Elizabeth Barineau
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Ryan Fulghum

Ryan Fulghum focuses during his Business Financial Management online summer class.

Due to Covid-19, many universities including my own, have announced that classes will be held online through Zoom this upcoming semester. Whether students plan to take classes from home or head back to campus, attending school through a computer screen is not ideal. If this is your situation, listen up because I have some advice for you! Some college students who have experienced virtual learning share tips and tricks to make the experience better. 

One school switching over to Zoom is Georgetown University, and junior Ryan Fulghum, who’s majoring in Global Business, will be taking classes from the comfort of his off-campus apartment this semester. Originally, Georgetown was allowing freshmen and senior to return to campus while taking virtual classes, whereas sophomores and juniors must live elsewhere. But on July 29, the university sent out a community-wide email, stating that all undergraduate and graduate students will be online in the fall due to the rise in virus cases and the increase of interstate travel restrictions. 

The good news for Ryan is that he has a better idea of what this semester might look like, as he recently completed taken two online summer courses, but nonetheless, he is expecting some challenges with Zoom. “The hardest thing is participating … A lot of the times, it is basically just blurting out saying what you need to say, and for me, that’s one of the more difficult things because you know, you don’t always know when it is appropriate and you don’t have sort of those nonverbal cues,” he says.

If you struggle with speaking up, Ryan’s advice is to emulate what the classroom feels like as much as possible in order to make the experience more personable. “I get dressed like I would be going to school, maybe get a coffee, and sort of make it as real as I can. I always like to be at my desk, wearing proper clothing with my camera on because I know it is tempting to turn it off.” He personally finds that being put together makes him feel more confident on Zoom, which gives him the most success in his virtual classes. 

Katherine Montgomery, a junior at The University of the South majoring in Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience, is facing a similar reality to Ryan’s in the fall. Although her school has not completely resorted to remote learning, with only a select few in-person course options, all of her classes for the semester are online, so she will be back on campus taking them in her dorm room. 

Katherine has prior experience with Zoom classes, and she is currently finishing up her virtual internship for the summer, but says using the platform has its pros and cons. “Taking exams is the hardest part because it doesn’t feel as serious when I’m on my computer … I’m not in the right mentality that I would be in my classroom with my peers on a piece of paper, and I think that affects my concentration and my grades overall,” she says. Whether you cannot help but respond to Snapchats or click on Instagram ads, there are so many distractions on our devices and sometimes it feels impossible to stay focused. “One thing I did at the beginning of all of this was disable my FaceTime and text messages from my laptop because that’s what was making me the most distracted.” Eliminating distractions can help students concentrate better and increase productivity. 

Colleges across the country are taking action to make the upcoming semester as safe as possible as are international schools. For example, Canada’s McGill University is fully online. Bronwyn Walsh is a junior with a History major and a Biochem minor, getting ready to head back to campus for an online semester. Like Ryan, she has off-campus housing and will be doing schoolwork from her bedroom. 

Bronwyn is no stranger to how Zoom works, as she took virtual classes to finish up her semester this past spring, along with many other college students. Of course, the transition to remote learning was not the smoothest and there were bumps along the road. She found that some professors would prerecord their classes on Zoom, giving students the flexibility to “go to class” on their own time. Evidently, this would lead to people waiting until the last minute to binge all of them. “If you just watch your lectures, make sure you watch them the day of the lecture or the day after because having to watch like 12 hours’ worth of lectures before a test is super stressful,” she says. Bronwyn recommends that you keep yourself in check and stay current with your studies to avoid unnecessary stress or a meltdown. “Be on top of your work. It’s okay to take breaks, like if there’s one day where you can’t function, that’s fine … Just don’t let it get out of hand.” 

From one college student to another, take this advice so that you can have the most successful online semester as possible, given the unusual circumstances. As a junior at USC, staring at my laptop for what seems like 24/7, can easily blur the line between school time and screen time. I personally find it important to prioritize my health, so I make sure to give myself breaks in between classes to minimize computer-induced eyestrains and headaches. Whether that be exercising outdoors or grabbing a coffee, take time for yourself to recharge and perform better. 

 Editor’s note: Find more advice for incoming college freshmen coping with the new challenges of Covid-19 here

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