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Zoom fatigue or room fatigue?

It’s a college student’s dream come true: the ability to roll out of bed and be in class five minutes later. But with this ability comes the ever-present knowledge that Carleton is approaching the one-year mark for online classes.

Online classes have enabled students and faculty alike to attend class from a multitude of locations, whether it be campus, a childhood room, or another off-campus location. As Carleton heads into its third term of online classes, some people are feeling the fatigue set in, while others are enjoying the convenience of attending class from their rooms. The end of this term will mark a year on Zoom, and although there are many downsides to learning online, some benefits have emerged. 

The main issue with online classes is that they simply do not provide the same sense of community as they do when everyone is in a room together. Zach Lewis ‘22 said that Zoom classes are “just not the same as what Carleton is supposed to be. I feel like there’s a big spirit of collaboration at Carleton, and being online really hampers that.”

Professor of English and American Studies Michael Kowalewski agreed, saying “I miss the physical presence. You can’t get a feel for the room on Zoom.”

Kowalewski also said, “there’s nothing that can replace a blackboard,” mourning the loss of being able to write on the board and turn around to see the whole class. With Zoom, he said it can be frustrating to share the screen and then keep switching in and out of it to see the whole class.

Another downside to Zoom is the loss of outside activities for some classes. Hisui Takeda ‘22 said that before COVID-19, there used to be required cultural activities for her Chinese class. Students got to prepare and taste different types of food, and other hands-on activities.

Rather than having to attend eight or nine of these activities, Takeda said they now only have to attend one. She noted that they’re mostly lectures now and that being online has “taken the fun away.”

However, there have definitely been some major benefits to teaching and learning over Zoom. Kowalewski said that he’s gotten used to teaching online, and what he likes about it is “It’s easier to access things to share. I’m showing film clips, clips of authors reading, and little bits from documentaries more than I would than if I was in a physical classroom because it’s just so easy.”

Lewis said that this term, “it definitely feels more organized. Spring Term was pretty hectic and things weren’t working. Now we still have all the stress, but at least things are a little more organized and a little more prepared.”  

Another upside to Zoom is as temperatures drop and snow begins to pile up, students can avoid trekking across campus in the frigid winter weather. As Takeda emphasized, “It’s nice not having to go outside.”

Without another point of reference, the feeling of loss is not as acute for most first-years, because virtual classes, clubs and social events are their only experience of college. Scott Hudson ‘24 said that online school “almost feels normal because I had all three [classes] online last term.” Although he recognizes that something is lost in online classes, he said “I don’t think it’s as big of a negative as some people make it out to be,” expressing optimism for another term online. 

Convenience is a common benefit students have noticed about Zoom classes. Hudson noted, “The only real pro of online is that you can get right out of bed and go to class.” Lingyu Wei ‘23 agreed, saying she really likes online classes because “it’s more flexible to arrange my time.”

With students and professors attending class from all over the world, there are bound to be glitches. However, Kowalewski said, there is nothing to do now but “try and make the best of it.”

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