OS Reviews: Zoom Classes
With Penn State switching to online courses temporarily (we hope) in response to the coronavirus, professors need to find another way to teach their students.
Many professors have opted to use Zoom as an alternative to turn classes into big conference calls. However, this leaves room for much distraction and mayhem when it comes to technical problems,
Our staff reviewed their experiences with the first day of Zoom classes. Overall, things went better than expected on the first day of school at Zoom University.
I need to preface this by saying that the current computer I have is old and runs a little slower than most. But I will say that my first Zoom class went well. It was relatively easy to join once I found the correct page to go to. The only issue I had was feedback when I came to sound, but I think that’s an issue even with things as simple as FaceTime. But for an older computer from around 2012, it ran the program just fine and worked very well. I’m just nervous of how it will be for larger classes since mine was much smaller than a normal class size.
My first day of Zoom University went better than expected — lots of dogs!!! For the first few minutes of my math class, a bunch of kids got on camera and showed off their pets. Eventually, my professor made us all turn off our videos and microphones. My professor was writing notes on his iPad so it was a bit tough to see but it did the job. Someone in my bio class with more than 300 students accidentally started talking about the professor, not realizing her microphone was on, so that made things a bit awkward. The chat feature is enjoyable. I have seen conversations ranging from Jesus to nicotine. I also received an email from my English professor reminding us to wear clothes. Of course Zoom isn’t ideal, but it is pretty effective given the circumstances.
Zoom classes actually aren’t that bad. There were little to no problems with hearing my professor and student feedback. Although this was the case, my class was only around 15 students, so it will be interesting to see if the same can be said for a class with more than 200 students. Altogether, it seemed like my professor knew what she was doing when it came to working the interface and keeping everyone engaged even when we aren’t there.
When I first heard that Penn State was about to become Zoom University, I was expecting it to be a train wreck. I was expecting everyone’s computers to crash, professors to struggle with setting it up, and slow WiFi to make everything more painful. My first class today ran surprisingly smoothly. Zoom has a lot of great features, such as chat to ask questions, screen-sharing to see PowerPoints, and ways to go into “break out” rooms to work with partners. These next few weeks will be hard, but Zoom should make it a little easier. Plus, it was nice seeing other faces besides my parents (sorry, Mom and Dad).
It wasn’t really that bad. My Spanish class only has 20 students, and everybody kept their microphones on mute until they wanted to speak. The software was good for communicating (raising hands, creating separate chats, etc.) It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be overall, but they professor kept cutting out and I couldn’t hear what he was saying sometimes. And he made everyone keep their cameras on so it was weird to see everyone in their pajamas.
So far, it seems like zoom is more suited to lectures than labs. In my lecture class this morning, the slides worked smoothly and the connection was good, asking questions in the chat box was similar to raising your hand in lecture and waiting for the professor to call on you, and it essentially felt like business as usual. For my lab this afternoon, though, there was a bit more trouble. My TA’s connection wasn’t super great, so things were uploading really slowly, we were using a brand new software and everyone had questions, and it kind of turned into chaos about halfway through. Using the chat box was too slow and crowded for the TA to get to everyone in a timely fashion, but if we had all turned our mics on to ask questions it would’ve been absolute pandemonium. I was honestly expecting it to be a lot worse, but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement as we figure out the learning curve.
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