Distance Learning with Zoom Fails to Replicate Sense of Community

by Georgia Elder, Opinions Editor

Zoom. Once known as everyone’s favorite onomatopoeia, now known as the name of the infamous group Facetime application used for online school, and probably the only company in the nation whose stock is worth any money right now. 

Zoom is not only great for social gatherings, but it has also become the hub of learning for schools across the country, including Harpeth Hall. 

It has become the best way to come together as a community (whether that be as a class, advisory, friend group, etc) without potentially spreading COVID-19. 

Sometimes, though, we do not know what to expect because teachers are taking different approaches to these new classrooms. Some teachers are solely giving us assignments on Haiku to complete on our own, therefore deeming it unnecessary to connect with us through Zoom. While the ability to work on assignments on our own without having to check-in gives us more flexibility, we lose the human connections that we would normally have in class. 

We forget about our class bond and the funny history impressions our teacher makes in class, and sometimes it is harder to internalize the material when we are reading it instead of hearing it explained. 

On the other hand, some teachers are giving lectures, filling the entirety of our one hour class period. This can be beneficial because it gives us the human connection we crave as students and as people in general, but sometimes it can feel tiresome. 

It is hard to stay attentive during an online lecture for an hour. Problems that emerge from this situation include students getting distracted by their computers or having an unstable internet connection which causes them to miss the lecture and feel lost. 

Many teachers are doing “check-ins”: 15-30 minute meetings every time their class is scheduled to explain current and future assignments in more detail, lead a discussion or answer homework questions from the previous night. 

I feel this is the best way to use Zoom because it is a happy medium between more extreme tactics. Instead of sitting in class in our house all day long listening to lectures, we have the flexibility to learn and get our work done when it is most convenient for us, but we are also getting the chance to talk to our teachers to clarify any confusion we have. This way, we still get to see our teachers and classmates and don’t feel so alienated from the school experience we all have grown to know and love. In other words, moderation is key. 

Obviously, we cannot control the fact that we are not at school. Our health and the health of others in our community takes precedence over our longing to wear our polos and plaid skirts, to complain about non-free X-blocks, to eat sage cookies for lunch or to simply see our classmates again. 

We have lost our “final-stretch” experience. The last few months of the school year are the time when seniors get sentimental and enjoy all their last high school memories with their best friends before they go off to college. For juniors, this is the time to raise GPAs and try to look impressive towards favorite universities, and of course, go through the stressful process of planning prom. 

For sophomores, these months are the time to appreciate the calm before the storm (aka junior year). 

For freshmen, these months are time where the oldest people in the grade get their driver’s license and where they grow together as a class when they face the fact that, well, they’re not freshmen anymore. 

It is tough not to get up at 7:30 every morning and drive to Oh Place Beloved to enjoy another day of learning, asking questions, joking with friends and teachers, meeting with clubs, singing, dancing, crying and loving on our classmates, sorry, our sisters. 

Unfortunately, Zoom has taken the place of these practices for the time being, making it much more difficult to establish a sense of community. We must recognize the fact that we are still a community during this time and although we are isolated, we can take comfort in the fact that we are alone together. 

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