This remote semester brings mixed reviews from both students and staff of BYU-Idaho.
For Tyson Yost, Ph.D., a history professor at BYU-I, the negatives outweigh the positives.
“All technology has its pros and cons,” Yost said. “I feel that teaching is predominantly about relationships. With Zoom, that relationship does not develop the same.”
Henry Johnson, a freshman studying exercise physiology, agreed the relationship side of teaching affects how well students learn.
“The ability to teach effectively has definitely gone down,” Johnson said. “In my degree, it’s harder to teach effectively when you don’t have access to weight rooms and the instructor isn’t right there with you.”
Some students find the Zoom classroom environment awkward and less personal. When there is a free moment in class, some students will take the opportunity to make new friends or chat with a neighbor. The only option for a private conversation with a friend on Zoom is the chat feature.
This can also make it more challenging to speak up during class.
“There are some kids that always talk in a regular class,” Johnson said. “I feel like Zoom gives those kids more control in class and it makes it difficult for me to feel the need to contribute.”
Class participation is a struggle over Zoom. According to Yost, only one out of three students will have their cameras on and nearly 80% of his students have never spoken in class.
“So much of teaching is reactive,” Yost said. “You can see when certain students are not getting it, or you can see when certain students are really interested. I miss that because I don’t get to see the reactions anymore.”
For Justyn Powers, A sophomore studying psychology, this semester has made him feel overlooked by professors.
“With so many students on screen, it is hard to be seen raising your hand,” Powers said. “Yes there is a raise hand button we can use, but that is easy for professors to miss as well. By the time they see the raised hand the comment is no longer relevant.”
While classroom frustrations develop for some students, having classes through Zoom has created more free time for others.
“I have definitely had more free time this semester,” Johnson said. “The way classes are set up makes it so some classes only meet once a week. So that saves me some time to do other things.”
While there have been some positives on the student side of Zoom, the experience has not been shared by everyone. For Yost, this semester confirmed for him that learning only through technology will not become the norm.
“For me, technology is a great tool, but it can never substitute for good teaching,” Yost said. “I think one of the dangers we fall into is things like Zoom give us the appearance of good teaching without actually having to do the work of good teaching.”