A computer has Zoom open on the screen.
The transition to Zoom was hard for most students. When the transition was made, students found it continuously hard to stay focused and maintain studying since it became so hard to obtain information using the internet. (Image via Google Images)

How Zoom Fostered a Cycle of Student Unproductivity

An application meant to increase the effectiveness of education during quarantine ultimately resulted in the exact opposite.

College x
A computer has Zoom open on the screen.

An application meant to increase the effectiveness of education during quarantine ultimately resulted in the exact opposite.

It was a Monday morning, 65 and sunny, and my mom had just brought me a blueberry muffin from the cafe down the street. It was 8:15, and school was just about to start! I rolled out of bed in my boxers and threw a sweatshirt over my bare shoulders. I hopped back into my cozy, warm sheets and popped open my computer to an array of blank and muted expressions. Zoom class had been going for a month now, and I was still being reminded to turn my camera on. The grey walls sat in the backdrop, accentuating the presence of the grey circles under my eyes. The muffin’s fluffiness and the blueberries tingled my tongue with savory juices. I think I could get used to learning like this.

It is common knowledge that Zoom classes aren’t fun. Fortunately, everything has a silver lining: Class was so easy through a computer screen. Syllabi were adjusted, due dates were lenient and tests and quizzes were basically irrelevant. People showed up to class with scruffy hair and a sole T-shirt (some didn’t even wear shirts), rummaging through their year-old Staples products only to find broken pencils and eraser shavings. Minimal effort was required to succeed in Zoom class. However, online education was not rich with boosted GPAs. Instead, most students took it as an opportunity to throw in the educational towel. Zoom-learning threw its susceptible students a bone, and in turn, they developed their own lazy cycle of unproductive academic methods.

Doing homework in bed was never that productive, but I did it anyway. My mom always beckoned me to work in the kitchen – or literally anywhere other than my bed. Did I listen to her? No. I made a decision to sit within the confines set by the pandemic. However, listening to my teachers was comforting; they understood how hard it was. My English teacher talked about doing “whatever I was comfortable with during this unprecedented time.” I looked up from my phone and smiled at the anecdote, adjusting my comforter to make sure I was warm under its blissful protection.

During the wave of online education, laziness was like another virus. Most students bonded over the hilarity of how little work they were doing, enjoying the not-so-vacation while it lasted. In reality, it wasn’t that funny. The pandemic was now further tarnishing education and academic lives. No one was putting effort into their work. And being unable to have the same social lives as before, academics was one of the only ways to interact and feel any sense of normalcy.

Unfortunately, lots of students could barely show up to class on time, and even once they were settled with their laptops, seeing their faces was rare. Most students sat with their cameras off, creating a cluster of gray boxes and white text (which usually didn’t even match their name). There wasn’t anything interesting to see, anyways — just a forehead and a beige bedroom wall.

Despite the ease of Zoom class, I was still slightly worried about AP calculus. Math wasn’t my strong suit, but I knew that I was capable of succeeding in the course. Class was a little difficult to take seriously, however, since a few of my friends’ screen names were “Mike Oxlong” or “Buttsy DeVos.”

I was far more confident in other courses, like SUPA economics, a class offered on high school campuses by Syracuse University. It wasn’t exactly an easy class; most of my friends asked me for homework answers only to find that I was just as behind as they were. In a panic, I started scrambling around for other people’s answers, only to see I wasn’t the only victim of such dangerously lazy habits. I was furious, cursing the name of Zoom and all that it stood for. The pandemic was awful for impairing my academic abilities! Playing on my phone during class sounded a lot more intriguing, now.

Administering tests and quizzes in online education was a questionable process. There is a number of ways to cheat when Google is at high schoolers’ fingertips. However, the internet was almost overkill; all the answers were in the Power Points teachers used during Zoom class. Why use a random Quizlet when the class notes are two clicks away? With all of these shortcuts available, the term “open-note” became somewhat implied.

As soon as the only guard against cheating was a student’s flimsy academic integrity, there was an issue. Group chats were made to funnel homework answers, as well as questions like “What was the assignment again?” Even with the helping hands, work was still turned in late. It came to a point where the question needed to be asked: Were students led to a trap set by Zoom and online education, or did they jump into it themselves?

So far, tests and quizzes have been the easiest part of the semester. That was mostly because I cheated, but my grades were strong. Part of me wanted to do it the right way, but how could I? I didn’t study; I frequently skipped out on homework. I still had a 95 somehow, but I couldn’t help feeling lost and wasted. The looming date of the AP exam hung over my head, but it was months away — why worry about it now? As those months creeped along, I decided to forget about it all together and unregister for the exam. Luckily, I got my money back, but that seemed like a weak justification for my laziness.

Analyzing Zoom learning is tricky because it comes down to the classic question of the chicken or the egg: Did Zoom ruin education, or did the public ruin it themselves? Personally, I think the question is pointless. Zoom had to be put in place for learning to continue, since there were really no other options. It was a change, no doubt, but as humans do, they adapt. Unfortunately, they adapted to the comforts of learning behind a screen, rather than absorbing the new field of learning and applying it to their previously learned academic strategies.

Yes, the pandemic ravaged the world and was absolutely horrendous. Yes, Zoom learning created room for people to be lazy sacks of nothing. No, students are not at fault for struggling and needing accommodations for their online education. However, they are at fault for taking those accommodations and running with them.

The harsh realities of online education were inevitable, but the way these issues were dealt with was up to the public. Doing homework in bed and skipping assignments was not the right decision. It only worsened the damage to education. To win the battle, responsibility must be taken for such mistakes to be made right. In the end, even if everything sucks, it is the people’s job to look through the shrouds of doubt and find a little light to push them forward like before.

Writer Profile

Jacob Sanders

Rhodes College
English, Minors in Business and Education

I’m an aspiring educator and freelance writer. I appreciate soft-filled Airheads bites and informality.

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