Credit: Samantha Borges via Unsplash

Tales from Zoomiversity

By Reilly Dufresne

Zoom university may have gotten off to a rocky start for most, but you can’t deny that it’s given us some good stories.

I rather like university classes online – or Zoomiversity, as it’s affectionately termed. Sure, these new learning methods have come with an overwhelming sense of isolation, frustration, and a crushing sense of hopelessness, I’ll admit that much. For example, in one of my classes, no one turns their camera on. Not one person. I have no idea what my classmates look like. I’m not quite sure what they sound like either, as no one seems interested in speaking. So, after a semester of staring at a computer screen full of silent, rectangular boxes, I grew accustomed to the feeling of anonymity that seemed symptomatic of online learning. In fact, I suspect it was this very feeling that was the cause of my trouble last Wednesday. 

On the day in question, I logged into Zoom at exactly 12 o’clock. I checked my rectangular grid of classmates, whoever they were, and waited. I waited seven long and silent minutes. Nothing. Not a peep from the teacher either. At 12 minutes past noon, I began to suspect that perhaps something was wrong. Until then, I’d assumed that our teacher had gotten fed up with his class of anonymous Zoom attendees. I was utterly convinced that I was in the midst of a heated silence contest. Who would break first, the teacher or the students? As it turns out, I’d left my computer on mute. It was as simple as that. When I realised this, my sense of isolation quickly turned into feelings of frustration and hopelessness. Frustration: how could I have forgotten to turn the volume on? Hopelessness: a Q&A meeting about the Spanish housing market crisis is not something you want to miss. 

Nevertheless, despite the trifling emotional stress associated with online learning, the virtual academic world can be fun! After all, Zoomiversity is renowned world-wide for facilitating a countless number of awkwardly entertaining situations. Well aware of this fact, I started my virtual academic year determined not to add to these cringeworthy, memorable moments. I decided that on top of everything I needed to know for English Literature and Spanish (which briefly consisted of reading about science fiction novums, the economic markets in Spain, the foreign tourist industry, and the impact of telenovelas), I was going to learn how to use this new online platform properly. I was then going to be the most proactive student in class. After that, I planned to secure a high-paying job as a journalist and retire by the age of 30. Alas, there were a couple of hiccups along the way.

Firstly, I never got the hang of Zoom shortcut keys. If the teacher said “put a thumbs up for whoever’s done the reading,” I would swiftly type ALT+Y into my computer. “It appears we have a question,” the teacher would then comment, noticing that I had raised my virtual hand. It’s hard to think on the fly when it comes to opinions regarding gentrification and the Spanish tourist economy. Nevertheless, as my thumbs up would have indicated, I had done the week’s reading. There was plenty I could say. I nodded at the teacher (in this class, we kept our cameras on). Then, as I often do when I’m speaking a foreign language, I raised my eyes to the ceiling to ask for celestial mercy. Please, could I divine some jaw-dropping commentary. Alas, the comment was likely more true than interesting. “I think a lot of people like to travel,” I proclaimed. Satisfied with this answer, I returned my eyes to the laptop in front of me. On the screen where my teacher should have been, was an empty chair. Sixteen of my classmates, all on mute, silently burst out laughing. Apparently, the postman had come to the door and the teacher hadn’t heard a thing I said. I was glad. 

Overall, Zoomiversity has been a rollercoaster ride. There have been ups and downs, and on more than one occasion the ride has been out of service – bad Wi-Fi or a low computer battery is a real pain. Nevertheless, love it or loathe it, I’m glad of the experiences it’s brought. 


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