It’s no secret that online learning is different.
There is nothing that can truly replace the experience of being in the classroom and the energy created by both the professor and students participating to make each class something to look forward to. However, I’ve found that we, as Keene State students, need to do better. In my experiences over the past few weeks of the semester, I’ve found my online learning experience to be incredibly disappointing when it comes to discussion-based classes. Nobody wants to turn on their cameras, and more often than not, my professors will call on specific students only to be met with uncomfortable silence.
It’s understandable that some may not have access to a webcam or they are remote and are in an environment where they do not feel comfortable turning on a webcam. However, it is disheartening when about 80 percent of a class of 25 students has their camera off for a discussion on a reading, and the majority of the class does not want to speak.
It’s awkward to talk to a screen full of black boxes with names in them. It dehumanizes the classroom experience. It not only makes me feel alone, but it’s also embarrassing to feel as if you’re only talking to yourself and the professor.
Outside of the land of Zoom, my hybrid courses have not been any better. It’s hard to accomplish the goals of a course and stick to a plan when students decide to Zoom in to the course that day without prior communication instead of attending their assigned in-person day. While this may be convenient for you and it would be nice to stay in bed all day, this leaves few students in the class to interact in comparison to the expected 10 to 12.
While my experiences have been mostly negative so far, I’ve found a great deal of community in the clubs and organizations I’m involved with on campus, as well as through programs put on through the Aspire office to alleviate the stress that has resulted from this abnormal semester. WKNH Keene, our campus radio station, has always provided a sense of belonging and a source of creativity for me during my time at Keene State. KSC Pride, which is open to allies as well as LGBTQ+ students, has given me a community and proven that I’m really not alone, especially during these turbulent times. The Aspire office has been my home away from home and ever since my first day on campus the members on staff have been a huge support system for me.
Despite the struggles we are all facing and the positive moments outside of the classroom, we as Keene State students need to take accountability for our education during these times. You have options, and the choices you make can impact your success as well as the success of others. Being Owls United does not just mean keeping each other safe with physical distancing and proper hand-washing techniques, we need to be Owls United inside the classroom because otherwise how are we supposed to learn from this experience and go forth to serve?
Colette Rinker can be contacted at: