Over the course of our time in school, we all inevitably find ourselves falling into certain roles, as if we were doomed (or destined) to play an integral part in the complex machinery of the college classroom. You know these roles, even if just subconsciously: there is the class clown, the intense notetaker, that one person who is always eating… The list could go on — I won’t waste your time telling you things that are part of your very nature.
As the dust has settled around our computers in the wake of the abrupt transition to online learning, we too have settled into a pattern. The setting has changed, but we all still play a part in our new educational experience. In my time navigating the world of online classes, I have come to recognize certain new roles into which we have unconsciously fallen. And so that you may also be self-aware in this strange and unchartered territory, I will outline them below.
Read carefully, reader: one of the characters I describe may just be the very one you take on when you enter that virtual classroom.
- The Baby Zoomers
You can recognize this type of zoomer from a couple of characteristic tendencies. A camera positioned from underneath the chin, giving a lovely up-nostril view, is a good indicator. You may also be able to identify them from the way they yell into the screen (it is unclear at this point whether they know that the sounds goes through the computers, and they don’t need to project their actual voices to their correspondent – further research must be conducted). At any rate, they feel cool for being up-to-date with the latest technology, and who am I to rain on anyone’s parade.
- The Flustered Professors
These zoomers really are trying their best, we should at least give them credit for that. Their presence is often clear from choruses of, “I’m trying to share my screen,” “We’ll see if this works,” and “Can you guys see this?” Zoomers of this type tend to be big fans of the ‘raise hand’ feature, although more times than we’d like to admit, they are not able to actually see these raised hands. All of this new-fangled video chat stuff is a lot to take in, I know. So here’s to the Flustered Professors of the world, who are muddling through with shared screens and horribly, horribly written notes on the whiteboard feature.
- The Floating Forehead
Are they an egg? Are they a potato? The evidence is, as of yet, inconclusive.
- The Chatterbox
There’s one in every class: this zoomer is a serial chat user. Whether they’re asking a question, alerting the professor to some technical issues, or just writing amusing anecdotes, they prefer the silent approach to communication. I’ll be honest, the chat is stealthy, elegant, and painless without any risk of even going near the mute button. But it is a perilous life to lead: there is almost no Chatterbox out there who has survived without at least once accidentally sending a private message to the whole class. So if you take this route, be ceaselessly vigilant lest you commit this most faux of faux-pas.
- The Cronch
It doesn’t matter the time of day or night, there is always someone eating cereal. Classes are occasionally boring, and often stressful. Sometimes you need cereal to get you through. I understand that, and I respect that. So, to all the Cronchers out there, as long as you stay muted, feel free to cronch away.
- The Incognito
You know who you are, but we don’t. The mystery of that grey rectangle haunts the virtual classroom. Maybe these zoomers just forgot to brush their hair or are trying to go easy on their WiFi. Then again, maybe they’re running secret spy operations from wherever they’re stationed… I guess we’ll just never know.
This list is inexhaustive. It is only a brief highlighting of some of the major players of any online class. Other characters, too, are just as important to the delicate balance of the zoomiverse. Like an ecosystem, each class needs each role to maintain its equilibrium. As we trundle through the rest of the semester, perhaps you too will begin to see the various parts we have started to play, may be able to recognize some of them in yourself, and will be able to take comfort in the fact that while our classes have changed, some things always stay the same.