by Cole Allenby

Throughout the past year, almost all the courses within the education ranges of primary, secondary, and post-secondary have taken place via the familiar application known as Zoom. The re-discovery of the video conferencing app has changed education as we know it, opening up a wide range of alternative, informative approaches of all levels. Following its introductory animation in April of 2011, creator Eric Yuan had witnessed the videotelephony service’s relatively slow start manage to amass 200 million daily users by 2013. Once 2020 came about in its collective measures of quarantine, Zoom became the most well-known application for interface in the world. This creation had gained 300 million daily meeting users in April 2020 alone.

Locally, Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) has utilized Zoom to its fullest extent and has had to adapt to this new form of academics. While everyone has had a different experience with Zoom, some 4Cs professors have had some similar thoughts on the Zoom experience. “Zoom was actually quite easy for me at the transition because I ran a pilot project for the school in Spring of 2019,” said Professor Thomas Schaefer, sometimes known as 4C’s “Zoom Guru.” “Because of that semester, I had many of the basic issues with Zoom worked out, knew many of the operations, and could handle running a meeting quite easily. The biggest issue, though, was rolling Zoom out to a wider audience with no real notice.”

Professor Schaefer was not the only professor to have extensive experience with remote instruction, as Communications Professor Lisa Boragine has echoed much of this experience. “I almost don’t remember what it was like to teach without zoom – isn’t that what happens when you get immersed into a new language? I didn’t have much trouble, actually, I’ve taught remotely and used webinar type video learning systems for public speaking in the past, and zoom was much easier than what I’ve used in the past.”

With everything that is good and helpful in the world, there are its downsides; Zoom is no stranger to having its internal issues. From privacy and etiquette concerns to the arrival of unwanted participants in “Zoom-bombing,” this format has its disadvantages. Professor Boragine has been enveloped by the virtual collapse of attention and etiquette among 4Cs students. “The worst thing I have seen personally is a student who zoomed from bed. And I don’t mean their bedroom. I mean, they joined zoom while half asleep from under their covers. This demonstrates the need for more widespread zoom etiquette.”

Many of the primary problems with Zoom do not seem to be with the program itself, given the solutions for privacy issues and the integrity of all connection. The issue, as Professor Schaefer said, is with the people. “The vulnerabilities are with the users, both hosts and attendees (professor and students). How do we conduct ourselves in this old medium that is thrust into a new setting? What is proper and improper as student or faculty? One of the major issues is, of course, equity in how we “get” to our Zoom classroom. Do we have proper access to technology? Do we have good space, internet, etc.? The vulnerability isn’t with Zoom itself, but in all of the parallel structures that we’re just plain old unsure of how to plug into the new thing that has been forced on us.”

Many of us are getting tired of Zoom and remote learning, as logging onto a computer every day to remain mostly idle for hours by a screen can be hard for many people. Given the new development of three promising COVID-19 vaccines, many of us are turning our heads towards raking all the pandemic’s disheartening leaves for good. Will we be stuck on Zoom?

Will we be back to in person learning? Will we use a hybrid format? Professor Schaefer has given his honest opinion regarding our future within Zoom.

“I see remote learning as a thing that is here to stay. This might come as a cringe-worthy statement to some, but we must recognize that many have thrived and taken to the concept of distance learning. We are currently piloting a new interactive device at the College that will create a new hybrid classroom, allowing students to come to campus physically or Zoom in to classes, but allow everyone to collaborate.” Schaefer feels that students need to have the chance to stretch toward their path through uncertain circumstances, especially through a virtual approach. “Imagine no longer having to make the hour drive from the Outer Cape or take the ferry from the Islands. Maybe you don’t want to drive over the bridges back and forth from the mainland but the class or degree you want is here at 4Cs. Perhaps you’re a parent who needs the flexibility of staying home with young kids. Maybe your car broke down today or you were assigned a last-minute shift at work. These issues may have caused you to miss classes, shown up late or left early, or maybe your circumstances meant that you couldn’t be a student that semester. The hope for remote learning, post-pandemic especially, is that Zoom now allows you to continue on as a student, follow those goals/dreams, and achieve what you know will improve your life.”

Keeping Zoom open as an option for students may cause the learning experience to become easier, to carry the removal of certain demands and stress. Integrating both Zoom and in person learning seems to be the next step for Zoom at 4Cs. Professor Boragine has a sincere synopsis of Zoom’s power and weaknesses in her life. “I think video conferencing adds a lot to the remote learning environment. I can’t imagine teaching my job remotely without something like zoom. There is definitely zoom burnout, but it’s a good start. I can’t wait for the day we have holographic teaching, where people can beam in their image with a 360-degree perspective of the virtual room!”

Hopefully come September 2021, the ability to select an academic format–remote or hybrid– will be provided by the 4Cs network. As more people become fully vaccinated, more options can be revealed to students, but Zoom is certainly bound to remain with us for some time; its tremendous impact ensures this.