Zoom University to Vanderbilt University: A tough but necessary transition

Vanderbilt students reflect on the shift to fully in-person learning after a year and a half on Zoom.

zoom+vs+irl

Stephanie Ting

A graphic depicting Zoom learning and an in-person class. (Hustler Multimedia/Stephanie Ting)

Christine Moser, Staff Writer

In early August, there always seems to be a mix of excitement and dread in the air as students get ready to head back to school. With in-person classes on the horizon, this year’s emotional turmoil was even greater. Although the thrill of returning to “precedented” times may excite some students, others may be overwhelmed by the uncertain “return to normal.”

This year, students fell back into classic first-day jitters: wondering who to sit next to, how to socialize with peers and, most importantly, how to change out of pajamas to get to class. Now that we’re several weeks into the semester, we talked to students about the differences between in-person and virtual learning—and got some mixed reviews.

For senior Liraz Stilman, both taking classes from the comfort of her home and from under the fluorescent lighting of classrooms have their unique advantages. One of the best things for her is how in-person learning makes campus light up with faces from all grades.

“Although at first I had some reservations about going back in person, it’s been really great to see campus alive again,” Stilman said. “I missed seeing other students and being able to engage with them on campus.” 

Stilman also noted, though, that time seems to slip through her fingers with the onset of in-person learning. As students take time to walk to class, they now lose valuable minutes and energy that they used to spend on homework. And walking to class isn’t all too glamorous when you factor in the Tennessee humidity.

“By the time I get back home, it’s hard to find the motivation to complete my work,” Stilman said. “All I want to do is take a nap.”

Senior Alexia Anleu finds comfort in the sociality that in-person learning brings. Walking into class and greeting professors and classmates makes the extra time and energy worth it. 

“I feel that I have made more meaningful relationships with my professors and classmates than I did last year,” Anleu said. “In-person learning allows me to engage much more in class conversations, and in a more impactful way, than I did over Zoom.”

However, going back to in-person learning also means missing important material if you’re sick and unable to attend. As was standard in the pre-pandemic era, if you stay home, you miss the lecture. There are no Zoom links or recorded classes to make up for taking a sick day.

“If you are sick, you have to miss class, as opposed to being able to take class from the comfort of your own home,” Anleu said. “With our busy schedules as students, it can be really difficult to keep up with classes if you have to miss several days.”

Senior Jackie Rhoads shifted our focus, speaking about how simply putting on a new outfit to go out of the house has shifted her mood each day.

“I love dressing up and getting ready for school,” Rhoads said. “During Zoom classes, I would just stay in my pajamas all day, which would make me feel really lazy and groggy. I have noticed that putting on a cute outfit at the beginning of my day has really helped boost my mood.”

Rhoads echoed the same appreciation for socializing with peers as Anleu. As a self-proclaimed extrovert, she now happily takes advantage of the ample social opportunities that she was deprived of last year. 

“I think that a significant part of college is being able to socialize with your friends and form connections with people, so it is great to have that back again,” Rhoads said.

However, Rhoads said that having the flexibility of Zoom class was nice. 

“Last year, many of my professors would allow us to watch recorded lectures at our convenience in place of class. I could learn at the time of day that worked best for me,” Rhoads said. “This flexibility was great because it allowed students to learn at their own pace, rewinding parts of the lecture that they may have had confusion about or pausing to think through a topic.” 

Students in the global pandemic have been given the unique experience of being able to compare virtual learning platforms with live, in-person teaching. And though Zoom might have its pros and cons as far as comfort and convenience, ditching the mute/unmute button provides a much-needed opportunity to socialize and get out of the house (and your pajamas). The battle of Zoom Uni vs. Vanderbilt continues!