Restoring Classroom Interaction

When classes first went virtual, a large part of what made college great was gone.

I was shy when starting my first semester at MCCC. Starting college and being in a new environment in general can be nerve-wracking for some, and I was included in that group.

Yet, over the course of the Fall 2019 Semester I grew out of my shell, made some great friends, communicated with professors and was able to greatly get involved on campus.

I credit this change in sociability to the unique classroom dynamic that was a part of each course on campus.

When classes transitioned to a virtual format in the Winter 2020 Semester, that classroom dynamic was then stripped away.

The immediate switch to online was full of uncertainties, and finishing the semester strong was what both students and professors strived for.

The classroom dynamic wasn’t present for the rest of that semester for obvious reasons, yet, nearly a year later, it still has yet to show any signs of reemergence.

Since the start of the remote move, some professors have still tried to provide as close to an experience to their in-person classes as possible, through Zoom meetings or blended formats.

Oftentimes, even when Zoom meetings are present in classes to encourage participation, many students seem to keep their cameras off. This eliminates a main purpose of the Zoom meeting in general. (Illustration by Jerry Meade).

By classroom dynamic I am referring to the social aspects of in-person class where students interacted before and after class, talked with professors and took advantage of the course discussions-aspects that make college so great.

Social distancing guidelines need to be kept in place for a number of reasons, yet that doesn’t bar students from participating and interacting any less than they had before.

When it comes to Zoom classes, many students may not even have their camera on during meetings. Though this may not be required, meetings like these make it so interaction and participation can be possible.

When one has their camera off during a Zoom class, the meeting has the possibility of being treated as more of a podcast that you have playing in the background rather than live discussion opportunities with your professor and peers.

Professors who grade participation acknowledge the importance of the classroom dynamic.

It’s what makes the difference between a set of reading assignments and busy work, and a unique class that’s worth one’s time.

Aside from the Agora, this semester I started in my first on-campus blended class since the switch to online.

Missing the classroom dynamic I had grown to love but hadn’t experienced in nearly a year, my expectations were that a class like this would be the same as I had remembered. I feel, however, that the classroom dynamic is no longer present on-campus, at least to the extent it existed beforehand.

Professors on-campus seem to give students plenty of opportunity for discussion, interaction and participation, yet it seems students aren’t taking advantage of these privileges.

I find myself trying to take full advantage of these renewed class attributes as much as I can, but it seems I’m often the only one who does. Though I don’t want to be that kid in class that doesn’t stop talking, when discussion is open for interesting topics, I think discussion should ensue.

To students who tend to be more reserved or feel like their comments don’t hold any weight, let your voice be heard. Everyone’s thoughts in-class are equally important.

To students who are fairly newer to MCCC, the level of participation wasn’t always this low and you can help raise it up.

Lastly, to students like me who took classes on-campus pre-COVID, you remember what classes were once like. That same level of interaction and participation can be achieved.

It’s not often people have a place like MCCC where people from all walks of life can come together, interact and discuss in-class with great professors and socialize with other students to make lasting friendships.

The COVID-19 pandemic took away many aspects of life that may never return, the classroom dynamic is not one of them.

The classroom dynamic that makes MCCC so great can once again be achieved if students stop and realize how much of a role it plays in making classes enjoyable and worthwhile.

Learning and growing for students won’t be achieved by just taking tests, reading course material and completing busy work.

To truly grow, students must increase their level of participation and engagement with professors and classmates. Only then will be they be getting the most out of MCCC.