Updated: Apr 28
Way back before a global pandemic in 2020 was nothing more than a plot to a scifi movie, one of my professors needed to host class via Zoom for the first half of the semester for health reasons. As a full time, on-campus student, I thought that was the most exciting thing. Instead of the 2 minute walk to my lecture hall, I could stay in my cozy bed and watch class. I liked participating via the chat function because I never really enjoyed raising my hand in class. But, even with 4 of my other classes being in-person, this format started to get old, and I was happy when she returned to in-person classes.
Fast forward to the last semester of my senior year, Spring 2020, when, as you are well aware, every school turned into “Zoom University.” Every professor did their best and handled it differently, but the common thread was too much Zoom, too little learning.
“Zoom fatigue,” as everyone has come to call it, is definitely a real problem for students and instructors alike. Not only are they exhausted after sitting on Zoom for lectures all day, but then they are also expected to navigate group assignments virtually and complete additional writing assignments due to the remote transition.
In his article “Higher Ed Needs to Go on a Zoom Diet,” Joshua Kim speaks about 3 reasons universities should cut back on zoom:
"Zoom Sucks Energy
Zoom Is Bad for Lecturing
ZoomU May Be Good for the Course, but ZoomU Is Bad for the Learner"
As a recent graduate, I could not agree more with these points. Even as an overachieving student, lectures via Zoom were a recipe for me to miss a lot of content. Although there is not one perfect solution to online learning, I agree with Kim’s argument that utilizing Zoom as more of a small group discussion with minimal lecturing is the most effective use of everybody’s time.
Kim suggests that “For every three hours of class, hold one hour of Zoom.” This suggestion can allow for larger classes to be broken up into smaller Zoom calls, which can help students have more opportunity to participate and get their questions answered.
With all of the problems we just discussed looming around overusing Zoom, there are many opportunities in the education technology market for companies to create value for educators.
Some companies like Engageli and ClassEDU have emerged to better fulfill educational needs that Zoom has left unfilled. As described in “These companies are redesigning 'Zoom University,'” both companies have different approaches to making video conferencing more tailored to the education space. The problem I see is that no matter how many features you add to Zoom or create in a new platform, students will still struggle to be engaged in a long video meeting, making Kim’s earlier recommendation still stand.
Moving Forward in this Remote World
Thinking outside of the synchronous box, there are many opportunities for professors to create a connected and engaged class. That is where I see Yellowdig fitting in. Students need the ability to interact with each other to deepen their learning, and that just can’t authentically happen over a synchronous Zoom call with 100 participants. To bridge that gap, professors can set up a Yellowdig Community as a way for students to interact in many different ways throughout the week:
A getting to know you opportunity with sharing introduction videos
A discussion forum to share thoughts about current articles and class topics
A help forum for students to ask questions and get help from their peers
A way to network with guest speakers you bring into the class
Using tools like Yellowdig to enable students to engage outside of a synchronous discussion not only can cut down on Zoom fatigue, but can also help students feel more connected despite being potentially isolated remotely.
The unique opportunity that Yellowdig provides professors is the ability to try out the platform without the whole university deciding to adopt the technology. We currently have a no-cost pilot for professors to get started next semester, and we are beginning to offer other payment models for individual instructors to be able to adopt Yellowdig without the entire university needing to adopt it.
The Big Takeaway from an Unexpected Semester of Virtual Learning:
Just because Zoom was the easy solution for universities right when the pandemic started, doesn’t mean that is the only option going forward. It is definitely valuable when used in moderation, but finding new and creative ways to supplement your Zoom time is the key to running an effective fully online or hybrid class next semester.
Brianna Bannach is a Growth Marketing Associate at Yellowdig. Brianna graduated in May of 2020 from the University of Delaware with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation.