Surviving Zoom University

by Soh Gek Shuen


Teachers’ Day probably disappointed my professor more than it pleased.   

It was a lovely Friday afternoon. My strong sense of responsibility mandated that I log on to Zoom for my tutorial before proceeding to take a nap. To get that extra class participation grade, I even enlisted my roommate’s help to wish the professor a happy teachers’ day on my behalf at the end of the lesson. With all this in place, I settled down for a well-deserved rest.   

Barely half an hour had passed when I was rudely awoken by my roomie. Imagine my mortification when I realised that I was the only student left in the call with my professor who had been trying to talk to me for the past 5 minutes! Humiliated beyond belief, I exited the call without a word. If only I had invested in a cup of Kopi O Kosong from Koufu!  

I exited the Zoom call as quickly as I could when I realised I was the only student left in the call with my professor.

Have you had a similar embarrassing situation this academic year? The Covid-19 pandemic has made the university experience vastly different from that of our parents. The most glaring change would be Zoom University, an affectionate term for the shift to online classes. Whether we’re grateful to have to wake up only 5 minutes before the start of early morning classes or complaining about poor Internet connection and laggy Zoom calls, these changes are part and parcel of our shift to the new normal. 

“Zoom University” logo credit: English @ SUNY Geneseo

Do you often find yourself uncharacteristically tired after a day of online classes? You might be suffering from Zoom fatigue. The need for constant and long periods of sustained fixation on the screen might leave you drained and dreading your next online call.  

Zoom Uni veterans bring you top tips on how to combat Zoom fatigue, maintain your personal image by steering clear of embarrassing incidents and get the most out of your online class experience.   

Mic test… 1,2,3  

Ever raised your hand in a Zoom class only to realise your microphone wasn’t working? Or spoken to your group for a good few minutes before realising they couldn’t hear you at all? Precious class time is wasted on technical issues that could have been solved beforehand.  

BB Collaborate provides a useful function to test out your microphone and camera without turning them on for the rest of the class. Entering the course room a few minutes before the class gives you ample time to do this, ensuring that you’re always ready to speak up and secure that class participation grade.   

Do not disturb  

Family and friends never fail to disturb you at the worst possible timings. They barge into your room in the middle of your presentation, asking the most inane questions such as what you would like to have for lunch, despite knowing for a fact that you only frequent two canteen stalls.   

Door signs like this will come in handy. Photo credit: Unsplash | @timmossholder

To prevent potentially embarrassing situations, inform your friends and family members beforehand whenever you’re having online classes or group discussions. You can also consider investing in a door sign that reads “busy” or “in class” so your friends will think twice before bursting into your room whenever they please.  

Out of sight, out of mind  

Many of us are probably guilty of spending an entire Zoom lesson toggling between social media platforms. We may pride ourselves on being excellent multitaskers, but multitasking has actually been shown to reduce productivity. We also lose precious time when we have to rewatch recordings of our classes to keep up, despite being “present” for them.  

Ironically, multitasking makes you less productive. Photo credit: Unsplash | @gabrielbenois

One way to stop yourself from reaching for your phone is to literally have it out of reach. By physically distancing yourself from your distractions, you reduce the urge to grab your phone out of habit. If that still doesn’t do the trick, you can consider more drastic measures such as entrusting your phone to a friend for the duration of your class or leaving it in your room while you head to the study room.   

Take a break 

Zoom meetings can stretch on for hours and leave everyone tired and drained. The longer they drag on, the slower things seem to move. This can hamper productivity and cause irritability. We’ve been told from young to take eye breaks every 20-40 minutes of computer use. In Zoom University, this has never been more pertinent.  

Make mini breaks a part of your Zoom routine by minimising the window or looking away from your computer screen for a few seconds every now and then. In informal group meetings, you can work with your fellow Zoomers to make it okay for people to turn off their cameras for short periods of time during a prolonged call. Better yet, schedule breaks of 2-3 minutes every half hour or so, so that everyone can take a break.  

Speak up, speak out  

It takes courage to be the first to speak up in a breakout room full of strangers with their mics and cameras switched off. Yet, there’s nothing quite as frustrating to be met with silence in return. The same goes for professors when they pose questions to a whole class of blank screens.   

In the midst of adapting to the new classroom situation, many of us may be hesitant to speak up. We can each do our part to drive fruitful discussion by taking the initiative to speak up first. Someone else might just be waiting for you to break the ice before gaining the confidence to participate.  

In retrospect, maybe Zoom University wasn’t all that bad after all.

Love it or hate it, Zoom University is here to stay. We might not have control over the pandemic, but what we can do is keep our chins up and press on. What’s the worst that could happen? Years from now, you’ll probably look back fondly on the time you exposed yourself as a fashion terrorist by standing up during a presentation, displaying your majestic FBT-and-blazer look. After all, you probably weren’t the only one sporting a glorious half-formal-half-lupsup fit.

In times such as these, it has never been more important to be there for one another and know that we have each other’s backs. Furthermore, if the barrage of embarrassing Zoom videos all over social media is indicative of anything, it is that we are truly all in this together.