It’s 7:30 a.m on a Wednesday. You wake up to snow-covered roads and the local news anchors reporting that school has been canceled for the day. Cue the sigh of relief, the burst of excitement and the snuggle back under your sheets.
That’s what we’re all yearning for, right? A break. A day off. Time to relax, stay home and forget about the responsibilities that await outside our homes.
Constant uncertainty is a byproduct of the pandemic, making it so this nostalgic memory is one we can only dream of. We all wish we could pause the chaos, but it just keeps coming.
It’s been raining the past few days in Boston, and we are even on the brink of our first predicted snowfall. Our hopeful wish is for the return of our beloved snow day, but unfortunately with online learning, it seems there is no longer reason to have the day off.
Our “break” is having class on Zoom. You don’t have to walk across campus, get dressed up or sit in a stuffy lecture hall for an hour and 15 minutes.
However, it’s those same accommodations that actually make online learning quite difficult.
Zoom fatigue is no joke. Staring at your computer screen for so many hours each day is draining, and it’s all too easy to drown out your lecture by watching TikToks or getting a head start on other tasks. Even if you’re fully applying yourself and doing your best to stay focused, it’s simply not the same learning environment we are used to — and deserve.
This means we’re not retaining information from our classes, and when it’s time for a test or quiz, it’s often difficult to administer them in an entirely fair way.
Some tests are strictly proctored, and a wrong glance of your eye can flag your professor of potential cheating. But, we can never underestimate a student’s will to cheat if they really want to, and there are ways to get around these barriers.
Certain students will refrain from doing so, but still feel morally conflicted. If they choose not to cheat, they are still aware their classmates will be cheating. This disparity in ethics will cause more polarization in grades, and will affect class averages and potential grading curves.
Even if exams are open-note, they must now be substantially more difficult to compensate for the lack of pure memorization. Yet, hurriedly flipping through your notes during a timed exam is not a true testament to whether or not you understand the material.
This is all to say that we must look at the unique struggles we are facing this semester and acknowledge that online learning is not an easier form of education. If anything, it’s more challenging and difficult for students.
Professors and Boston University administrators have the potential to devise innovative ways to help unburden students while we continue to navigate our relatively new form of education.
Our professors can help by re-examining our need for tests and quizzes, or altering the format so that exams promote comprehension rather than memorization.
The administration can contribute to our well-being by looking into alternatives for Spring Recess that don’t incentivize travel.
It is laborious to re-do an entire academic calendar, but the Spring semester is going to feel like the longest semester of our lives without having a week off to just breathe and catch up on relaxation. Our retention of information and focus will be zapped once we get that far without a break.
Some professors may choose to suspend their courses or offer optional-work days during the week that would traditionally be Spring Recess, but if so, this must be a universal decision among faculty so every student is given equal access to a much-needed break.
The quality of students’ work is sure to improve, along with perhaps our mental health, if we could all take a week mid-semester to stop staring at lecture notes on a screen.
Administration, please keep our mental health and mounting stress in mind as we head into the new year. If you could sprinkle in a few extra holidays — possibly even a snow day — maybe we could all once again get that familiar rush of warmth at the thought of getting just one extra day to take a breath.