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Navigating Zoom (Anniversary Edition)

Andriana reflects on her experience with online courses as she approaches one year of Zoom!

Andriana reflects on her experience with online courses as she approaches one year of Zoom!

Hi everyone!

New update: I have officially decided to stay home for the rest of sophomore year.

Recently, Carleton asked students to submit their plans for Spring Term, and I decided that it would be best to stay in Richmond for the rest of the year. (My reasons for doing so haven’t changed since I first detailed them in September.) While I think this is the best choice for myself, it is sad to think that I won’t be back at Carleton until September.

Since it is nearing a year of online classes, I will use this post to write about Zoom. Because we don’t get enough of it during the day. Let’s get started.

Embarrassing Zoom Experiences

What a fun way to begin!

At this rate, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have our own embarrassing Zoom experience(s). Here are some of the most cringe-inducing incidents, at least in my opinion.

When You Accidentally Interrupt People

Nothing makes my heart stop the way that Zoom lags do.

Here are two scenarios that really cause palpitations.

Scenario #1: The professor asks a question. The class is silent (y’know, ’cause we’re all muted). You finally decide to answer. You unmute. So does Classmate Bob. And then you both talk over each other until one of you quickly mutes and makes that awkward “no, you go” gesture.


Scenario #2: The professor asks a question. You decide to respond. You unmute. And then the professor keeps talking! AAAH! And then you quickly stop talking, but you forget to mute yourself, and then someone sends you a text, and then that awful ringtone makes your screen light up, and then you rush to mute yourself, but it’s too late. Shame be unto thee, and thine children, and the children of thine children.

When Your Camera Freezes

My WiFi is not exactly the best ever. This means that sometimes my screen freezes! It is SO embarrassing to look at your little window in gallery view and see that you froze in the worst possible position. You know. One eye open, the other closed. Mouth half open. Maybe mid-sneeze, if you’re really lucky.

I know it’s a bit paranoid, and no one even knows it happened, probably, and yada yada yada. But I know. And that is enough.


When You Realize That No One Can Hear You

Ugh. This happened to me a few days ago. I was talking in class, and when I was done, my professor told me she couldn’t hear me. I thought maybe it was her computer, so I asked, “Can you hear me?” And then 23 heads shook in unison.

This probably sounds like a really small thing, but it’s already difficult enough to share in class. It’s much harder when you’ve been talking and there’s enough volume to make your screen light up, but not enough so that people can really hear what you’re saying. And then you fumble to unplug your headphones, and try to remember what you said, and say it again. Yikes. No thank you.

Before moving on…

The point of this section is to show that embarrassing things happen over Zoom all the time! It’s no big deal. But still… that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing. I mean, you’d think after a year we’d all be used to it.


What are Zoom courses like at Carleton?

Well, it depends. At Carleton, there are two kinds of classes that you can take while off-campus: online and mixed mode.


Online courses are entirely remote. This means that there is no classroom component, and each student takes the class virtually. Depending on the professor, there can be variations in how online courses are conducted.

For example, some courses are synchronous, meaning that everyone meets at the same time. Alternatively, other courses are asynchronous, meaning that there is no actual class meeting. In this case, lectures might be recorded, or readings and exercises might be assigned for students to complete on their own.

Mixed Mode

Mixed mode courses accommodate students who are both remote and on-campus. This means that some students might attend the course in-person, while others continue to participate through Zoom. My biology class has been my only mixed mode course so far, and it works pretty well. I am able to attend synchronously and participate with my classmates, particularly those who are also remote.

How do these compare to in-person classes?

There are many ways in which online classes differ from in-person courses. Starting with the obvious, in-person classes allow you to avoid those embarrassing Zoom experiences that I covered earlier. Of course, these are just replaced with slightly different embarrassing experiences (e.g. slipping on your way out).

In all seriousness, I think that Carleton professors have done an excellent job of making Zoom courses as enriching as possible. The differences with in-person courses are inevitable, and are a byproduct of the virtual format. For example, we will never be able to get rid of technological difficulties. That said, professors are doing their best to work around them and accommodate students with varying levels of access.

Essentially, professors work extremely hard to make sure that every student is able to participate and contribute. While, as I mentioned earlier, it is always intimidating to speak up in class, professors try to make the environment conducive to discussion. They take advantage of breakout rooms (my favorite), and incorporate a good mix of lecture and conversation. Although I miss the intimacy of in-person classes, I genuinely feel like I’m getting as strong of an education online as I would on campus.


Yes, I miss Carleton very much. And I absolutely cannot wait to go back in September. But until then, I know that I will be just fine online.


Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she plans to major in English and double minor in Creative Writing and Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she will be spending this fall at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton and escape the southern heat. When she isn’t busy avoiding Virginia’s never-ending summer, you can find Andriana binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!