Tarleton State vs Zoom University: it’s complicated


Blake Smith

I have attended a few colleges over the past four years but my least favorite so far has been Zoom University.
Within the past year, the Zoom University acceptance rates have skyrocketed. The professors are great and the curriculum is enriching, but the idea of having my unmade bed and snack stash displayed on the screen to over 20 people at once is petrifying. Not to mention my constant urge to get up and go to the bathroom. On top of all that, professors “suggest” and “encourage” us to leave our cameras on. What is that all about? I promise I am engaged. I just personally do not want the entire class to watch me finish an entire box of Extra Cheddar Goldfish in under two minutes. That leaves me with the burning question of which university is better? Tarleton State University or Zoom University?
Tarleton State University. Home of the Texans, located in Stephenville, Texas, is commonly referred to as “the best kept secret” and it’s the university whose gates are “always open.” When I was first accepted to Tarleton in October of 2019, I was overjoyed. I knew that the next four years would be the best. Color runs, parties, music festivals and Two-Step Tuesday at City Limits. Not to mention how fun it felt to wake up and walk to class every morning. It was everything I thought college would be and better. My grades were fair and my attendance was patchy but overall, life in 2019 was amazing. Then, everything changed and change can be a scary thing sometimes.
“In-person classes are far better for me than online classes. When we went completely online last spring, I feel like I wasn’t getting anything out of my classes so I’m really happy to be back in normal classes. I feel much more motivated now that I’m able to get up, get out and go to class rather than just having to be on zoom from my apartment. Having asynchronous classes last semester made it way too easy to miss class which was bad for me and so many other students. It was hard on the professors as well,” agricultural communications major, Blair Phillips said.
Being accepted into Zoom University is like being drafted into the Army; nobody asked to join. However, Zoom, much like Tik Tok, has become one of my most used apps since quarantine began almost a year ago. Online school has had its ups and downs. Although it is much safer to attend class via Zoom, it has proven to be a bit of a villain. Recently, I discovered that professors can see how often you watch course recordings. Finding out this information was not only terrifying but it felt invasive! You mean to tell me that Dr. Frazier could see me binge watching course recordings the night before exams? Unacceptable.
Measuring one’s intelligence with the use of homework, quizzes and tests has always seemed unfair to me. Therefore, I do not understand how you can confidently state that student grades have fallen due to COVID-19 and the use of online class. Honestly, I was making a few B’s and D’s in 2019, D’s and F’s in 2020 and now that it is 2021, I have all A’s. It would be much easier to say that my grades fell after COVID-19 but that would be a lie. Did COVID-19 somewhat contribute to my lack of motivation? Yes. Is that why many students struggled last year? Yes. Zoom University does not only affect students but it affects professors as well. Uploading assignments and course recordings was new for everyone and even now, a year later, it seems like professors are still trying to get the hang of it.
Of course, you could say that grades fell during the pandemic but if you look at the grades that improved, you understand why that point is not entirely valid. In 2019, I completed Biology 1406 with a D average. Last semester, I completed Biology 1407 with a B average. Being able to go back over the lesson via course recordings changed my class experience! If I missed a note or forgot what my professor said, I could easily back my video up a few seconds to catch up.
The same could be said for attendance. Before COVID-19, I found it hard to attend certain classes if they were scheduled for 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. Now, if I don’t feel like waking up early or going to class late, all I have to do is tune into Zoom. Both universities have their advantages and disadvantages but ultimately, student attendance and grades are all up to the student. However, my forced acceptance into Zoom University has still posed as a threat to my sleep schedule due to the fact that I know classes are not “mandatory”.
“Creating quality learning environments is challenging even when one isn’t managing a pandemic. Faculty spend countless hours considering the depth of content to explore, the most appropriate ways to engage students, both the design and frequency of assessments, effective communication strategies for all participants and numerous other aspects involved in designing learning environments,” Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Administration, Dr. Jordan Barkley said.

“They often refer to one “something” being superior to another, and that’s not often the case in education. Just as we are called to consider the uniqueness of our students and plan in ways that engage their individual learning styles, so must we consider a learning delivery mode’s ability to allow for this,” Dr. Barkley said.
Tarleton State’s dedication to keeping education alive, however, has made classes feel like normal.
“Both Hyflex and face-to-face delivery modes offer faculty opportunities to deliver content effectively and interact with students in meaningful ways. Just as some faculty prefer to teach in a face to face environment, some students offer that they learn best when in a physical classroom. Others, still, will offer that teaching and learning in a Hyflex learning environment offers flexibility and the use of online tools that are not as readily available when everyone is in one physical location. As such, the university has determined that offering faculty and students opportunities to interact in both face-to-face and Hyflex learning environments is an educationally sound way to meet the needs of our students during this pandemic,” Dr. Barkley said.
Deciding which university to attend is tough. The beauty of it is that there is no right or wrong answer. As a visual learner, attending Zoom University is a challenge. I have the attention span of a chicken, no thanks to Tik Tok, and my level of motivation is as low as my GPA right now. The idea of having to get out of bed, put on pants and walk to class is much more encouraging than the idea of unlocking my iPad and attending an online course. For others, being strictly online allows them to take care of their families, put in more hours at work and take care of themselves if they were to get COVID-19. Some students even find that dual-enrollment is the best path to take.
College, whether it is online or face-to-face, is challenging. You can’t escape the inevitable. However, as college students, it is our responsibility to use this unfortunate pandemic to our advantage. If you want to be a couch potato on Monday and Friday, attend your Zoom meetings but if you are one of those people that wake up early to go to the gym, keep the momentum going and head to your class in the O.A. Grant building. Adapt and grow!