The end of Zoom…for me

I adopted Zoom in all of my classes when the pandemic hit — I liked the flexibility it provided for the students. I would offer the full combo: I’d have class in person, and simultaneously broadcast it over Zoom, and also record video that I’d put online. All exams were online, which opened up opportunities, because I wouldn’t have to waste a class hour watching students scribbling on paper. I’m done, though. It just doesn’t work, and this week has highlighted the problem.

It’s a short week because of Thanksgiving break, and instead of losing one lecture hour to proctoring an exam, I’ve lost a whole lot of student hours. Attendance is way, way down. I think some students have decided to start their break on Monday instead of Thursday, because I’ve fostered a classroom culture where everyone thinks they can make up absences on the fly. I’m a bit concerned that I’m going to go to class today in a nearly empty room.

So, next semester…no more Zoom. I’m going to block off days for exams and quizzes. If students don’t attend classes, they will just miss out. I’m going to be so traditional and old-fashioned, and I hope that turns things around.


  1. wzrd1 says

    I’m curious, does Zoom track metrics to user attendance levels? As in, can you determine which students viewed the Zoom lecture?
    I’d be, if one could do so, checking with who was physically present and viewed the Zoom presentation and utilize that as a gauge of interest and utility for the students.

    As for physical attendance, unless the administration would deliver you heat, it’s on the student – they’re paying for the education or paying to not be educated. When I was instructing, I’d happily work for hours per day with students that had interest in learning, I didn’t try to drive them to anything though, they’re paying to either waste their money or learn, their choice.
    Basically, I’ll happily coach until midnight, but if the student isn’t interested, it’s their money they’re wasting, I’m not interested in wasting either of our time.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says

    It’s just a matter of a year or two until Zoom Inc. comes down from its pandemic high, gets bought up by MS, merged with MS copycat “Teams” and turns into complete and utter shit.

    Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, it’s the MicroShit way of business. Nuke ’em from orbit.

  3. says

    Welp, went to class today, only 4 students (out of 21) showed up. I cancelled class and gave those who showed up 5 points of extra credit.

  4. bravus says

    Definitely getting some of the same reactions – recently had a very enjoyable and chatty small tutorial when 4 of 25 showed up to class. And I don’t even record lectures usually, they only have my (very point-form and far short of what I deliver live) PowerPoint slides to go on if they don’t show up.
    I’m very tempted to crack down on attendance, and have colleagues who do, but I’m also very aware of the material conditions of life these students face. When I was at uni I was living at home and well supported. So many of our students are renting exhorbitantly, commuting long distances to our inner-city campus and working full time or more in addition to their full time study to keep body and soul together.
    We need to encourage them to show up, but fight, vote and advocate for better support for them.

  5. sparc says

    My experience is the similar. In the German system students never had to join lectures. They just had to know the stuff at the end of the semester. There was a thing called text book back then. Nowadays students don’t show up but demand the lecture being broadcast and recorded and all PowerPoint slides presented. At the same time the complain that they don’t have enough lab work. However, many often show up in the course unprepared or absolutely clueless. Things had already been bad after the German diploma has been replaced by the Anglo-American bachelor/master system but they got really worse during the pandemic.
    Many students seemingly don’t understand that learning is different from having lecture slides on one’s tablet but rather is something happening between one’s ears and may require some quite some efforts.

  6. julezyme says

    I absolutely understand your frustration (I’m also in higher ed), but maybe instead of trying to get butt’s in seats T-day week, teachers could plan a Zoom activity (like a lecture with break-out rooms). It’s so, so, so, so, so, so expensive to travel over this holiday weekend. I’d rather give students a way to ease the burden and still get the educational experience without penalizing those who are trying to save previous money by flying a couple days early.

  7. bravus says

    “Many students seemingly don’t understand that learning is different from having lecture slides on one’s tablet but rather is something happening between one’s ears and may require some quite some efforts.”
    Exactly this. Amazed how many students thinking having the PPT in the device is the same as having the way-of-understanding-the-world in the mind.
    I use the analogy if going the the gym: if you don’t hurt the next day, and more the day after, you may as well not have bothered.
    Learning is a perspective transformation, a changing of your mind, and it should hurt. It should be challenging.

  8. Louis says

    Stating my ignorance up front, I am not a teacher or lecturer, I wonder what the solution to this classic education dilemma is, or even if there is one.

    *Providing complete lecture notes/recording/materials “discourages” attendance at in-person lectures because students believe they can catch up (wrongly or rightly).
    *Providing partial lecture materials might also “discourage” in-person attendance, and has a greater degree of risk that students won’t grasp how partial the materials are (even when told!) and arrive at exams/assessments horrifically unprepared.
    *Not providing lecture materials “encourages” attendance, but risks excluding students who may need this additional support.
    *All these issues also apply to online/hybrid lectures.
    *Oxford and Cambridge have a tutorial system where the number of lectures per week, even for the sciences, is lower (or at least used to be) compared to most other UK universities. The curriculum and topics are known, and the students are responsible for their own learning about those topics to a very independent degree compared to other universities. That’s not to say that this kind of independence is not required or encouraged elsewhere, just that this tutorial system relies on it to a greater degree compared to more lecture-oriented systems. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, and like everything else, it comes with its attendant risks and benefits.

    So my question to you, knowledgeable academic people, is:

    In your experience, would (perhaps ironically and paradoxically) a more tutorial-based system, with fewer in-person lectures, “encourage” a higher percentage of attendance even if lecture materials were available at the end of the course, and hybrid lectures were available during it?


  9. Louis says

    As an aside: I have a lot of sympathy for undergrads. They’ve emerged as squeaky clean new adults from the chrysalis of an education system where they are comparatively hand held, into one where they comparatively aren’t. It’s a rough learning curve. Although, I suspect it is much better managed by institutions than Back In My Day (TM).


    P.S. I also have a lot of sympathy for academics who have to support/manage/despair at this educational transition. Strangely, the older I have become, and with more experience in mentoring and training younger people, the balance of my sympathies has tipped towards the academics in this equation for some reason…

  10. says

    I view this as a situation where many teachers invest time and effort to interactively instruct students. it must be very frustrating when miserable attendance thwarts that goal. I agree that a teacher being able to answer intelligent questions enriches the educational experience. Sadly, a number of people I went to college with said all they wanted was the degree for their CV and didn’t care if they learned anything. And, due to so many schools whose tuition costs a fortune, and many career paths becoming dead ends, many are questioning the cost effectiveness of a college degree.
    Our entire society seems to be completely out of balance. I respect PZ’s continuing to make education an important component of personal development.

  11. says

    Zoom at least wasn’t trying to become thuglike ‘masters of the universe’ But, it is extra work for PZ and if it isn’t productive or efficient, I agree, dump it.
    I hope people don’t mind this tangential comment:
    @2 Snarki, child of Loki wrote: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, it’s the MicroShit way of business. Nuke ’em from orbit.
    I reply: You are so correct. They have bought and/or stolen and ruined so many good projects. They are now a mandatory menace in the RaspberryPi repositories, too. They have alternately tried to kill Linux and or assimilate it. And, bill gates is now destroying developing nations with ‘techno-agri-corp’ mandates for farmers.

  12. says

    I began my teaching career as a graduate assistance conducting calculus classes at UC Davis. In those days (back in the 70s), we could always spot the students who had transferred to UC Davis from the Sacramento-based Los Rios Community College system. They were sharp and competent, and had obviously benefited from the smaller class sizes and the instruction by professional full-time Los Rios professors (as opposed to the raw recruits like me at the university, who were teaching as a way to earn some bucks while working on a graduate degree). Fast-forward to today. I am now one of those professional full-time Los Rios professors, teaching quite a lot of calculus at American River College (the largest of the four Los Rios institutions). A colleague talked to me today about a conversation she had with a friend at UC Davis. “What happened to your students?” the friend asked. “They are the weakest people we have in our UCD classes!” Well, it could have something to do with the fact that most of our calculus classes have been online in recent years. (I am currently teaching the only in-person section of multivariate calculus.) Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, we had 100% of our classes wholly online through spring 2021, with a small number trickling back on campus in fall 2021. (I was one of the belligerent faculty members who protested our chancellor’s initial plans to continue all lecture classes online for a second year.) But a majority of our calculus students are still “learning” calculus via Zoom and Canvas, after which they transfer to the university in Davis and flop on their faces. It may have a little something to do with the fact that “authentic assessment” (i.e., exams) are almost impossible online. My colleague finds her exams problems all posted on Chegg almost instantaneously, and reaps bumper crops of cloned answers using identical arbitrary variable choices. Her calculus class last semester was supposed to be in-person, but was slow to fill up. Admin ordered her to convert it online and was then smug when the roster filled up. See? We were right! This is what students want.

  13. wzrd1 says

    anthonybarcellos @ 14, as was testified above, what many students want is simply their degree, not knowledge. So, is the school administration going to next elect to simply sell degrees?
    If so, I’ll take one in a new field. The field will have to be humorously named in Latin to effectively state that the degree is worthless and in nothing whatsoever. perhaps nihil aliud.

  14. xohjoh2n says


    If so, I’ll take one in a new field. The field will have to be humorously named in Latin to effectively state that the degree is worthless and in nothing whatsoever. perhaps nihil aliud.

    BS — Baccalaureus in Subligaculum.

  15. wzrd1 says

    xohjoh2n @ 16, I like it! Captain Underpants to the rescue, previously Sergeant Skivvies, but with the degree came the commission.