By: Yosef Lemel  | 

We Asked, Y(O)U Answered: Time Differences and Virtual Science Labs — Here’s How YU Students Feel About Online Classes

Editor’s Note: The Commentator's new “We Asked, Y(O)U Answered” column provides students with a forum to express their opinions and/or experiences regarding various aspects of student life.

As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Yeshiva University has moved its classes online through Zoom, an online video conferencing service, for at least the duration of the 2019-20 academic year. The Commentator reached out to the student body via email and social media to provide their opinions regarding online classes. Students were asked whether online classes were more or less difficult than in-person classes. The responses of six YU students regarding this situation are provided below.

Ely Bloch (SSSB ‘21) 
Major: Finance 

“Online class in 3 words: ‘very not ideal;’ but it works better than I thought. Admittedly, it’s much harder to focus outside the classroom setting as the onus of attention is almost solely on the student. The absence of a physically-present professor to encourage participation and prohibit cell phone use — as is standard in many in-person classes — creates a challenge even for the most inclined student. While many students prefer not being mandated to attend class on campus, it’s ironic how attendance levels have increased from the move online, though likely to the detriment of real participation. I’m generally a front row, take notes kind of student, yet even I falter in my studious attentiveness in this new format.

“Gratitude and praise must be given where it is due. The administration made swift moves to educate and train the professors to equip them with the skills they need to run their classes as normally, efficiently and effectively as possible. And while some professors seem as though they haven’t taken full advantage of the 2 week learning period of no classes, most have and it’s encouraging to see, and helpful to students to bridge the gap of difficulties which arise from the online format.

“Overall, nothing surprising from this obviously necessary switch to Zoom classes. Thank God I haven’t heard or been privy to any classes which had students ‘Zoom-bomb’ their classes/professors. For the most part, it’s classes as usual, but the added grade scale change and relaxed attitude of (at least) my professors towards grading help alleviate the stress of the ‘college-from-home’ environment. I simply wish students wouldn’t use it as an excuse to relax their levels of study, but rather utilize it for what it’s meant to be: a safety net, not a mattress on which to lie back and be comfortable.”

CJ Glicksman (YC ‘20)
Majors: Philosophy and Music 

“I’ve found it significantly more difficult to focus during online courses. I end up sitting in the same chair all day, and looking at a screen simply cannot compare to the dynamics of a classroom. Online classes have proven to be extremely ineffective for my ability to focus and learn.”

Elizabeth Kershteyn (SCW ‘22)
Major: Biology

“The transition from in-person classes to online classes was very sudden. It feels different and not in a good way. [Classes] all seem the same now and there is no atmosphere of learning; I feel more disconnected. It’s especially harder because [as someone who lives abroad] I am several hours ahead of New York City time so my classes start at 4 p.m. and finish at 10 p.m. at the earliest and 2 a.m. at the latest… Thankfully, a lot of my professors are very understanding and willing to help. 

“The worst part of my courses as a pre-med student who is majoring in Biology are labs. It’s not even a class now. The instructors just send us the data and we complete lab reports. It doesn’t feel like we’re learning anything at all. I understand that there’s not much they can do about it, but I feel like they can find a more interactive method. In the end, the whole Zoom experience is very stressful and extremely tiring but I’m happy for the opportunity to be home and enjoy some home-cooked meals in between the classes.”

Mitch Goulson (SSSB ‘23)
Major: Accounting 

“Since I'm currently back home in Los Angeles, I begin my classes three hours earlier than those on the other side of the country. My schedule entails that I wake up at no later than 7 a.m. on any day. For instance, I have an Info Systems class with Prof. Brabazon on Friday, which runs from 6:30-9:00 PST (Pacific Standard Time).

“Since I have trouble falling asleep at night (which is partly my fault), I typically get about 4-5 hours of sleep on average. This has forced me to begin taking daily naps, further making a mess of my sleep schedule. I typically attend my classes, but I have certainly slept through a plethora of them in this online setting.

“I hope my grades don't suffer as a result of this, but even if they don't, I feel disadvantaged when compared to students on the east coast, who get to wake up at normal hours for their college classes.”

Shifra Lindenberg (SSSB ‘21) 
Major: Marketing

“I find that online classes are more difficult than in-person classes. I take notes on my computer and it's extremely difficult to keep switching between the Google doc in which I take my notes to the teacher's notes or slides that are on Zoom. I've tried looking at my teacher's slides while they present but then I lose my place and I don't know what topic the teacher is up to. Zoom was made for conference calls, not classrooms. While I understand that the university is doing the best they can during this pandemic, most notably giving up the P/N option for classes, students like me are still struggling and unfortunately, there are some problems that just can't be solved.”

Shuie (Joshua) Berger (YC ‘23)
Major: Biology

“I found that overall it's a much tougher experience. Class somehow feels more boring… The constant threat of distraction makes class almost unbearable; I fail many a time. My lab is a total and utter failure, while music class takes an odd spin, as the lag on zoom forbids [the class from] singing together without sounding like squawking geese.

“I find that there is more stress than before, and the workload feels heavier, as if somehow the teachers are assigning more homework and harder tests without telling the class.

“Shiur and seder are harder too, as being in a beit midrash cultivates an environment for strong learning, laser focus and fewer distractions. Being at my desk doesn't ensure any of those things and it fails to give me the right incentive, the right push, to make it better.

“There is one thing about it that I like. I think now that we have all been under much stress, we can start to appreciate being in YU. Over the last semester, I heard a few people say, ‘I just wish I could go home for the rest of the semester.’ Well, now that we are all home, we all seem to want to go back. 

‘I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.’ - Andy Bernard”

Editor’s note: We received many responses that did not make it into the column. Respondents raised many issues that affect their virtual classroom experiences, such as poor internet connection, professors ending classes overtime and the difficulty of collaborating with students living in different time zones for group projects. Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey! Stay tuned for the next column, which will be about lifestyle changes since the outbreak of the virus.

Photo Caption: Yeshiva University has moved its classes online through Zoom, an online video conferencing service.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University