As November approaches, it’s time to buckle up for another round of virtual finals season. Take-home exams, proctored tests, unnecessarily long papers and group projects are all on the agenda in the coming weeks. These are all normal parts of the school year, even in a virtual semester.
But the dreaded group project takes on a newer, more evil form over Zoom.
Without a doubt, this semester has been full of challenges: UNC's reopening snafu, rising COVID-19 cases and the upcoming presidential election, just to name a few. With all this going on, some professors think adding group projects to our virtual learning experience is a good idea.
Please, professors. We are begging. Let us hold onto an ounce of our sanity. We do not want to spend an entire week figuring out how to do a PowerPoint presentation on Zoom. It's not going to be good! You know it, and we do too.
Group projects are always a struggle. Organizing and meeting up with our fellow college students used to be hard enough. But now that things are online, someone can never show up to class — and it will go completely unnoticed. On the other hand, showing up to class can be a barrier for some of us. Expecting students to work collaboratively in this time is just another stressor we don’t need.
Let’s be real. There are always those who contribute a bit more and those who contribute a bit less to a group project. It’s the natural order of things. This semester, it is hard to gauge where we stand in a group, especially a group of people that we have never met before. Meeting people over Zoom in a breakout room is nothing like real, in-person communication.
Challenges to working together are exacerbated in the virtual environment. We've covered the disparities in Internet access before, and those obstacles make collaboration harder. Awareness of accessibility is important — now more than ever.
Also, with students all around the world, trying to find times to meet is an unnecessary problem. It’s hard enough to meet when we are all in Chapel Hill. Adding another Zoom meeting to the day is not enjoyable for anyone, especially for students who are already sitting through lectures and labs all day.
OK, fine. We understand that practicing working in a virtual space with others is an important skill, especially as many of us go (or at least try to go) into a virtual job market. Learning to work with others in a virtual environment is a valuable skill. That doesn’t make it any more bearable, though.
As our generation knows well, hiding behind screens is far too easy. Turning off the camera on Zoom or absently posting on social media is a great way to avoid accountability. Unfortunately, when it comes to group projects, accountability is at the foundation of the work we do. It doesn’t help that our grades are dependent on people that we don’t know, and often have never seen before.
Alas, there is not much we can do about this predicament. But at this time last year, never did we think we would MISS in-person group projects. We didn’t even consider the alternatives — how naive we were! It looks like our only saving grace is the two-month break around the corner.
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