Illustration by Wendy Chau

Forcing participation does no good

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Participation has always been considered crucial in classrooms to show that students are actively learning. Now that schools have transitioned to an online platform, the way participation is instructed and encouraged has changed. In comparison to in-person learning, participation is now heavily emphasized because cameras are usually off. However, forced participation online wastes class time and is ineffective in achieving the understanding of students.

When teachers pose a question to their class, the Zoom meeting is filled with complete silence. Waiting for even a few minutes in silence is a waste of essential class time even if the answer is obvious and simple. Since each class only meets twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes, teachers must make the most out of it. Teachers proceeding with their lectures will help the entirety of the class rather than stopping the class to ask a meaningless participation question. If teachers are concerned that students do not understand or are not paying attention, students should see their teachers during office hours.

Students are not as comfortable in online classes as a physical classroom setting. When called on, students may get anxious due to the speaker view feature, which enlarges the speakers icon, on Zoom. With a single student speaking and everyone listening, it makes the class and speaker feel awkward. Participation was easier in person, as students were already comfortable going to class and socializing. However, with online learning, students are trapped behind a screen, a barrier that prevents natural interactions and discussions.

Although participation is intended to make sure that students are awake and alert during class, it is not the teacher’s responsibility to be concerned anymore. In an online setting, it is important for a teacher to be able to teach all of their students before class ends. This is especially necessary for AP classes, where the curriculum is tight and unchanging. Squeezing in content while also participating in class will not have the same educational quality. Students already know that it is important to stay awake and listen during class. Participation should not be enforced just so teachers can call out those who are not paying attention and to check students’ understanding.

Online learning has changed and with it, the way participation is done. If teachers want to know if a student is still paying attention in class, there are different reactions students can easily use, like the thumbs up button. With this quick reaction, teachers will not be wasting class time while also knowing that their students are also paying attention in class.

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