Navigating the Virtual Classroom

Edited by Malavika Suresh


Fresh semesters and academic years are in full swing across the world. Along with university being a unique experience in and of itself, the new normal that the world has adapted to makes it a more difficult arena to navigate. With almost all interactions with university spaces having become virtual, both freshers and seniors are facing difficulty with what is already demanding - learning. Even with the world increasingly adopting virtual modes of communication, the actual exchange and absorption of information are seemingly harder, especially when one functions from an at-home workspace that cannot provide the kind of community support that is a characteristic feature of university classrooms and spaces. How do we navigate this extremely important element of what defines university then?


The most important thing to understand is that the classroom environment is meant to be a space for growth and learning. It is important to have respect for one’s peers. Our classmates may come from different backgrounds, which they do not owe us information about. Therefore, one should treat even the virtual classroom as what it is--a nurturing space, and be cognizant of not being disruptive to someone else’s education. It is also important to not pass judgments based on people’s environments, or anything personal whose background might be unknown to us. It helps to remember that often, even language and universities themselves are a privilege. If someone deviates from the norms followed in these spaces, it does not mean they do not belong or deserve to be there. We should have equal respect for our opinions--and thus, examine them before putting them forth. 


If the resource material is difficult to deal with for you, asking questions might be the solution you need. If you have doubts that you are afraid to ask in front of an audience, it is always a great idea to sign up for office hours. Remember that even when virtual, universities are a means for you to exercise your thinking. Mistakes, both during office hours and in the classroom, are okay. You are at university to learn, and making mistakes is a great way to understand how you could do better. The virtual setting makes it more difficult to connect to people and build relationships, in addition to logistical issues that disrupt smooth communication. The important thing is to try your best, and address these issues when they persist. Virtual settings often cannot offer the kind of efficient communication physical settings can, and it’s not an individual’s fault. They might be causing discrepancies in your understanding, questioning, and thinking. The best way to deal with these is to communicate them. Moreover, almost always, faculty members and staff are more than happy to assist your understanding of concepts. Even when the material is difficult, and especially then, approach the staff members assigned to your course. This also helps them personalize the advice they would otherwise give to your individual needs. Your university might offer other resources that you could look into. If you are not sure what they are, the teaching staff and your seniors could give you the information you need.


It is also a good idea to look into the other virtual spaces that the university might have to offer, apart from classrooms. If you are someone who struggles with occupying space in public, clubs and extracurricular activities might help you meet people who share similar interests as you and to make friends. When you have things to say, speak up. University is the place to experiment and try out new things that you have not had the opportunity to do before. Even if it does not make a mark on others, it will teach you something new about yourself. Isn’t that equally, if not more, important?


Finally, remember that the virtual mode has been difficult in different ways for most people. Being anxious about and in a virtual classroom is commonplace. If there is anything I would want you to take away from this article it’s this: try to support others through this journey;  use your discretion and reach out when you can. University is one of the most interesting journeys you will make, and you deserve everything during it that helps you perform your best. Extend the same empathy towards others as you would like to be shown towards you. All the best!