Now that in-person lectures are a thing of the past, students are mourning the loss of this once hated past time. Times have changed, and those lectures that we once saw as a chore, are now a distant memory. Although the current situation is completely out of our control, it doesn’t stop us wishing we’d turned up to that 9am back in March, blissfully unaware that it would be our last one (forever?). The last time we’d recline in those uncomfortable chairs, lulled into a light snooze at the sound of the lecturer’s monotonal droning, making a few notes every ten minutes to convince ourselves it was worth getting out of bed for.
It seems ironic really. The fact that after all the times complaining about lectures, 9am’s, and certain professors who refuse to record their weekly ramble, that now we want this luxury back. Of course, this is expected when we pay so much for an education that now means many of us will never meet our lecturers and fellow classmates in person, but I think it’s more than that. There’s something vaguely nostalgic about arriving late to a lecture, overpriced coffee in hand and slightly out of breath from the walk-up Portland steps, that you just can’t quite replicate on Teams. Sure, it’s what we (as students) have always wanted, the ability to attend our lectures from our beds, but with this new virtual world of learning comes a whole new series of stress that managing to find a seat in a packed-out lecture hall just doesn’t prepare you for.
There’s Zoom etiquette, muting and ‘camera off’ classes. Cursing that one over-enthusiastic lecturer who insists on all 80 participants putting on their cameras so he can awkwardly put you in a virtual lecture hall and wave to each other – finding this unbelievably amusing while marvelling at the ‘wonders of technology’. And breakout rooms. Enough to make any student’s stomach drop. The realisation that you’ll actually have to converse and engage with other pixelated students with a dodgy microphone and an awkward lag; just watching the participant numbers drop as people abandon ship at the mention of this dreaded activity. All these new systems and ways of learning have made us miss the simplicity of sitting in a crowded lecture theatre, slightly too warm, zoned out or scrolling on our phone as we pass the hours, the tapping of students on the Macbooks sending us to sleep. We took for granted the camaraderie of sitting with course mates, complaining that the lecturer is going too quickly through the slides and exchanging defeated looks as you breathe through the waves of nausea from the previous night.
Or even just the ability to make the executive decision to skip a lecture, deciding that the walk to campus from the comfort of your home is just too great a task. There now seems less of an excuse to do this as we quite literally just have to open our laptops to be present, and if we can manage to do this for our £6 Netflix subscription, I’d like to think our £9,000 degree warrants the same motivation.
University looks different now, and it seems that it will for some time. And whilst there’s little use in pining over what we’ve lost, it’s fun to reminisce on the good old days where finding a seat near the back of the lecture hall was a priority, and we didn’t have to panic that we hadn’t muted ourselves while chomping on a bag of crisps – but I guess, this is the new normal and we should learn to embrace the awkwardness.