5 New Year’s Zoom-olutions to help you thrive academically

Photo of a notebook and a laptop with zoom open
Katie Lee/Staff

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Officially 10 months into the “Zoom” era, many of us have successfully curated a seamless daily routine for taking classes online: waking up at 9:05 a.m. for 9 a.m. classes (if not sleeping through them), perfecting our barista skills midlecture and redecorating our rooms right as the course content seems to get most confusing. While such efforts should be applauded given the whirlwind that was 2020, 2021 offers us a clean slate to maximize this unique learning experience. As we log on to what will hopefully be our final virtual semester, here are five New Year’s Zoom-olutions to consider over the next few months. 

Hop on the Zoom call before Berkeley Time

This one may require you to wake up at 8:55 a.m. for your 9 a.m. Zoom class, but those 10 minutes can be a game changer. After spending the past semester and a half arriving on the hour, I’ve observed a variety of activities that go down before Berkeley Time, and virtually (no pun intended) none of them have a downside. Perhaps the most classic occurrence is the classmate who’s there early to ask a question about the course material that could save you time looking for a file on bCourses or help you out on a quiz the following week. Other professors prefer to fill that gap with a track or two from their favorite album, so arriving before Berkeley Time may equip you with your new favorite tune. If the song of choice is not to your fancy, mute the Zoom until class begins, and use that time to check your email  — the same goes if the minutes leading up to a particular lecture are black screens and awkward silence. Finally, some professors open their class by recounting their weekends, reminding you that they, too, are individuals braving unprecedented events. This just might inspire you to get a jump on that problem set. And if they use it to talk about their research? Who knows, hopping on Zoom before Berkeley Time could be your ticket to a spot in their lab. 

Physically go to class

Take that mile-long walk to Memorial Glade to get your blood pumping before settling into your two-hour lecture. Soak up some vitamin D while learning multivariable calculus. Stop at Caffe Strada on the way if you need to, and say hi to the campus squirrels — they probably miss us as much as we miss them. If you aren’t in Berkeley, take your class to a nearby park if you can, or see if someone you live with wants to try switching rooms for a day. Studies show that varying your learning environment can give your brain more cues to recall information, thus enhancing your memory for when it comes time to take an exam.

Attend office hours once a week

Trust me, once meetings are in person again, you are not going to want to make the trek to Etcheverry Hall for office hours between lectures. Virtual office hours may be the only good thing about Zoom, and if they aren’t here to stay, it’s time to utilize them while you can. Some professors hold sessions with everyone together, providing advantages similar to logging on to class early in regard to hearing other people’s questions while others do them waiting room style, giving you a chance to speak with the professor or GSI one-on-one. Either way, both are great opportunities to introduce yourself and form a connection that can come in handy down the road.

Do a class presentation without reading from a script

OK, so virtual office hours may not be the only positive about online classes; we are all guilty of setting up a Google doc with a nice little script to read off of during Zoom presentations. Make it a goal to try, just once this semester, presenting “real-life style.” Set that laptop up on your dresser, stand a few feet away and give your class the presentation your roommate heard you rehearse eight times the night before. And if you notice anyone giving this a shot, be sure to give them some kudos in the chat. Such a courageous effort deserves recognition.

Turn your camera on for discussion sections if you can

This wouldn’t be a list of Zoom-olutions if “camera on” wasn’t mentioned. I’m not asking you to do this in your 200-person lecture (and if you are, that’s awesome), but for anyone who has ever taught a DeCal or been a GSI for a class over Zoom, speaking to a bunch of black screens is the opposite of encouraging. Not only might it motivate you to get ready for the day and keep you more engaged knowing others can tell if you’re not paying attention, but GSIs are students just like us: Turn that camera on, smile when they try to crack a joke and know that doing so can go a long way.

Contact Allie Coyne at [email protected].