The Rules and Etiquette of Online Learning

By Cali Carss

The year 2020 has been one of adaptation. With a global pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s mind for the better part of the year, the spring semester of last year was undoubtedly messy. New York City was sent into lockdown in March with the expectation of reopening following the week of spring break. Because of this, students and the administration did not prepare to be online for very long. However, as the back to school date got pushed further and further, schools had to quickly switch to the uncharted territory of online school that has become the new normal. The problems with online class last year at Beacon were abundant. The school did not have a set schedule, nor were there many expectations for students. Work has been marginally cut down for many; and while that was a smart and considerate move made on the student’s behalf, it makes regular online learning that much more difficult to adjust to. 

This school year is different. Not only does Beacon have a new principal leading the school, but there has also been time to organize a more structured model. Teachers have adapted their curriculums and a set schedule has been put in place. Additionally, the class time has been cut down to still allow students break times to work alone. One of the biggest factors of this new school year is a new set of rules put out strictly for online classes. These rules provide guidelines for making online learning as efficient and practical as possible. They are the:

Beacon Student Zoom Expectations

  • Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection
  • Mute yourself when talking; to eliminate background noise
  • Have video on whenever possible; turn it on if a teacher requests
  • If having video on is uncomfortable, communicate this with a teacher directly
  • Check to make sure your background is appropriate and dress as you would if you were going into school
  • Make sure your name is accurate
  • Add your preferred pronouns to your Zoom name to create an inclusive community
  • Try to wait to eat or drink until a break from class – if needed make sure you’re muted and be discrete
  • Act appropriately; treat it like a regular classroom
  • Do not share the Zoom link with anyone outside your class
  • Inappropriate comments, verbal or chat, or images will result in a follow-up with an administrator as per the Beacon Respect for All policy

Overall, these seem to have been taken quite well by the students of Beacon, leading to a much more organized and formal classroom environment. For example, almost all teachers require students to have their cameras on as it demonstrates attentiveness and accountability. It’s also an effective way to stay partially connected to our classmates. As we cannot physically meet, at least being able to see faces on Zoom keeps up the feeling of a school community. This rule has probably had the most impact seeing as it’s one of the most enforced and it helps quite a lot in terms of normalizing the online classroom. Additionally, rules like “try to avoid eating” and “mute yourself while not talking” help to keep up the atmosphere of being at school, even if it’s not actually in person. Most of the other rules generally connect to rules that are kept in an in-person environment as well. The one rule specific to online classes would perhaps be “dress as if you were going into school.” While this rule can’t exactly be enforced like the rest, it is good advice to take. 

However, one of the rules “Join your class a couple of minutes early to ensure proper connection,” alludes to one of the biggest issues online school presents: inequity. Obviously, not every student has access to the proper technology or a stable internet connection. When attending school in person, there are ways around this, like using school computers, working at libraries, etc. Unfortunately, under the current conditions, the reliance on at-home technology for learning takes away these solutions. Now, the problems schools face is how to approach the issue. For most teachers, it means being lenient on latecomers, or not penalizing them at all. It’s a new adjustment, but a necessary one in order to not exclude any student from their deserved education. This also helps students who might be preoccupied with watching siblings or helping their parents. Online learning would be a huge hindrance in situations like this, so it’s important to have accommodations like this. But for students with proper access, joining a bit early is a good habit to develop, as it could help out teachers who are trying to reach so many students within the limitations they’ve been given. Common courtesy is needed at a time like this, so this rule is much more important than many students might think it is.

Online school is new territory for everyone, and students have to be a lot more responsible about showing up to classes and keeping track of their work. These rules are supposed to serve as a loose guide to the expected conduct while attending classes. Cooperation with them makes school a lot smoother, no matter how confusing it is to be online. The fact of the matter is that reality is not going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully, with the cooperation from everyone, Beacon can continue through this semester and grow as a school and as a community.