Zoom University, Sunk Costs, and a Pass/Fail Option

Welcome to Zoom University. The new online learning structure all of us college students have been forced to enroll. In 2020 so far, Zoom has seen a 67% increase in usage. Zoom is being used for K-12 schools, colleges and universities alike. The pandemic, COVID-19, came on fast and without warning. Because of this, our public school systems and universities were not prepared to carry out the rest of the semester with online instruction.

I call it “Zoom University” because I heard the phrase used by a friend, and quite frankly thought it was hilarious and catchy. The concept of me paying 10’s of thousands of dollars to get a Clemson degree, while I’m sitting in my house, seemed absurd. One reason is because of the in-person instruction I’m surely paying for, but now receiving through a webcam. In addition, there are other parts of college that make it easier to succeed when you're surrounded in the atmosphere. In my current situation, I am back living with my parents during this quarantine and I find it much harder to be productive. When I am at Clemson, I am in my routine. Making meals, attending classes, and club responsibilities all keep me in a rhythm. It’s easy to get things done when you know you have somewhere else to be, or something else to get done. On this quarantine, I find each day to have huge gaps of time with not much to do, making me procrastinate just to fill the time.

I sat through my first class instructed on Zoom last Monday, March 23rd. The professor had to play around with the audio the first ten minutes of our class. Then the audio had a ton of interference and background noise because students are being forced to work in their homes rather than a classroom. Even low morale, caused from overflow of Coronavirus news updates, is having effects on students' abilities to be productive. It’s almost like what I experienced in high school, having what some call “senior-itis”. The negative mindset you get once you have chosen where you are going to college, that I don’t care attitude sets in, and your assignments don’t seem to matter. That is how I am feeling about attending Zoom University, and I think my fellow peers feel the same way. I mean, can you blame us?

I haven’t even mentioned all the sunk costs students have had to write-off. Leases that still have rent payments even with students living at home is a sunk cost, along with all the other amenities Clemson’s campus offers that is now inaccessible. In other words, I feel I am being denied all the aspects of what makes a Clemson Education, 10’s of thousands of dollars more expensive than going to online colleges. In addition, the relationships you make from interactions with other students and faculty are arguably the most valuable assets of college.

Overall, I think most universities are doing the most they can in these troubling times. There is just one thing I think every school should adopt for this unprecedented semester. A Pass/Fail option, that is to be offered to all students. It would serve as preventative measures to keep kids enrolled who are struggling because of this learning environment. It would recognize that high GPA students could still be struggling with online learning. It would also reward those unaffected to get a chance to improve their GPA while not penalizing those who are affected. I personally think it's a no-brainer and I hope that all Colleges/Universities, including Clemson, make this decision for the good of all their students.

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