By Rain Klein
Right now, most college students are doing their schoolwork at home. With face-to-face classes unsafe due to the ongoing pandemic, online and video conference courses are the main sources of education. However, the need for digitalization extends to much more than just the required aspects of college life- extracurricular club and community activities, such as events hosted by Seminole State College’s Office of Student Life, have been restricted to online-only as well.
In a typical Zoom session held for a campus event, participants are free to remain mute and invisible, with several resorting to leaving their cameras off for the entire conference.
This sudden change in environment begs the question: how has participation been affected by the switch from in-person to online events?
The Student Life Assistant Director of 22 years, Mauricio Garcia, has an answer.
“This environment creates barriers,” he noted. Events like the Leadership Retreats are designed to “take students out of their comfort zones so they can be their true selves”- but with students just watching through a screen in their homes, this effect is difficult to achieve in a Zoom meeting.
As a result, it becomes far too easy to simply remain inactive in conversation and fall into old patterns. Garcia explained that in a physical setting, a student can’t avoid interacting with the other individuals around them, which entices them to participate more than they would in an online conference. By meeting new people and being removed from their comfort zones, students are free to try new things that differ from their ordinary roles.
In situations like this, students come out with more leadership experience and knowledge about themselves. More recently, however, participation has substantially decreased in online events.
Mya Nicholas, sociology major and Vice President of the Sanford/Lake Mary campus’ Student Government Association, agrees that Zoom meetings have been a double-edged sword in terms of participation. While it is “much easier to connect with other students” due to the accessibility of the Internet, there is the issue of only participating the minimum amount being a comfortable option for many individuals.
A solution to this? “Go out and explore”, Nicholas says. “Be the person you envision yourself to be.”
While participation may seem daunting at first, especially to shy or quiet individuals, it is a definite positive for everyone involved. Especially during this time of isolation, it is important to
“focus on your self-growth”.
The events at Seminole State offer a chance for students to better themselves, through communication and exploration. As the Spring semester continues, it remains to be seen how participation levels will change further in this online environment.