When IU transitioned to online classes last March, many students had never encountered or were mostly unfamiliar with Zoom. The change has presented plenty of challenges, and both students and professors continue to struggle with online education.
Unlike Zoom, the online course organizer Canvas was used by IU students and professors even prior to the pandemic. While Canvas dysfunction was manageable when students also met in a classroom, it now further complicates online school.
This adds unnecessary stress, hinders learning and makes the lives of both students and professors harder. Few students were prepared for this reality.
Students will often find assignments in several different areas of their Canvas pages, making them harder to find, for example.
Some professors are not helping students adjust to online classes but are expecting them to know how to navigate through Canvas to find anything they need. The disorganization of some professors’ Canvas pages and the inconsistencies between them makes classes more confusing for students.
“There are undated assignments so we have no idea of knowing when anything is due,” freshman Malhar Lakshman said. “We have been bouncing all over the Canvas page because there are so many hidden links and there is so much disorganization.”
Keeping online classes similar to in-person classes is a hard task for professors.
With multiple classes a semester, managing Canvas as a student can be hard. Syllabi are different for every class, and some assignments don’t on the Canvas calendar. Professors organize their Canvas pages differently, which can confuse students. The array of tabs and pages presented by Canvas — with each professor choosing a different path — can be unnecessarily confusing and time-consuming.
“I had an optional lecture that I had no idea about because my professor put the announcement in a module section. So, I missed it,” Lakshman said.
Many professors don't use the same link for their Zoom meetings, which makes students scramble to find the correct one. There have also been some instances when the breakout rooms don’t work and kick students out of the class entirely.
The problems with Canvas and Zoom result in students spending extra time during an already stressful semester trying to find hidden homework assignments or resolutions to technical difficulties.
Although the pandemic meant professors had to make adjustments as well, they were provided resources from IU to help them prepare. Some professors used those resources, and some chose to teach themselves.
“IU offered a number of presentations and seminars in order to facilitate the move to online instructions,” Jesse Molesworth, an IU English professor, said. “I decided mostly to figure it out on my own.”
While some Canvas pages are better organized than others, the inconsistencies and disorganization cause extra problems for students and professors in the long run. Students are frustrated they don’t know where to find anything or they don’t know when their assignments are due.
Even though both students and professors were affected by classes moving online, professors were given more resources to help them adjust. Students — along with missing out on their college experience — have to deal with some professors not taking a little time to make their lives easier.
Organizing a Canvas page or creating a recurring Zoom link can go a long way for some students and how they perform in the class.
Olivia Franklin (she/her) is a sophomore studying journalism with a minor in political science. She is currently a member of the swim club at IU.