Recently, I had the fortune to talk to a Student—a wonderful specimen of his kind—who is currently enjoying the fruits of online learning. Hereby I have committed myself to transcribing his experience of these unprecedented and turbulent times, and I vow to do so as faithfully as possible.
The Student is awoken at the break of dawn—to the more precisely inclined, 12 PM—to the fair rays of the late-autumn sun caressing his face. It’s a beautiful day outside, the weather balancing between autumn chill and delightful summer-warmth as if on a tightrope. Such a weather demands a day spent outdoors, wandering in parks and meeting up with friends in the heart of the city for brunch. The Student knows this.
Therefore, after he’s put on his customary ball and chain, he opens the window a slit, and poking out his nose, he breathes in the fresh air of October deeply, storing in his lungs as many sips as he can to tide him through the day. Thus perfectly content with his intake of fresh air, he cracks his knuckles, and takes his place in front of an artfully arranged bookshelf, full of books he’s never read and never intends to—but they’re perfect to keep the impression of a well-read academic.
And thus the Zoom calls begin. Indeed, in plural, for The Student is a stable, resilient animal, perfectly suited to sit hour after hour in one place, eyes trained on the vibrating pixels of various screens. Being pickled in this blue light, according to some boomer think pieces, is almost his proper condition, his natural habitat, in which he is perfectly content. (And to be sure, the ghostly memory of that few sips of fresh air he’s taken decidedly does not haunt in his lungs. Those feelings belong to another age, a foolish and innocent age—perhaps even to January 2020.)
But who needs fresh air and society, when online learning holds so many delightful surprises, such as accidentally muting the lecturer? Or entering into the wrong meeting and waiting there half an hour to realize the lecture is taking place on another MS Teams channel? There’s truly no environment more stimulating than the sphere of online education.
Who wouldn’t tremble with excitement over the challenge of hearing a peer’s thoughts through their scratchy audio and terrible broadband connection? Who wouldn’t feel closer than ever to their coursemates while guessing whether it’s the lecturer’s internet that froze, or their own? There’s a thrill, rivalled only by watching snails race, in watching one’s lecturer play Where’s Waldo with the right button to share their screen, while staying happily silent. During these wonderful social activities, The Student could not be happier.
He shivers in delight letting the lecturer implore him to turn their camera on for the third time; he revels in the anticipation whether his neighbours start drilling in that critical moment when he’s called to answer a question; he takes special pleasure in the silence that follows said question, a dozen icons and initials staring unblinkingly back at the lecturer. The Student was truly born for online education.
And so the day passes, filled to the brim with lectures and webinars, until our hero logs off and closes his laptop. Finally shedding his ball and chain, he moves base to immerse himself in the happy circle of his family who greets him thus, “Quiet! I’m in a Zoom call!”