“I started yelling at him in front of the whole class. Well, not the whole class because only half of them were sitting in front of me and the other half were in Zoom. And I didn’t really yell because I was wearing a mask,” said a colleague of mine who was stunned to see one of her students logged into her class while he was driving.

“I told him to log out of the class and just drive, but I don’t think he heard me. And then his connection was not stable enough to keep him logged in long enough to hear my pleas,” she said.

Fortunately, the student was unharmed during class, but my colleague was not happy. “I had to talk to him later about what is appropriate and what is not when we are doing class remotely. I never thought I would have to tell my students not to Zoom and drive.”

When I shared this story with other friends and coworkers, I heard an earful:

  • Student’s girlfriend slips out from under the covers after he logs in for an 8 a.m.
  • Student has offensive décor hanging in the background.
  • Student’s roommate decides to change clothes in front of the class.
  • Student multitasks by taking milkshake orders during an online lecture.
  • Bed-ridden student barely unfurls from the fetal position during class.
  • Too many stories to count about shirtless (male) students.

To be fair, most students are very mindful of where they are, what they are wearing, and what is going on in the background when they are attending class. It is one thing, though, to have to deal with an occasional disruption (my dog loves to bark at 10 a.m. when the mail is delivered every dang day), but it is another thing all together when “going” to class seems at best an afterthought, something that one prepares for as much as one prepares to search through YouTube for Dr. Pimple Popper videos.

Are we in the middle of a pandemic? Yes. Should we cut everyone some slack? Absolutely. But I still think we can create some minimum rules that we can all agree help us maintain some sense of normalcy and decency.

To that end, please help spread the word with your student a few basic guidelines for making it through this brave new world of higher education:

  • Treat class like a job. You wouldn’t show up to work half dressed with your roommate hanging behind you, right? Right?
  • Minimize distractions when you are logged in. Even if you don’t have to worry about someone walking by or interrupting you, put away those items (like your phone) that can pull your attention away from class.
  • When you are present, be present. Even though it is not the same as sitting in a class, do your best to get in the “zone” for learning. That means to be present, in the moment when you are present in class.
  • Prepare to participate. Most professors are trying to find ways to engage and interact with you, so you want to be sure that you are ready to talk when called on, take notes, and participate in small group work.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. You missed a class? Your internet was acting up and kicked you out of class? You are too sick to engage in class? Communicate with your professor. Let them know that you are having difficulty or that you are doing fine.

The most important of these is to communicate. We are all learning how to make this work. We are going to make mistakes–both students and professors. We are going to need to extend grace to each other. But we can do better when we know better. And, while I must admit it now has to be said, that includes not Zooming and driving.

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