I know I’m only four weeks into my legal education, and less than one sentence into this blog post, but I already feel compelled to start with a disclaimer.
This post is intentionally optimistic. The world has been feeling like a grim place lately. Although I’m presenting some bright sides to having class online, I don’t want to ignore the fact that the shift to online education has widened already existing educational disparities.
With no further ado, let’s talk about some good things for a change:
- It’s definitely easier to learn your classmates’ names when they appear on the screen. How long is it socially acceptable to have people wear name tags in person? Through orientation? The first day of classes? It doesn’t matter when your classes are on Zoom: you’ve got a handy cheat sheet with everyone’s names and faces at least six times a week.
- Zoom is a cheap and easy alternative to time travel. Want to attend a student group meeting, office hours for a class, check in with my primary care doctor, and catch up with a friend from college? I can do all of that in one afternoon and still be home to take my dog for her walk. Without endorsing anything else about Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, I’ve always coveted Hermione’s time turner, which she used to take two classes that were scheduled at the same time. I’m sure I’m not the only law student who’s found themselves wishing for a similar device. While I’m still looking out for time turners, or their equivalent, to hit the market sometime around 2050… Zoom is a decent alternative in the meantime.
- TAs get involved in a whole new way. Teaching assistants help facilitate online classes, troubleshooting the classroom technology and moderating student participation. Our TAs have gone above and beyond what I expected (thanks, Jane Cha and Alex Kelly!) in order to make sure that our classes run smoothly. As an added bonus, I get to see the great relationship my 2L TAs have built with our professors. Seeing that connection has me looking forward to finding my own academic mentors at BC.
- Flexible classes are accessible classes. From my own experience, I know it’s hard to balance the demands of being a student with the need to take care of my mental and physical health. As an undergraduate dealing with health problems, I found that constantly making compromises with either my academics or my healthcare meant that I didn’t do a great job at keeping up with either. For me, that experience crystallized the value of recorded and online classes. If I had been able to watch a recorded class or tune in from a doctor’s office every once in a while while I was an undergraduate, it would have made that balance a little easier. All of my classes as a 1L at BC are recorded so that, if need be, I can watch them later. For students like me who are balancing school with their own health issues, or with being a caregiver, a little flexibility can go a long way.
- House pet cameos. The little bit of levity that a cat on a keyboard can bring to an otherwise daunting 1L lecture is definitely welcome. My dog hasn’t made it on screen yet, although sometimes I worry that my classmates can hear her snoring through a nap in the background.
Finally, I know I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the most commonly discussed benefit of life in 2020: we all have one more excuse to wear comfortable clothes. We can talk about the state of the world some other time. For now, I’m going to put on some sweatpants.
Katharine Mallary is a first-year student and brand new Impact blogger. Get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.