Students will be late. It’s not their fault.

Due to the outside factors like wifi issues, students should not be penalized for tardiness to online classes

It is pretty obvious when you are late to an in-person class. The bell rings and your heart speeds up because you are still in the hallway. As you rush through the door, it feels like you have captured the attention of the whole room while you take a seat. In Zoom classes, that anxiety is gone. Tardiness has been reduced to just another box popping up on a screen. This raises the question of how serious students are taking Zoom attendance, and if punishments should be inflicted. 

More often than not, tardiness in Zoom classes results in missed lecture time. In-person classes require students and teachers to get settled at the beginning of class, meaning the informative class time does not start until later. In Zoom, however, class will usually start immediately, making tardiness much more detrimental. So one could say that Zoom attendance should be taken just as seriously, if not more seriously, than in-person. The only issue with this claim is that there are many outside factors contributing to Zoom attendance that are not a problem when attending school on campus.

It is relatively easy to arrive on time to classes on campus as all you have to do is walk to your class on time and say ¨here¨ when the teacher calls your name. This process is more difficult when your attempt to walk to class gets blocked by a screen with a rotating circle and the word ¨connecting…¨.  Internet issues are probably one of the biggest problems with the logistics of online school with 58% of students experiencing such issues (according to an Instagram poll of RUHS students), and attendance is not an exception. Even logging into Zoom earlier cannot prevent such roadblocks. I have put in my Zoom link significantly ahead of time, and still sat staring at the connecting screen as the clock ticked past the start of class. 

When you do get into the Zoom, and your wifi finally decides to let you connect, you are met with that second roadblock: the waiting room. Now I understand the purpose of the waiting room— teachers cannot just have anyone coming into their classes— but if teachers aren’t paying attention to the waiting room when a student comes in a few minutes late, it is possible to be stuck, missing a significant amount and sometimes all of class. This is not the fault of teachers as they should put all their attention into teaching class, but a student should not be punished for missing class when they were in the waiting room the entire time. These students are already punished enough by missing a full class of lecture material, which can be hard to recover from.

Let’s say you do make it into class, but in a flurry of trying to take notes, participate in discussions, or finish some asynchronous work, you forget to put your name in the chat or click the link to fill out the form that says you did attend class that day. Despite students’ full attention going toward class, they could be marked absent for a simple, understandable mistake. The very thing that should lesson potential anxieties of online class, the anonymity of little boxes, makes it even harder to prove that students were, in fact, in attendance. 

Zoom is already a struggle for many students, and to force them to stress about attendance as well is not productive. School staff and administrators should trust students to make their own decisions for their education. Whether those decisions are the right or the wrong ones, that is an issue the students themselves will have to deal with.