By Maryam Narejo
At this very moment, I am clicking away on my laptop while being on camera with three of my college friends who have their own assignments to complete. Usually, the idea of sitting in front of a screen for a few hours and communicating with strangers isn’t very appealing. However, with Zoom being essential to students’ lives over the lockdown, many have developed a bittersweet relationship with the app.
Handling one semester without any on-campus facilities was difficult enough. With the spring semester being partially online, LUMS students have been finding new ways to regain motivation and focus to bring back some form of the college experience to their room’s isolation. One way is to organize silent Zoom group studies to create a library-like environment where students can learn and socialize.
Afia Zahoor ‘23, an HSS Sophomore, says, “We realized that if Zoom is the medium used for classes, it should be the medium used for studying together as well.” When asked about having to study online in quarantine, Ibrahim Janjua ‘24, an HSS freshman, answered, “You’re already separated from the interactive experience of in-person classes, so you have to do a little extra to find a nice balance. The online studying environment was far from ideal, and with me, I knew I had to do something different to make it work”.
Some would find the activity of turning on their cameras, muting their mic, and studying in silence strange. If they needed a quiet corner to study, they could find one. However, the predominant draw of these studies isn’t the tranquility but rather the relaxed and informal ambiance of typing away at your laptop and then switching to the Zoom app and seeing everyone’s head bowed, deep in thought, and continuing your task.
Fatima Abbas Adenwalla ‘24, an HSS Freshman, says, “I’m very used to the library setting, and I practically lived in the library pre-COVID. It’s like an unspoken bond there; we see people studying, we sort of do it together, and we make friends. Because of COVID, it couldn’t happen, but I still wanted the same motivation, so I started study sessions with some people from 9 AM-1 PM, then took a break and started at 4 or 5 PM again”.. Ibrahim mentions his study routine, saying” I did meetings with different individuals/groups and the regularity and exact nature would vary. However, each meeting would have breaks – water breaks or watching a video together, or just talking.”
When students have to complete assignments with an ongoing global pandemic, the stress inevitably builds up. Suddenly the simple task of staying focused can seem almost impossible.
Shajeea Khalid ‘23, an HSS Sophomore, says, “I tend to zone out or start watching Netflix if I’m staring at a screen for too long. Others being present tends to remind me I’m part of the real world.” Having friends around to hold you accountable for being distracted proves to be immensely helpful. Afia mentioned, “I used to study in groups back when the semester wasn’t online, and when the semester went online, it was harder to focus and motivate myself to study. Having a study partner or partners is great since they keep you accountable.”
Not only do these Library-like sessions help to keep your focus, but they can be a pleasant source of task management to get checks off of your to-do lists. When asked about the productivity of such Zoom calls, Afia says, “In our anthropology study group we would have goals. For instance, finish a session or anthropologist by a set period of time.” Not only is it easier to finish tasks, but you learn a thing or two from your peers along the way. She said, “We would teach each other in my anthropology study group, and that would help us a lot. If one of us couldn’t get a concept, someone else would explain it.”
If organized on a large scale, these Zoom group activities can empower students to build a strong community, motivate each other, and make friends along the way. These silent meetings could help students thrive during this global pandemic and beyond.