Lights, Camera, Action: A Focus Group Study Exploring University Students' Experiences of Learning via Zoom

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In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, universities across the world moved coursework online andfrequently used Zoom videotelephony software to replicate the experience of learning in a classroom. While this platform supported certain aspects of the traditional classroom, such as immediacy of responses and the facilitation of social interactions, learning via Zoom also differed in various ways from the familiar classroom experience. Although there has been considerable research on online learning, most studies focused on an asynchronous design and interaction. Thus, the understanding of learning within synchronous, video-mediatedplatforms, such as Zoom, is nascent. In this study, the data was derivedfrom a focus group with eight university students from the United States that was conducted over Zoom. Using content analysis, the transcripts of the focus group's interaction yielded four themes: Zoom Challenges, Zoom Benefits, Faculty Proficiency, and Student Learning Experiences. Cameras, a distinguishing feature of Zoom, could strengthen engagement, yet they also heighten anxiety for some andfatigue for most users. However, when those challenges were mitigated and the benefits harnessed by faculty informed about how to support student learning, students experienced a deepened sense of connection to their peers, the faculty, and their learning. Family science educators who recognize the strengths and limitations of this platform have the opportunity to teach more effectively and support their students' socio-emotional learning and well-being.

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