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Students share awkward encounters and mishaps during online classes

Photo illustration by Camille DeSanto | Assistant Photo Editor
From Zoom bombers to unmuted mics, technical difficulties have plagued students and professors during virtual classes.

If you’ve ever forgotten to turn off your Zoom camera or mute your speaker during class, you’re not alone.

From technical difficulties to interruptions from family members, students have experienced some funny and embarrassing moments during online classes. Here are a few standout stories of students who have recalled their most notable moments.

Four-letter-word fiasco
Freshman Mackenzie Grace said she was sitting at her kitchen table when she unmuted herself during a Zoom class. As she started to speak, her dad walked into the room and started “screaming curses at the top of his lungs” out of frustration related to his own work.

“Everyone in my class got to hear it,” Grace said. “I was super embarrassed and luckily everybody just started laughing, so I don’t think anybody was too offended by it.”

She said her professor eventually muted her and checked in to ensure everything was alright but not before the entire class heard her dad’s fit of cursing.

“That sounds stressful, I hope he’s OK,” her professor said following the swearing.

Grace said her professor asked her not to speak up for the rest of the class that day to ensure no one in the family would disrupt the class again.

“It is definitely super embarrassing but also really funny, it was in the first week of class too, so I definitely made an impression,” Grace said.

Siri slip-up
Freshman Katie Noether said her professor put a poll on the screen during class. Noether said she didn’t know the answer, so she asked Siri on her phone but didn’t realize she was not muted. 

“I’m pretty sure I asked Siri twice because she didn’t hear me the first time, so I said it louder the second time,” Noether said.

She said her professor called her out by name during class for being unmuted after the whole class heard her ask Siri for the answer. Luckily the poll wasn’t an actual quiz or test, so she wasn’t penalized for cheating.

Disappearing professor
Junior Shereen Ragheb said one day during a web design class, her professor randomly disappeared from the computer screen about halfway through the four-hour class. She said the class only has about 12 students in it, and they were all “thoroughly confused” about where their professor went.

“He just disappeared mid-lecture without warning, and we all sat there for a minute, looking at each other wondering what to do.”

Ragheb said it was “kind of ironic” because this professor is an expert in web design.

“I understand with other older professors the struggle with technology, but this man is literally teaching us how to build our own websites.”

She said the class thought he might not have noticed that he wasn’t on the Zoom anymore, so one of the students found his phone number on the syllabus and called him to let him know. Ragheb said the professor had no idea he had left the Zoom and had continued to lecture for about 10 minutes without anyone there to listen to him.

“He was just like ‘Oh, really? OK, sorry about that. How long was I gone for?’” she said.

Awkward interruptions
Junior Elena Picone said she was in a Zoom breakout room with a few other students when her brother walked into the kitchen and passed gas “extremely loud” in front of an unmuted camera.

“I don’t know if my classmates in the breakout room heard it, but I heard it and I knew what it was,” she said. “I decided to not say anything, but I just had to try really hard to not laugh.”

During a separate incident, Picone said she was taking a test on Respondus LockDown Browser for Blackboard, an application that records users’ audio and video while they complete an assignment, when her boyfriend put his foot in front of the camera and started wiggling it to joke with her, which the professor will see if they watch the recording. They had just finished dinner and she said he had a piece of onion on his sock, so he said “Would you like some onion?” to the camera.

“My boyfriend didn’t know I was in a test,” she said. “It was really funny, and I laughed a lot.”

Zoom bomber
Sophomore Sophie Brault said her comparative politics class was “pranked” three consecutive times. She said someone who was not a student in the class would enter the Zoom call to play random “weird” videos from YouTube and type in the chat comparing the professor to C-3PO from Star Wars. 

She said the class felt bad because the professor struggled to remove the bomber from the Zoom. And while the professor could temporarily mute the bomber, they struggled to prevent them from returning each class.

“The students were really annoyed and we all felt bad for the professor because he kept trying so hard to fix it and get back on track,” Brault said.

Out of concern for “Zoom bombers,” anonymous people who disrupt a Zoom call, administrators sent out a slew of security tips, like enabling waiting room or passwords, to keep them out of the classroom.

She said her class never figured out who the prankster was, but her peers assumed they were a GW student because they had access to the class Zoom link.

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