Students “Zoom” Into the Virtual Classroom

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By Jade Leah Burns and Jillian Mehta, Staff Writer and Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

Professor Jean Carlomusto conducts class over Zoom on March 18-Courtesy of Shannon Miller

After someone with an office in the Life Sciences/Pell Hall building tested positive for the new coronavirus (COVID-19), Chief Administrative Officer Joseph Schaefer sent out an email on March 12 notifying the campus community that the university was moving all face-to-face classes to an online platform called Zoom.

Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop client and mobile app that allows users to meet online with or without video or audio. The cloud-based platform calls themselves “the leader in modern enterprise video communications” that’s easy and reliable for collaboration, chat and webinars.

Schaefer’s notice followed two emails sent on March 11, one from university President Dr. Kimberly Cline, and another from Executive Dean of Students Michael Berthel, alerting students and faculty that classes would be moved online for two weeks only. Schaefer’s email explained that the person in Pell Hall who contracted the virus was also in Kahn Hall before noticing symptoms.

“To ensure all students have time to prepare during this week of spring break, the university has decided that all online instruction will now extend until the end of the spring semester,“ Schaefer wrote in the email.

Given the current circumstances, Zoom offers a way to complete classes digitally, but its convenience is defined by the major of the student using the program.

Sara Wally, a freshman musical theatre major, was nervous about her new reality in a virtual classroom.

“It’s really hard to have online classes when all of your family members are also stuck at home because their schools have canceled, and my parents are working from home, especially as a performance based major,” Wally said. “It’s been really challenging to find areas in my house that are big and quiet enough for me to dance, sing and act.”

Steele Whitney, a sophmore acting major, expressed how Zoom is practically impossible to use for classes within his major; however, his two lecture classes work very well online.

Steele Whitney experiments with green screen background options on Zoom-Courtesy of Steele Whitney

“I think Zoom is better than nothing, but I am not getting nearly as much out of it as I would in person,” Whitney said.

The biggest difference for some, like Elissa Rose, a sophmore international relations major who doesn’t mind taking her classes online, is the environment that she is learning in.

“I try my best to pay attention to the professors and their materials, but it makes me feel less motivated since I can do class in bed and have no discipline to keep me from my distractions…being on my phone, TV, eating,” Rose said.

Some students have concerns about how complicated going digital can be, and Rose is one of them. She said sometimes her WiFi cuts out or the sound and video don’t always work. The program also has a tendency to lag and have delays, according to Whitney, which becomes a disadvantage for certain majors.

But within the chaos, Rose and Whitney discovered ways to make learning online fun.

“The coolest part about Zoom is the backgrounds,” Whitney said.

There is a feature within the program that allows any user to change the background like a green screen. There is also a feature where students can use emojis to react to things said by others in the class.

“It’s fun when you can use the reactions to give a thumbs up or raise your hand without interrupting,” Rose said.

During a video chat, students can see other students, their professors and their professors’ computer screens for the purpose of power points and videos. Teachers can even split classes into “breakout groups” where students can have discussions about different topics in groups within their class.

All classes are automatically enabled to record to the cloud so teachers and the university can view them after a session is done. The recorded files can be downloaded to a computer or streamed from a browser which is a helpful feature for students who miss a class.

Students, faculty and staff can either log onto the Zoom website for assistance or contact the LIU Post IT Help desk at (516) 299-3300, http://it.liu.edu or email it@liu.edu.

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