In order to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, students and faculty alike have had to adapt to a new University of Richmond. One major change has been a shift toward online learning via Zoom, in the form of fully online and hybrid classes.
“I think good education can happen anywhere,” said marketing professor William Bergman, who is teaching three in-person classes and one fully online course.
Bergman said that he had found that students in his online class were more honest and participatory than in his in-person classes. Yet, he is not enthusiastic about using Zoom, Bergman said.
Yet Bergman also thinks that keeping student attention during Zoom classes is a challenge, he said.
“I think Zoom, ultimately, can put you to sleep,” Bergman said. “It’s hard to keep people engaged the whole time.”
Other professors have embraced the shift. Kerstin Soderlund, associate dean for student and external affairs of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, thinks a positive of virtual classrooms is being able to see students without face masks, she said.
“One thing I’ll say this semester, which I think is an advantage over teaching in person, is that I get to see all my students' faces,” Soderlund said. “I think about faculty who are teaching all new students they’ve never met or first-year students. So I really enjoy that element of it.”
Soderlund is teaching three fully online sections of LDST 488 this semester, she said.
With programs such as Zoom being used for online classes, issues are bound to arise. Whether it be leaving a microphone on mute or a student being kicked out of the session, some professors need assistance. Since Aug. 24, when classes first started, more than 11,000 meetings have been held via Zoom, according to an email sent to faculty, staff and students from David Hale, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Jeffrey Legro, executive vice president and provost.
Online learning has given rise to a new student position on campus, the technology assistant.
Technology assistants provide faculty with technical support, either in fully online classes or in hybrid classrooms, where students are both in the physical classroom and taking the course online, said Jake Holm, a sophomore who is working as a technology assistant.
Holm applied for the position of technology assistant after receiving an email from Laura Thompson, assistant dean of undergraduate student services at the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, he said.
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Holm’s training consisted of getting a link to the SpiderTechNet that had useful tips for managing Zoom as well as a 20-minute-long tutorial video for how to resolve basic problems with Zoom, he said.
Teresa Rozier, a junior from D.C. and in-person student, was not expecting UR to remain active during the fall semester. But with classes continuing, she has needed to adapt, she said.
"I expected UR classes to go online within a couple weeks into the semester, so I actually haven't minded the partially online semester," Rozier said. "The biggest challenge I had adapting was getting myself to make and stick to a schedule that helped me stay active while balancing an unpredictable hybrid class schedule."
The shift to hybrid classrooms and online learning has raised questions regarding what the future of learning will look like. Will a new digital format make teaching in-person obsolete?
Don Forsyth, professor and chair in ethical leadership at the leadership school, believes that education is not the only field being changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“It’s somewhat local, you know — how will it affect Richmond? — but it’s also sort of global,” Forsyth said. “I think this is going to change not just teaching but everything. I think that corporations are going to shift to more online conferencing if the corporations discover that they don’t have to have people come in every day and sit in offices and talk in conference rooms.
"I think there’s going to be a shift, and not just in education. I think there’s going to be a shift toward distance interaction.”
Contact news writer Quinn Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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