Faculty, students navigate hiccups as classes go digital for the next month

(Arielle Chen | Daily Trojan)

Students and faculty are managing how to transition classes online and navigate technological problems following the first day of remote instruction. Several classes encountered problems with class engagement, while others made the digital shift smoothly.

The three-day online trial period started Wednesday and incorporated virtual instruction through Blackboard and Zoom. Most laboratories and performance-based classes did not participate in the trial. In a campus-wide email, Provost Charles Zukoski announced online classes will continue through April 13. 

Anthropology professor Erin Moore usually conducts her lectures by incorporating group discussions and visual content, but hasn’t figured out how to do so while classes remain online. To prepare professors to teach classes digitally, she said USC provided one-on-one Zoom tutorials through USC Information Technology Services.

“The last few days, there’s been practically a place to learn Zoom every hour of the day, some place on campus,” Moore said. “[USC] flooded everyone with potential for learning.”

As of yet, she said she is not comfortable with the program but hopes to improve with each lesson. 

“I think that each time I do it, I’ll learn a few more of the features, and it’ll be less alien to me about how to use it and how to get back some of the intimacy in a classroom that you have that you don’t have over Zoom,” Moore said.

Josh Weadick, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, said in his “Introduction to Digital Circuits” class, the professor opted to conduct class on Webex, another online conference platform, instead of Zoom. He said the professor had often used other educational programs to submit assignments instead of Blackboard.

“I’m in engineering, and most of our classes are lecture-based, so it was pretty much the same as being in lecture,” Weadick said. “I was expecting it to be a little more challenging to understand him and get his notes, but it was pretty much the same. It was actually a little nice because there’s a chat box that students were talking in while he was lecturing for clarifications from each other.”

Clara Miller, a junior majoring in design, said she had varying experiences with the platform depending on the professor leading the class. One professor conducted an exam on Zoom to accommodate student circumstances and provided exam documents on Blackboard in case students experienced internet connection difficulties. Another professor did not encourage enough interaction with students via the program, she said. 

“The [professor] did not [require students to have] cameras on … she didn’t have her own camera on, she’s just talking while the slides were on [Zoom],” Miller said. “It felt really easy to zone out or not listen … She didn’t make an effort to try to engage people.”

Although Miller said she believed her first day went smoothly, the online classes could not replace the in-person experience. 

“It’s a weird thing when you’re not like in the presence of someone,” Miller said. “You can’t always get your emotions across text, it’s even hard across the camera … It feels very one-sided.” 

Moore, who plans to work on learning new features on Zoom to incorporate an interactive setting with students, said the new setting will require students to be more responsible with their academics. 

“You can’t form the same kind of communities that you can in a classroom,” Moore said. “You’re less able to form and nurture a learning community … I think it also puts a lot of the onus on the students to start taking charge of their own education.”