Ball State students, teachers reflect on switching to virtual meetings – ABOUT MAG 2020

Visitors watching, admiring and reflecting on a work of art – evoking a sense of satisfaction in the artist – is one of many things that needs to be done virtually in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exhibition that shows students’ design projects for a Computer Science 120 course, historically held in the lobby of the art and journalism building, had to be completely online this semester.

People could see the artwork created by students at the art show Internet network location. If they wanted to speak with the artist, they could do so through a WebEx video conference, in which some students were present. The judges, who reportedly offered their comments in person, did so through Google Forms.

McKenna Kaczanowski, a student in the class, said she preferred a show in person, but was grateful to have a show.

“This is just the situation we are in, and I think it’s really great that teachers are trying to make the best of it and still give us this program, even if we can’t be there in person,” applied the junior, said a major in mathematics. “I think everyone is trying to make it work as well as possible at the moment, and I think it’s great.”

Ball State students and teachers are some of the many people around the world who have had to transition to online platforms for their work, education and other activities.

For Dave Largent, associate professor of computer science who teaches Kaczanowski’s class, while the logistics of establishing a videoconference call was easy, the challenges his students face were having access to it.

These challenges, said Largent, include having reliable internet and good bandwidth and adapting to students’ schedules since they returned home.

“I would like to think that I am still being effective. Let’s see,” he said. “I miss physical interaction with people on a regular basis.”

Largent said that entering a classroom with 20 to 30 students is a little different than sitting in front of a screen and talking to them, hoping they can hear you well and have no problems with the use of technology.

“There is something from a human point of view about being physically close to people, being able to interact with them, that comes very close to something like WebEx … but it’s not quite the same,” he said.

There is a place for virtual and personal learning, said Largent. They could use something like WebEx to connect and troubleshoot problems that students might have virtually.

“There is no reason why I cannot do this in the future, even if we are face to face [classes], when students are working at night and trying to solve them ”, he said. “Instead of sending a series of emails, why don’t we open a video chat and share the screen.”

Dave Largent, associate professor of computer science, works at his desk on April 10, 2020 at home. Because classes were moved online and Ball State buildings were closed during the semester, Largent organized the semiannual art exhibition for students in his CS120 class virtually. Dave Largent, Photo provided

Several classes that were moved online were not designed to be online, such as the English education classes by Pamela Hartman, an associate English teacher.

“As we are working, if I had not reached the place I was in the semester, I think it could have been a potential disaster,” said Hartman. “But as far as what I’m doing, I think it’s going surprisingly well.”

Some things that are stressful for her include finding out whether the Wi-Fi connection is strong enough, whether her home has a quiet enough environment for the class, whether the cat can pass through the screen and deal with constant distractions while working on House .

The biggest stress, she said, is figuring out how to manage total quarantine and maintain a routine at the same time.

Although Hartman has simplified or changed the tasks of her classes, she said that her students feel overwhelmed because some of her classes are practically missing, many of them feel they lack the support they could have and other teachers have not made changes. for assignments.

In addition to the irregular internet, she said other issues that caught her attention include a student who needs to leave university for mental health reasons, students who need to leave their dormitories in the middle of the semester and not have jobs to pay their bills.

Although they do not overcome stress, Hartman said, the positives came from virtual learning.

“It got me thinking outside the box,” she said. “In a way, this is pleasant. I mean, it was totally stressful at first, but when you get into the rhythm, it’s like, ‘Oh, that could work’. It made me think differently about how I teach, my tasks … and maybe I also try to learn a lot more technology. “

Hartman said that many of his classes focus on using art to teach literacy. As she and her students tried to debate creative ways to achieve this goal, her students made her try out many apps – including TikTok.

“My daughter told me what it was a few weeks ago, but I had never used it and had no interest,” she said. “I felt silly, you know, trying to find out, and then my students made me like someone in class.”

Although she never develops the use of these applications in her classes, she said that her students, some of whom hope to be teachers, had an idea of ​​what it is like to deal with emergencies when they need to change their classes online.

“I hope it will be like a snowy day here and there,” said Hartman. “You don’t know, three months of the school year.”

Online learning is not the only thing that has changed for students. Organizations, such as the Student Government Association (SGA), have also had to resort to weekly weekly Senate meetings.

Aiden Medellin, president of the SGA, said that while he does not prefer this over personal meetings, having meetings at the WebEx conference has at least brought some kind of normality – something he said SGA senators appreciate.

In addition to the meetings being more informal than usual, he said they now follow a less rigorous version of Robert’s Rules of Order – the parliamentary procedure used in several formal meetings.

“Things are not the way they were when we were physically meeting, but we are still doing what we can,” said Medellin. “We are trying to make it as serious as possible, because we don’t want people to lose their passion or be able to do things.”

Using virtual conferencing to hold weekly SGA meetings, he said, is “the best worst thing we could do”, adding, “this is the best possible”.

Documenting the lives of students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is something that students in the sociology course of Melinda Messineo, professor of sociology, carried out.

As part of the class, Messineo said, they were doing personal reflections on their own lives – car ethnographies – and doing interviews with two people in the Muncie community about their experiences during the pandemic. Ultimately, this will be part of the largest collection archived by Ball State’s Middletown Study Center.

Messineo said that many of the students in the main class talk about the pain they experienced and the process of experiencing that pain in dealing with the abrupt end of their experiences in college.

She also recognized the scale of the transition that students had to make and the disruption this may have caused students due to different teachers who conduct classes differently and students who need to adapt to online classes.

For all these reasons, however, she said that her students “were extremely positive”.

“They talk about how difficult it is and how they prefer to come face to face, but they are also happy to have the connection, something to do and the structure of taking classes.”

Messineo added: “It really is a gift in many ways that we can still keep in touch”. She said this could be an opportunity for people to try to explore many things while staying at home.

“I’m imagining a hundred years ago, when people were quarantined [during the 1918 flu pandemic] and how much more lonely they all must have felt and disconnected, and while we’re sharing … this horrible and very painful experience, how the world is gathering in these virtual places in ways that had never been possible before, ”she said. .

“In our isolation, I can imagine really creative moments and opportunities for people when we think in a thoughtful and reflective way that there will be personal growth that also comes from that and I appreciate the things that I think are really fast. world we may have lost sight of, ”she said. “There may be a little silver coating on all of this.”

Please contact Rohith Rao with comments at or on Twitter @RaoReports.

Paula Fonseca