Transitioning to online classes means implementing new technology to make the experience for both teachers and students easier. But, some say online classes lack key connections that face-to-face classes provide.
While this transition has been especially hard on students, some professors have struggled to adapt and crunch their lesson plans to an online setting.
WSU voice instructor Jonathan Lasch said his teaching relies on a personal teacher-student relationship.
“I mostly teach one-on-one voice lessons,” he said. “Assessing what the student is going through mentally, physically and emotionally is essential, (and) a huge amount of what I do cannot be fully transferred to online contact.”
To carry out the remainder of his courses and keep in touch with his students, Lasch uses FaceTime and Zoom to teach individual sessions. In addition, he uses Canvas, email and text messages to send out course announcements.
Lasch said the technology aims to imitate in-person classes. While it does allow students and teachers to communicate, it lacks the productivity that exists in a classroom setting.
“With both Zoom and FaceTime, there is almost always a delay,” he said. “Also, the students cannot hear my side while they are singing, so they can’t hear me coaching them or commenting during singing, which I like to do in order to be time-efficient.”
Freshman mechanical engineering major Charles Franklin said he learns better when interacting with others in a classroom setting.
“The switch to online learning has been very inconvenient for me,” Franklin said. “I’m more of a person who has to be moving around and needs that one-on-one with my professors.”
Although virtual learning has its challenges, Franklin said he appreciates the constant notifications from his professors reminding him of deadlines.
“For Canvas, I like how it updates you on assignments such as when something is new, when you get the grade and also when it notifies you to start the conference for your classes,” Franklin said.
Tom Duszynski, director of marketing and service management for WSU Computing & Information Technology, said several different platforms are being used by professors.
“We've been using Canvas for a couple of years now, and the embedded conferencing tool that comes with Canvas that we have is called Big Blue Button,” Duszynski said. “Big Blue Button works for delivering video-conferencing type classroom experience in an online environment.”
There’s also Zoom, a video-call service, on the rise since remote learning came about during the pandemic. The app surged in growth from 1.99 million to 2.22 million monthly users according to Bernstein Research.
Duszynski said Microsoft Teams is another online platform used similar to Big Blue Button and Zoom. The Microsoft application provides the option for students to record and playback their lectures.
WSU announced spring and summer classes will be taught online. On April 15, Provost Keith Whitfield sent an employee-wide email saying WSU is planning for a potential online fall semester.
Alanna Williams is a contributing writer for The South End.