First weeks of class pose technological challenges

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-in-Chief

With some students opting to take all of their classes remotely and other classes being offered in a hybrid model, the university has had to utilize new technology and new platforms to deliver a quality education to students.


For students opting to learn remotely, video chat platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Big Blue Button and Zoom are being utilized. In some classes, every student and faculty member joins through video chat, but for other classes, the professor and some students are in the classroom while other students join in remotely. These classes are utilizing a Lumens Ladibug Document Camera so that remote students can see the professor teach in real time.


“There are many different technologies being used to deliver teaching and learning to students at a distance,” Tim Wilson, the Director of Information Technology, said.  “The one that most of our student body is experiencing is the use of Microsoft Teams and web cams in the classroom.  This allows a faculty member to conduct a live, synchronous class session with students.”


However, with the new learning models and technology have come new challenges.


“I had a professor in a Microsoft Teams meeting not turn on her camera, microphone or a PowerPoint while joined in the meeting,” Madie Mitchell, a sophomore Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management (SAEM) and IT double major, said. “The class is a one credit session that only meets eight times a semester, so I missed all of that material…we emailed her, messaged her, but she never caught on, which means she probably didn’t acknowledge the virtual class at all while in person.” 


Other students have pinpointed WiFi as being a significant factor in the quality of their classes this year.


“Occasionally, the WiFi at the hotel will randomly crash, and sometimes this means we have to log back in, using our room number and last name,” Ray Hazenstab, a junior broadcast production and media management major, said. 


Hazenstab is currently one of the nearly 150 students living in the nearby Hilton Gardens Hotel. 


“Aside from this, at least in the first week, there was an issue with the professor having the wrong window loaded on BigBlueButton,” he said.


“I wouldn’t say there’s been any difficulties with the actual technology, more so the WiFi here on campus,” Megan Locke, a junior accounting major who lives in the Boulevard Apartments, said. “For all of my remote classes so far, I have had to connect my computer to my phone as the WiFi kept leaving the feed frozen.”


Wilson though, said that his department is ready and able to take on this semester.


“We did many different things to prepare for this academic year and the changing landscape,” Wilson said. “A leadership team was assembled within information technology that included a member of the Provost’s Office. This team began to interview members of the faculty back in May who teach in academic disciplines that are heavily dependent on technology. From these discussions around the possible scenarios related to COVID, decisions were made to purchase specific technologies that would help the faculty meet their instructional teaching goals.”


Wilson also said that while the IT department did not increase in size, the department has “reorganized” in preparation for the semester. Wilson said that faculty and administration’s willingness to “try new things” and “think differently,” has also been key.


Aside from technology issues, students have also noticed the faculty’s work in making remote and hybrid classes work as seamlessly as possible.


“Other than that one issue, I’ve been pleasantly surprised as to how my professors have been handling the hyflex classes,” Mitchell said.