UC Berkeley transitions to online classes, campus communities react

Isabella Ko/Staff

Related Posts

Many campus instructors have turned to online teaching methods, such as the use of Zoom, in response to the campus’s decision to suspend most in-person classes to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus.

In a campuswide email sent by Chancellor Carol Christ on March 9, Christ listed Zoom as a resource for instructors to use as an alternative to in-person classes. Zoom is a video communication tool that can be used for lectures, discussions, office hours and meetings, among others, according to its website.

“Zoom has the ability to handle numerous devices without failing and there is a university wide license for it,” said ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Aastha Jha in an email.

Jha said she supports continuing instruction in minimally disruptive ways, but added that not all students have access to the internet and laptops. Buildings such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and Eshleman Hall are remaining open to provide students with access to Wi-Fi, according to Jha.

Campus junior Nikhil Gupta said all four of his STEM classes have transitioned to Zoom classes.

Gupta helps instruct the DeCal “UC Hogwarts: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” for which discussion time has moved online, but other in-person activities are canceled. Gupta added that “there’s less infrastructure built” for DeCals in transitioning to online systems.

“In this kind of environment with health concerns, this is a major advantage not being in a closed space,” Gupta said. “It definitely makes things more acceptable. You can be a lot more comfortable, wherever you are listening to your lecture.”

Campus sophomore Jack Smith posted about his statistics Zoom lecture in the Overheard at UC Berkeley Facebook group when his professor brought her dog on-screen during the session.

As of press time, Smith’s post has received about 1,000 reacts.

“Throughout the Zoom lecture, people were hearing her dog so people were putting in the chat box, ‘Can we see your dog?’ So, at the end of the lecture, she held up her dog to say ‘hi’ to the camera,” Smith said. “I just thought it was a really sweet moment amidst the chaos.”

Faculty members have come together to discuss how to manage Zoom classes, according to Jeremy Rue, assistant dean for academics and a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism.

Rue added that online teaching requires instructors to be more prepared with lesson plans before class begins.

“I was on a digital pedagogy committee a couple years ago, and I think it was very illuminating because teaching online has a very different modality and requires a whole new way of thinking,” Rue said. “I think the struggle right now is that we’re all trying very quickly to adapt.”

Gender and women’s studies associate professor Leslie Salzinger, who recently began using Zoom in her classes, said the experience did not go as well as she initially thought it would, as many students lost internet access during her class.

“I was still able to create something of a discussion space as well as a lecture and I thought students were very game and helpful in making it work,” Salzinger said in an email.

Salzinger added that while online learning is currently necessary to protect the community’s health, it “undercuts” the social aspect of in-person classes and makes education feel like a private experience.

To keep students engaged during lecture, instructors should make lessons interactive and visually engaging, Rue said.

Rue added that more administrators are inspired to hold online classes due to the current proliferation of Zoom classes.

“It’s always been on the forefront with people wondering if it will change the way we teach, but it was a very slow, gradual and incremental push and now we’re suddenly thrown into this,” Rue said. “This could have a huge impact on the way education is done in this country.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju and Olivia Buccieri at [email protected].