Zoom app on iPhone and laptop. Photo by @wordssmithmedia on Unsplash.
Byline: Carlos Martinez, Web Editor
With 96% of fall 2020 classes being offered online, California State University, Dominguez Hills is encouraging students to handle their classes remotely.
As virtual learning has expanded to the spring 2021 semester, CSUDH is implementing more practices to ensure safety and success for all students, faculty and staff.
On Sept. 2, the Office of Information Technology sent an email to faculty members and staff of new procedures to increase security measures when using Zoom, requiring all Zoom meetings to have a passcode or a waiting room enabled starting Sept. 27.
“These security measures are designed to give you control over your meeting security options while keeping the join experience as frictionless as possible,” I.T. said in the email.
Despite having more robust measures to keep the Zoom sessions going smoothly, it has proved too problematic for some students.
Jessica Ross, a senior, communications major, believes that although the university is being proactive during the COVID-19 pandemic, these measures are adding a layer of frustration of remote learning to her and her three children.
“[I] basically have to learn on my own,” Ross said. “Zoom is never smooth….and a lot of time is spent troubleshooting.”
Although Ross’s professors had yet to implement waiting rooms and passcodes for her class sessions, Ross has experienced through her children’s high school and elementary school, respectively, are required to use passcodes and waiting rooms each session for their discretion.
“In many cases, they can’t log back in during lunch,” Ross said. “They’re stuck in waiting rooms for a very long time.”
Ross adds that communication is highly necessary between herself and teachers in order to maintain stability and consistency for each session. As both her professors and her children’s teachers rely on Zoom for attendance, she said that she often finds herself emailing or calling teachers to keep them aware of the situation.
Staff and faculty have been trying to avoid issues similar to Ross’ with summer zoom training and other resources such as a faculty symposium to ensure the start of the fall semester would transition smoothly online.
According to Interim Associate Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Matthew Smith, these trainings have been curated to provide faculty and staff guidance with safety while using Zoom, such as not making it mandatory for students and faculty to have their microphones and web cameras on during each session.
“We’re still maintaining responsibility for student safety in this virtual setting,” Smith said. “We want to make sure that we are in a better spot when compared to spring 2020.”
In addition to sending students an email with the student code of conduct enclosed, Smith added that the I.T. department has also developed measures to securely store recordings of student and course chats along with video Zoom sessions.
Dr. Kari Pederson, an assistant professor of chemistry, has been able to take it upon herself to experiment with the app to prepare for the semester.
“We have been using Zoom in our meetings so it’s familiar,” Pederson said. “Also, we were provided with faculty training since January and during the transition from in-person to online which helps.”
In addition to using Zoom as a host in sessions, Pederson had some experience with using Zoom from the perspective of a student in other lectures and virtual events. She added that it helped her find a safer approach for students to participate online.
“Everyone’s situation is different,” she said. “Using web cameras is not required, but it is encouraged. If they don’t feel comfortable using their web cameras or microphones, I remind them that typing is a great alternative.”
Pederson has also participated in a Facebook group created by the Higher Ed Learning Collective. The group focuses on helping educators with the sudden shift towards a virtual learning experience.
“The Higher Ed Learning Collective is a community…building towards a more connected future,” the group said on their website. “Knowing that many faculty were not prepared for an abrupt transition to teaching online, we created a virtual space for faculty to work together to empower and educate each other.”
Yesenia Hernandez, a senior, advertising & public relations major, believes CSUDH’s handling of mandating Zoom practices goes well overall.
“I appreciate that they are doing that,” Hernandez said. “It’s working well for the most part.”
During class sessions, Hernandez mentioned that her professors have been asking for permission to record their lessons for students who may have issues with an internet connection.
“It feels comfortable to participate in class discussions,” she said. “We’re more encouraged to talk as they listen.”
In Hernandez’s case, her classes have yet to implement a waiting room or password during these sessions. She said that her professors give their students trust as everyone is trying to get accustomed to the ever-changing virtual realm.
“Trust goes a long way,” Hernandez said. “It makes [us give] effort to do everything.”