Students in some classes at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma can attend class without leaving the house.
Murray State College Associate Professor Kathy Bowen said she used a video conference program called Zoom to teach students who were traveling or lived far from campus. Students could either attend class in person or opt for the Zoom program, which they could use on a computer or on mobile. Bowen said she recorded attendance and noted which students attended in person and who attended through Zoom.
“It’s free up to a point, so my students could all use it,” Bowen said. “Now, because I use it so extensively, the school paid for me to use it.”
She taught the class, Intro to Accounting, on the Tishomingo campus as well. She said that she’s tried other programs, but settled on Zoom because it suited her needs best. Bowen said the class relies heavily on visuals, but adapting her lectures for Zoom was manageable.
“Enrollment was okay, but I’d have some people who said they couldn’t find a babysitter,” Bowen said. “We’d been using Zoom on campus and I wasn’t really familiar, but I decided to give it a try.”
She said, in some cases, students who were mothers would feed or hold their babies during an ongoing lecture.
“That’s fine, if she’s paying attention,” Bowen said. “I’d much rather she did that than have a student say ‘I can’t come to class because I don’t have a babysitter.’”
Another student once attended class from the passenger seat of a moving car her husband was driving. Bowen said she forbade the student from driving during the lecture.
“From my perspective, they’re going to get out of it what they want,” Bowen said. “If that student truly gets the lesson, then it’s their responsibility to pay attention. If they don’t, I can’t help them. They probably would have done the same thing in the classroom.”
There are limitations. Students have to dress and act as if they’re in class and mute their mics to prevent a commotion. Pajamas are never permitted. Bowen said aside from a few distractions in her students’ respective environments, there weren’t many issues.
“I don’t see a whole lot of difference,” Bowen said. “Sometimes a family member would walk through a room and stop, probably to listen in. That was a little weird.”
The program lets users screenshare and view multiple windows at one time. The chat feature also lets students message her without interrupting the lecture, and the service can also record sessions for later.
“If you want it to be available later for students who missed class, I just push a button,” Bowen said. “To me that’s awesome, but the first time I tried to download it I accidentally deleted it before I could get it on to Blackboard.”
She said student feedback was mostly positive. One student pointed out that it could be difficult to quickly get the professor’s attention just by waving.