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From jazz to LFIT, UNC professors plan how they'll take their classes online next week

DTH Photo Illustration. A student sits at a desk on March 16, 2020. UNC students and professors are preparing for online instruction.

UNC professor Allen Anderson  sat in one room while a faculty member played a marimba in another. The pair connected through the virtual meeting platform, Zoom. 

Allen, chairperson of the Department of Music, said he has been strategizing how best to move music classes online in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. He said Zoom is designed to handle speech but not singing or instruments. 

Allen has been doing room-to-room experiments, he said, to better understand how virtual learning might succeed for students and faculty.

He said the marimba could be heard just fine through video call, but the more complex sounds of vocals and multi-instrument songs are compressed.

“Of course in music, that’s where we live, adjusting sound quality in real time,” Allen said. 

All UNC classes are scheduled to restart the week of March 23, but the majority of these classes will be online and students have been asked to remain off campus. 

“It’s demoralizing for faculty and students that they might not be able to show what they’ve done,” Allen said.

For ensemble classes, he said that the department is considering instructing students to record themselves performing individually. All the personal performances, he said, could be edited together in “post-production.”

Professor of composition and jazz studies Stephen Anderson said in a statement that classes like music theory will likely have a straightforward transition to online. Symphony orchestra, string quintet and an 18-piece jazz band, he said, are nearly impossible to rehearse remotely. 

“There is just so much of musical nuance that is lost, not to mention ensemble balance, slight time-lag and so forth while using even the very best video streaming technologies,” Stephen said in the statement. 

In the Department of Dramatic Art, professor David Navalinsky said he has been planning by putting classes into categories based on anticipated difficulty of their online transition. He said he and his colleges were surprised by the ease of moving some classes to remote learning. 

Other courses, like hands-on practicum courses, are presenting a larger challenge, he said. 

Navalinsky said he has found helpful resources — like a Facebook group of other professors and theater professionals from across the country. The group bounces ideas off one another and offers expertise and support, Navalinsky said. 

“This will be difficult for everyone, but students need to be flexible, and faculty need to be flexible,” he said. 

These new challenges aren’t limited to the arts. 

Director of the Lifetime Fitness Program Becca Battaglini said her goal is for students to remain active. With students off campus, she said, this may be through the guidance of YouTube videos, apps or instructor workouts.  

“We had to get creative,” she said. 

For remote LFIT classes, Battaglini said students will be expected to fill out a log of their physical activity and submit pictures and videos. Attendance and grading, she said, will be based on submitting the daily logs for participation.

“It is important to remind students that it is possible to stay active in these crazy, changing times,” she said.

Yoga, walking and other forms of movement can help calm students’ anxiety and stress, Battaglini said.

“It’s uncertain what COVID-19 will bring, and students need to take care of their physical and mental health,” she said.  

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The University has extended spring break an additional week to encourage social distancing and to allow faculty time to prepare for online instruction. Faculty training on remote technology is also being offered. 

“We are committed to ensuring our faculty has the resources they need to continue to deliver the highest standard of educational experience for our students,” a media relations representative said on behalf of the University in an email. 

It is unclear when the University will be able to resume normal operations. 

Navalinsky said he anticipates major changes in education under the pandemic.

“It’s not going to be the same,” he said. “If we embrace the fact that it’s not going to be the same, I think we’re going to be alright.”