Zoom Proves a Challenge for Highly Interactive Classes

As the university switched to remote learning on March 11, students voiced their concerns on adapting to video-conferencing software.

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Alexandra Chan

A student opens the Zoom application and prepares to sign in. Wednesday was the first day of NYU’s transition to online classes on Zoom, the video conferencing platform. (Staff Photo by Alexandra Chan)

By Nicole Rosenthal, Editor-at-Large

Last month, Gallatin senior Kate O’Mara was looking forward to visiting Dublin over spring break for a class that centered around the Irish writer James Joyce in his native city. Instead, O’Mara found herself sitting before her computer, installing the video conferencing software Zoom after her trip to Ireland was canceled, and NYU moved to remote learning amid the spread of COVID-19. 

“It’s just going to be a normal class about James Joyce from now on,” O’Mara said, citing that the class may see a play and go to an Irish restaurant instead, while class discussions will now be held remotely on Zoom. “[I’m] definitely disappointed. This is not the experience I was supposed to have.”

Across the university, undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students have moved to online classes using Zoom while the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt daily life in New York City.

Students involved in majors which include technical, hands-on work who typically performed in studios, workshops and rehearsal spaces, are concerned over the limitations of remote learning.

For solo musicians, singers and ensembles who require rehearsal time, the delays in video conferencing or unwanted audio feedback can waste valuable practice time.

Several music majors opt for Google Hangouts instead of Zoom, while others prefer FaceTime. Steinhardt senior Ian Fales said that most video conferencing apps are detrimental to sound quality, a crucial aspect of music-based courses.

“All [apps] distort sound/pitch quality and lag slightly,” Fales said.

Steinhardt senior Maya Maloney-Hupert echoed Fales statement, stating that Zoom was not conducive to a successful learning environment for music students.

“[Zoom] seems messy, and only good for lecture classes for CAS and Stern students,” Maloney-Hupert said. “The sound quality is mediocre and inconsistent which makes practicing instruments and dynamics even harder and it doesn’t allow for proper critiquing of playing instruments.”

Both Mahoney-Hupert and Fales are still waiting to hear if their senior recitals — an integral culmination of four years of musical instruction at NYU — will even happen this semester.

Tisch senior Marissa Bay Riggs is part of the Strasburg Practicum, a selective workshop that performs a play written exclusively for the program. The workshop is currently on hold. 

Riggs detailed musicals, plays and one-acts written by classmates and peers which were, at a time, scheduled to be performed at the end of the spring semester.

“How am I supposed to do a scene via Zoom?” asked Riggs. “How can I get my stage combat certification without a scene partner? How can I create my own work or stage a production if I can’t meet in person? Moving to remote classes feels like an inadequate solution for students who are in programs that are built on hands-on instruction.”

Email Nicole Rosenthal at [email protected]