ASU transitioned the in-person classes of over a hundred professors to an online-only program Thursday as part of its efforts to plan for the possibility that students would have to work remotely due to the spread of COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus.
A University spokesperson said the testing was done across 170 classes and involved around 7,000 students, which is roughly 10% of the on-campus student body. They added that the tests are “likely to continue” after spring break.
Around 150 professors volunteered to pilot their courses using Zoom. The remote conferencing service allows students to actively participate in the video lecture by notifying their professor of a question, typing in a chat room or turning on a microphone to speak to the class as a whole.
Zoom's services are commonly used by schools and businesses for remote audio or video conferences.
The tests are in preparation for the event the COVID-19 situation worsens, but it "is also just good planning” for potential emergency situations in the future, the University spokesperson said.
A top priority of the University is to ensure the academic experience of the students is maintained in the event that access to physical ASU resources is limited, officials said.
Sophomore neuroscience and psychology major Allie Hayes received a notification that her general chemistry class was switched to Zoom last night.
Hayes said there were several issues with the Zoom format, and she personally felt like helpful components of the in-person class were lost in the transfer to online.
“We could chat with (the professor) if we needed help, but I feel like it was kind of hard to because he can't really see my screen, and then he also can't reply,” Hayes said.
Hayes said that a technical difficulty with one student’s microphone disrupted the class for about 20 minutes, and some students did not receive the email notification about the switch. She was also disappointed that she had to wake up early to “attend” a class that she could have done on her own time.
“It was also annoying because if we're able to do it online then why do we need to tune in at a certain class time?” Hayes said.
The University will only switch all in-person courses to Zoom formatting if it is necessary to limit access to the campus over coronavirus concerns. University officials said that this is unlikely to happen, but they are carefully watching the local and global developments of the outbreak.
The Zoom meetings are a part of multiple efforts on behalf of the University to prepare for an emergency scenario, either related to COVID-19 or in the future.
Other universities have implemented similar precautionary plans, with UC Berkeley suggesting March 4 that instructors review and implement options like recording lectures on platforms including Zoom or suspending attendance requirements. On March 2, NYU offered students studying abroad the option to return home and complete their studies remotely online.
Wyatt Myskow is the project manager at The State Press, where he oversees enterprise stories for the publication. He also works at The Arizona Republic, where he covers the cities of Peoria and Surprise.