COVID-19, Zoom meetings and technology: Students and faculty respond

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Written by: Patrick McGraw

According to Yahoo Finance, shares of Zoom Video Communications, Inc., sold for as little as $88.64 apiece at the beginning of February 2020, just one month before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. As of February 2021, shares are selling for over $400 apiece — an astonishing increase of over 300%. In a single year, Zoom became a household name.

COVID-19 has affected the lives of people in many ways, but the rapid growth of Zoom is an example of one of its broader impacts — its effect on technology, and the way people use it in their daily lives. 

For students and faculty at Southern, Zoom can sometimes offer a greater level of convenience than in-person interactions. 

Arceo Primero, sophomore accounting and construction management major, said tools like Zoom have profoundly affected the way he engages with events on campus. 

“I enjoy attending stuff like convocation and Vespers over Zoom way more than I did in-person,” Primero said. “The flexibility that it gives me is very useful. It’s really convenient, and it allows me to participate without ever leaving my room, which makes me feel very comfortable and safe, as well as more productive.” 

Primero went on to say that attending digitally makes him feel more inclined to get worship credits and engage more fully with the content.

Rick Halterman, School of Computing Dean, also shared his perspective on the ways COVID-19 has affected technology.

“Even before the pandemic, there were an increasing number of software developers working from home,” Halterman said. “The pandemic now has forced most developers to work from home. Published reports and personal conversations with those involved suggest that programmer productivity has not been negatively affected by the distributed development model. Virtual meetings, for example, can be more focused and efficient.” 

Halterman also pointed out that when compared to older forms of communication such as the telephone or the postal system, modern technology keeps people connected in ways that would not have been possible before. 

However, adapting to Zoom and other technology-related solutions is not always convenient. Junior engineering major Kevin Salas said he found it more difficult to engage with Zoom classes than classes taken in-person.

“The idea of being able to attend classes from your computer sounds good in theory, but it wasn’t very effective for my personal learning experience,” Salas said. “Having to attend a class through the same device I use to consume media can get very distracting, especially when you have notifications coming in and constant access to any sort of media you want to consume.”

Mike McClung, associate director for Southern’s Information Technology (IT) Department, said his department experienced a drastic increase in support calls during the initial shift to online classes.

“When we went online, a number of teachers didn’t have laptops — as well as students,” McClung said. “We lent out a lot of laptops for students and faculty, as well as Verizon MiFis for students who didn’t have internet access.”

He said that the increase in support requests included numerous problems relating to Zoom However, IT’s current workload is much lighter than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“We’re less busy now, but still noticeably busier than before the pandemic,” McClung said. 

Despite the increased comfort of using Zoom, some students still prefer the traditional classroom setting.

“It’s very easy for my calculus teacher to give a lecture over a camera,” Salas said. “But, for me, staying focused on a lecture when I’m in my sweatpants and hoodie in my room is quite difficult. Something about being in a classroom makes it a lot easier to focus on what the teacher is trying to show you.”

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