Even in a normal year, it’s the careful preparation by committed faculty ahead of the semester that makes Longwood’s distinctive in-person learning experience so powerful.
This year, in the face of a global pandemic that has disrupted college campuses around the country, that work has been challenging as never before.
But at Longwood, professors like Patti Carey, Jacob Dolence and Roland Karnatz are embracing that challenge as an opportunity. They’re deploying new learning technologies and resources that will not just enhance instruction in the face of this fall’s limitations, but far into the future as well.
Our faculty have honed their disciplinary knowledge and teaching methods over the span of many years, and it has been impressive to watch them adapt to a new educational landscape in such a short period of time.Dr. Larissa Smith, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs Tweet This
“Our faculty have honed their disciplinary knowledge and teaching methods over the span of many years, and it has been impressive to watch them adapt to a new educational landscape in such a short period of time,” said Longwood University Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Larissa Smith.
“What’s most inspiring is that Longwood faculty have been motivated to do so by a genuine desire to do what's best for their students. From bringing new technologies into classrooms to using pure creativity and the resources surrounding us, their work to prepare for this semester will pay dividends for Longwood students this year and beyond.”
In a school year that President Taylor W. Reveley IV notes will be “unlike any other,” Longwood’s faculty will be on the front lines ensuring that the educational experience of the entire student body remains immersive and transformative. Each has been called on to be flexible and innovative. And while the higher education guidelines from federal Centers for Disease Control that Longwood is following for classroom learning present challenges, Longwood faculty are proving that not only can it be done, but that it can have a lasting impact for all who step foot onto campus.
“Revolutionary” Technology Setting up Music Department for 2020-21 and Beyond
When the COVID-19 global pandemic disrupted college campuses across the country, many Longwood University faculty took to video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom to facilitate remote learning. Assistant professor of music Roland Karnatz did the same, but he quickly learned that audio configurations in most of those platforms were not suitable for the level of precision and quality necessary for a discipline like music.
“We’ve got two problems: speed of transmission and quality of sound,” he said. “We’ve figured out the sound quality issue by sending it through a separate, buffered platform. I can teach a student who is on a satellite dish internet connection and at least hear their instrument with clarity; it might be four seconds of delay, but at least I can tell it’s a clarinet.”
Our world was and will remain so rooted in a face-to-face exchange of human ideas through sound. We’ve just had to add an understanding of some new technology to continue that.Roland Karnatz, Assistant professor of music Tweet This
But for musicians a delay of four seconds or – even one, for that matter – can have disastrous consequences. That’s one of many unique challenges the music department has confronted leading into the fall.
Built by digital audio networking company Audinate, Dante, which stands for Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet, is a state-of-the-art audio system that is on its way to Wygal Hall, home of the Longwood music department. Popular in recording studios, concert halls, churches, and even Longwood’s Jarman Hall auditorium, Dante aggregates sound through a local area network, rather than traditional cable runs with notoriously diminishing quality, and can distribute that sound with near-zero latency between computers.
Karnatz and several university tech experts are in the early stages of installing the system within the University’s established network, which will allow the school’s faculty and students to play together in real-time despite being rooms apart. That’s with a 10-millisecond delay in the roundtrip of sound through the system, which in the speed of sound is the equivalent of being approximately 10 feet away from the source.
“I hate to say it because it sounds so cliché, but this system can revolutionize what we can do for the rest of this semester,” Karnatz said.
And even though the challenge of instruction during a pandemic is what spurred Karnatz and the Longwood music department’s interest in Dante, the applications for the system go far beyond socially distant duets. Consider the installation-in-progress in Wygal Hall as a trial run for the long-term applications of Dante, which will be a key component of the campus’ planned new music building that will serve as the hub for a growing music department that now serves close to 70 majors and numerous ensembles.
Once in place, the Dante system itself will also give students hands-on experience with technology they are likely to work with in the professional realm, which Karnatz says has gone through immense change in the digital age.
“Four months ago we knew Dante existed, but it was irrelevant because everything was face to face,” Karnatz said. “It’s an application that, once it’s there, you start finding more and more uses for it. The students also need to know this technology exists and how to use it, and how it’s possible to move sound this fast between rooms. They’ll be able to see how one Ethernet cord can replace all the cables you would see at a rock concert 20 years ago. It’s a learning experience in itself.”
“Our world was and will remain so rooted in a face-to-face exchange of human ideas through sound. We’ve just had to add an understanding of some new technology to continue that. Right now, low-latency digital sound transmission is the ‘Holy Grail.’ I’m determined to make this work, and here at Longwood with our people and knowledge base, I think we can.”
Business Lecturer Prepares Students for Life in a Remote Business World
Patti Carey has turned the challenge of moving her Professional Skills Development class online this past spring into an opportunity that will benefit many soon-to-be job-seeking Longwood students.
Among her duties as the Director of Student Engagement & Special Initiatives in the College of Business Economics is teaching the Professional Skills Development class, which helps Longwood students polish their professional persona, with an emphasis on developing resumes and cover letters, interview techniques and their general presence in the professional world. Part of the curriculum involves a series of mock interviews, conducted on campus by Carey’s business contacts in the state.
Job interviews, whether in person or otherwise, are about more than just what you’re saying. It’s about helping our students represent themselves in the best professional way they can.Patti Carey, Director of Student Engagement & Special Initiatives in the College of Business Economics Tweet This
But with video-conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google now enmeshed in many facets of the workplace, including hiring, Carey saw Longwood’s temporary pivot to remote learning last spring as an opportunity for her class to learn the virtual ropes. She reached out to several Virginia business leaders and had them interview her students over the phone or video, and afterwards she turned it into a lesson on the nuances between each.
“Job interviews can be nerve-racking for some, even when they’re just practice, so I think there were several students who hoped we just weren’t going to do it,” she said. “But I said no, we are going to do this, and in fact it’s even more beneficial to do it now in a different way.
“During preparation, our students were as nervous for those as they are for the typical face-to-face interviews, but after it was done I found out they really liked it and so did the business leaders. “It was a success, so we’re going to keep it as part of the curriculum. It’s good practice, especially since you’re seeing more and more companies conduct these types of interviews and, even in some cases, hiring without ever having an in-person interaction.”
The traditional process of a job candidate walking into a workplace, offering a firm handshake to the potential employer and engaging in a face-to-face meeting is certainly still prevalent, but the hiring process today requires job-seekers to showcase the best of themselves across a variety of mediums.
Longwood’s Professional Skills Development class has long covered that entire spectrum, from resumes and cover letters to job interviews, elevator speech, dinner etiquette, and even golf skills. But Carey says that just as the job market evolves, so too do hiring practices, and her aim is to prepare her students for the world they’re entering after graduation, whatever it looks like. Even for a generation of students who grew up surrounded by computer monitors and phone screens, pulling off a successful interview via Zoom, Skype, Google or any other video platform is about more than just turning the camera on.
As a case in point, she shares a story with her classes about a former student who, at the end of a virtual job interview, was asked by the interviewers to stand up so they could see what he was wearing.
“Fortunately he was dressed appropriately from head to toe, not just from the waist up,” she said.
While that anecdote usually elicits plenty of laughs, Carey’s point is that students should be prepared and consider all elements of what an interviewer may see or hear during the course of a video conference.
“Appearance is very important in video interviews, and not just what you’re wearing,” she said. “I don’t want to see a student’s bed, towels hanging over their heads, closet doors or anything like that because those are distractions. We talk about using backgrounds, making sure you’re dressed appropriately, what to look at to give the impression of eye contact, camera angles, voice. If you have a dog, the dog will bark because of Murphy’s Law, so put it in another room. We talk about what we call the ‘electronic handshake,’ how and when to make introductions and small talk.
“There really is so much to be mindful of, and it’s not something you want to be doing for the first time when it’s the real thing.”
For many of Carey’s students, their first practice with digital mock interviews came last spring. Now, after an unplanned trial run this past spring, that practice is a permanent part of the curriculum.
“Job interviews, whether in person or otherwise, are about more than just what you’re saying,” she said. “It’s about helping our students represent themselves in the best professional way they can.”
Inspired by Civitae, Outdoor Education Courses Move Into Farmville’s Great Outdoors
While some Longwood faculty are delving into the digital world to enhance their curriculums, Jacob Dolence’s upcoming outdoor education courses are master classes in organization, resourcefulness and community involvement.
As part of his role as Honors Faculty Scholar in the Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars, Dolence oversees Longwood’s outdoor education minor. Under normal circumstances, his Recreation 340 and 375 courses provide a hands-on learning experience in outdoor education and leadership through activities such as rock climbing, hiking, and canoeing, and studies of topics including leadership theory and environmental ethics.
I think that’s my job here, to do whatever I have to so my students have a meaningful and impactful experience no matter what’s standing in the way.Jacob Dolence, Honors Faculty Scholar Tweet This
But with social distancing guidelines in effect at Longwood, Dolence’s planned group trips to outdoor meccas such as Wintergreen and the James River– which have often included more than 20 students – are no longer possible. So how does Dolence plan to replicate the pristine, immersive settings to which he has taken students over his nearly 10 years in higher education?
He’s going to help them explore the outdoorsman’s haven that is Farmville, Virginia, and, in turn, engage them in the Civitae-focused mission of making the town’s many outdoor hotspots even more accessible and appealing to others.
“It’s neat to re-envision what kinds of activities they can be doing, and Farmville has so many opportunities for outdoor education,” Dolence said. “But the thing I’m most excited about with this new model is I’ve taken the opportunity to tie into the Civitae mission and asked our students how they can actually give back to the community.”
That model retains many of the same elements Dolence has found successful, from hands-on teaching of practical outdoor skills and group dynamics, to cultivating a greater appreciation of nature. However, this year the setting will simply be a bit closer to home, and the class’ mission just as local.
“The ultimate goal is for us to work with state parks and the Virginia Office of Outdoor Recreation to create a plan for the future,” he said. “My RECR 340 students are going to keep up blogs and guidebooks that will be good resources for a lot of people, and my RECR 375 students are going to envision additional resources that could be used within the community.
“Throughout all the semester, I want our students to look at their experiences through their own skill levels and ask, “I want to get out there, so how can I do it safely, and where can I go?’”
With venues such as the Farmville Blueway, Wilck’s Lake and the High Bridge Trail, Longwood students and Farmville residents are surrounded by miles of the outdoors to be explored. Armed with exploration kits laboriously pre-prepared by Dolence – including items such as compasses, maps, tents, rope, lifejackets and more – Dolence’s students will split into small groups and orienteer, hike, canoe and bike sites that have long drawn visitors to Farmville, all with the mission of enhancing them even further.
“I think that’s my job here, to do whatever I have to so my students have a meaningful and impactful experience no matter what’s standing in the way,” Dolence said.
“That’s why I really enjoy teaching at Longwood, because we’re here for the students. For me, in a semester that’s going to provide a lot of uncertainty for them, I think I’m giving them something that will boost their mental and physical health. Even though it will look a bit different, they’re going to get out there and learn these skills they’re wanting to learn.”
Those skills are both practical, such as tying a clove hitch or navigating a landscape with a map and compass, and extrapolatory, such as leadership and resourcefulness. Dolence says that even with smaller group sizes and different settings, those lessons will endure.
“You can learn leadership by reading about it, but when you’re actually out doing something and having to make decisions and later reflect on that, you’re actually learning situational leadership, personal leadership, group leadership and awareness of group dynamics,” he said. “Those are all things that will transfer to a workplace setting; they’re just learning it with the outdoors as the context.”