WebLive classes are the next best thing to being there in person

More than 100 YC classes offered in video-conferencing format this fall

The coronavirus stole what students and faculty agree is the best part of in-person classes: human interaction.

Technology has given the education arena a way to bring that face-to-face interaction back, albeit virtually. At Yavapai College, that technology is called WebLive – a live class conducted via Zoom video conferencing.

YC Sociology Professor Dr. Jennifer Jacobson taught her first WebLive class summer semester, believing it to be the next best thing to being there.  “It’s almost as good as an in-person class,” she said.

WebLive, or Zoom classes, offer the discipline of a weekly schedule and the opportunity to learn and engage in a comfortable, relaxed setting – your home, Jacobson said. “We’re all guilty. If we can procrastinate, we will. With WebLive classes, you have a weekly reminder that you have to be prepared for class.”

A visit to one of Jacobson’s WebLive classes provided ample evidence of discipline, comfort and congeniality. Greetings rang out as students logged in, their faces peering or their voices emanating into the virtual classroom from their electronic devices. One student, Eli, was a few minutes late and sincerely apologized for it.

Jacobson inquired with one student about the absence of her trademark beanie. The student explained that she was currently in Alaska and, ironically, it was too warm to wear a beanie.

Several students were accompanied to class by their pets and Jacobson welcomed them as she did each student.

“Summer it’s good to see you and your puppy,” she said to one such pair of attendees. The student responded,  “I can’t see myself right now. I’m glad you can see me.”

The class continued in familiar and novel veins: a call for questions about classwork to date and Jacobson asking a handful of students to agree to be her “go-tos” (called on during class). “In a Zoom class,  people need to know if they are expected to talk so you don’t have talking over each other and you don’t have dead silence,” she explained.

No one declined Jacobson’s “go-to” request. “I think students are more willing to talk than most professors realize if the environment is accepting,” she said.

Jacobson’s students share her appreciation for WebLive or Zoom classes, citing the formal yet relaxed  environment. “I have five classes right now and this is the only one with a Zoom meeting.  It feels more like having an actual class instead of just figuring it all out on my own,” said one class member.

Another of Jacobson’s WebLive class students said: “This class keeps me on a schedule. I talk to my other classmates every week so I feel more connected. It feels like a regular class but I don’t have to wake up and go to class.”

Another said simply. “It gives us a place to be.”

While a curious cat ignored its owner’s efforts to discourage prancing across her laptop,  Jacobson’s Zoom class continued with a lecture punctuated by an online podcast. Then, using Zoom’s “breakout rooms” tool, she facilitated small-group discussions. “I hope to help people see each other as people, not just you are a square on my screen,” the 14-year teaching veteran said of her concerted efforts to foster student interaction.

YC is delivering 138 WebLive, or Zoom classes across many degree and certificate programs in the fall,  including visual art, science, allied health, film and media arts, nursing, math and music. They can be found via an “attribute” search for WebLive classes in the registration portal: www.yc.edu/registration.

WebLive classes are ideal for anyone with anxiety about starting or returning to college, Jacobson said. “You don’t have to travel and because you’re in your own space, the anxieties go down.” In Jacobson’s class, students are able to attend using just an audio link, allaying any discomfort about their location.

Although she looks forward to one day resuming in-person classes, Jacobson said going forward she will continue to use video conferencing as a teaching tool and to meet individually with students. “It might not be the way you planned on your career unfolding, but you have to be open to new ways of delivering education,” she said.