Amid the coronavirus outbreak, businesses, families, friends and schools have turned to Zoom to connect. The communication software company was launched in 2013, but CEO Eric Yuan has made about $4 billion just in the last three months, according to Business Insider.
Like universities across the United States, Plattsburgh State switched to distance learning to comply with social distancing March 23. Every professor has had their own way of presenting content virtually, and many do their lectures through Zoom. Since March 23, 5,229 meetings have taken place, about 250 meetings a day, T.J. Myers, computing systems and desktop support coordinator for Library and Information Technology Services, said.
“Our campus has been traditionally very bricks and mortar, and there has been very little online,” Myers said. “To flip that in 10 days like we had to is very challenging.”
As the number of users has grown, Zoom’s security has come into question after cases of Zoombombings. This is when an outsider gets the code to a Zoom call and disrupts it. The New York Times reported there have been several cases in which people Zoombombed, using the screen-sharing feature to put up racist messages or pornography.
There have been fewer than 10 cases of Zoombombings at PSU since distance learning started.
“Zoom is secure if you’re running your meeting right,” Myers said.
Faculty are encouraged to use the waiting room feature, which allows the host to screen who they let in, lock their meetings after five to 10 minutes and use meeting passwords. Zoom recently updated its security so that a password is needed to get into a meeting. Students may not be asked for a password when entering their classes because when they join though Moodle, the password is embedded. If anyone outside of class wanted to join, they would need a password.
PSU considered using Google Meet as its main video chat software, but it didn’t have all the controls they wanted. Google Meet is set up as the fall back option if Zoom falls through.
For senior psychology major Katie Murcott, the most challenging part of Zoom is being able to tell if she’s on mute or not and remembering when she has meetings.
“Webcams are not my friends,” Murcott said. “I can never tell if I’m on mute or not, and I spend most of my time focused on that.”
Mykai Sullivan, a junior majoring in psychology and theatre, believes her classes work much better in person.
“That is the worst part [of distance learning] for me personally, since I am a hands-on learner.”
However, Sullivan said Zoom does make it easier to ask questions and get help from professors as soon as possible.
Mary Conway, a senior nursing major, said Zoom can be difficult because of factors like poor internet connection, distractions and getting a chance to speak.
“One of our classes has over 50 students, so it is hard to tell who wants to speak,” she said.
Myers said Zoom is a solution to the pressure LITS felt to give PSU students a form of synchronous learning.
“This tool is not everything, but it is providing us a way to still hold face-to-face, synchronous classes, and I think that’s important,” Myers said. “Although it’s been a lot of work, we’ve gained a lot in terms of things we can provide to the students.”
Email Alana Penny at firstname.lastname@example.org