Remote MU, A Special Series of Inside Mizzou: Collaboration at a Distance

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April 7, 2020

The Mizzou family experienced so many changes as our campus rapidly adapted to new social distancing requirements. Tigers rose boldly to this unprecedented challenge and adapted as courses moved from classrooms, labs and studios to virtual meeting spaces. Despite being apart, our students are still discovering new opportunities to achieve excellence and support their fellow classmates.

On this week’s episode of Remote MU, we talk over Zoom with Daniel Serres, who is a senior majoring in political science and communication; and Toyin Jackson, a junior who is majoring in food science. Together, these students discuss the transition from in-person classes to remote learning and the innovative ways Tigers are staying connected to our Mizzou community.

More about Inside Mizzou


Moderator: [00:00:09] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, and now to computer screens around the world, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Remote MU — a special edition series of Inside Mizzou that explores the real stories, real discoveries and real impact of our remote community. This episode of Remote MU is called, “Collaboration at a Distance.” What happens when our campus community is no longer on campus? That’s the challenge facing Mizzou’s family as courses move from classrooms, labs and studios to virtual meeting spaces. For many students, learning remotely is a new experience, one that comes with some digital hiccups, but also fresh opportunities for collaboration and creativity. Even far apart, Tigers are still finding innovative ways to work together and achieve great things. In the process, we’re all learning that staying home, doesn’t mean staying separated. Joining us over Zoom to talk more about this are: Daniel Serres, a senior political science and communication major. And Toyin Jackson, a junior food science major. Welcome, everyone, and thanks for joining me today.

Daniel Serres: [00:01:13] Excited to talk.

Toyin Jackson: [00:01:13] Yeah, course.

Moderator: [00:01:17] Great. So, as we all know, a lot has happened over the past few weeks for you both. Can you tell us about your experience transitioning from in-person classes to remote learning? Daniel, we’ll start with you.

Daniel Serres: [00:01:29] Yeah. So I was actually taking online classes earlier in the semester, so I was kind of used to keeping, you know, schedule on my own assignments and things like that. Meeting deadlines. But juggling a whole full time schedule is definitely very difficult and different. But I think the blessing in disguise of the whole thing has been how willing professors are to work with students, specifically with, you know, the professors I have, because we’re in this together. Like, it’s not just me trying to figure out what’s happening around us, but they’re also trying to figure out how to best make sure that we succeed in their class.

Moderator: [00:02:04] Toyin?

Toyin Jackson: [00:02:05] For me, I’d say it’s been pretty difficult. I’ve definitely had some technological issues as well, which hasn’t really helped this time. I don’t know, it’s just made me realize how much I take for granted, like, in-class experience and like how valuable it actually is. It’s been difficult. I’ve never taken online classes before or had that kind of schedule, so, it’s just like that much more independent — which I guess comes with age. But it’s been rough, but I’m making it work.

Moderator: [00:02:36] As a as a grad student, in my program specifically, my classes were already online. So that part of it wasn’t an adjustment. But like Daniel mentioned, having a full schedule that’s virtually online definitely is something I don’t think you ever really think about, and never really prepare to adjust to just because it is, just feels weird handling everything from home, especially with home being such a comfort zone. But you know, with that, how has this shift changed the way you work with instructors and your classmates? I know both of our you spoke to instructors being more lenient and more flexible, you know, given the circumstances. But how have those interactions been otherwise or outside of that?

Daniel Serres: [00:03:21] You know, I think it’s been kind of cool because, you know, when you have an instructor like in class, you kind of just have a syllabus and sometimes you get to like know who they are as a person. But I think this opportunity has really shined forth that, like, people like professors also have families, Will like have kids at home. And so I know like for some of my classes, there are people who are trying to get like PhDs and they’re teaching, you know, certain classes. And they also have like three other kids at home and they’re trying to get their work done. So they’re juggling a lot. And I think that also just helps us find a lot more common ground in terms of, they’re juggling a lot, we’re doing a lot, and how can we move forward to make sure this semester ends successfully?

Moderator: [00:03:59] I agree.

Toyin Jackson: [00:04:01] I feel like, ironically, like some aspects of this kind of make the experience that you have with your professors feel more interpersonal, which is fine because we’re like so far from each other, it feels like. But like, I’ve been emailing teachers a lot more now. And yeah, I think it’s just like more personal conversation. And they definitely are lenient in these circumstances, just because I feel like in this time it’s only fair to be. With classmates, it’s more or less the same. We’re kind of all in the same position. So I mean, I think it varies if you’re talking about group projects and stuff, like the general classroom kind of feels the same, the teacher’s speaking or you’re just listening. Especially if it’s like a prerecorded lecture. So nothing really new there. But definitely the instructor relationship has changed.

Moderator: [00:04:51] Toyin, as a food science major, I imagine a lot of your learning is hands-on. So how have your courses adapted to a virtual space without a physical classroom or a lab?

Toyin Jackson: [00:05:02] I think that if it was any other semester, I think it would be a lot more difficult. This semester, I’m actually taking the least amount of lab time that I ever have. I have one lab for my food microbiology class that’s after my lecture, usually Mondays and Wednesdays. So with, especially with microbiology that like you’re saying, is extremely hands-on when you’re inoculating things and you need like all of the active bacteria and stuff like that. All of that is kind of more so converted to like hypothetical. So during lab time, my professor just kind of explains to us what would happen if we were doing certain things. So it’s more, I’d say conceptual lab now because you kind of have to see it to understand it rather than doing it and understanding. Since I have more of the business track than the food science track, it’s been it’s been OK because business classes are a lot of just like information and testing in the more traditional sense. So, it’s been it’s been alright.

Moderator: [00:06:10] You know, since moving online have you had the chance to collaborate with anyone on projects or, you know, research as it relates to your coursework? And if so, can you tell us what that experience was like?

Toyin Jackson: [00:06:21] So I have a group project right now in marketing, and we’re doing a marketing SWOT analysis. And so that’s kind of just been converted to all virtual types of things. So we have Zoom meetings that we kind of go on for a couple of times a week. And the good thing about Google Drive is that everyone can collaborate in the same media. So that’s really nice. So it’s just been just figuring out realistic ways for us to collaborate easier. But yeah, I think it definitely feels different than like meeting in-person. I think for me, being a person who is just more comfortable than in an online kind of space. So it’s been it’s been OK.

Moderator: [00:07:04] Daniel, moving to you. You’re a senior, and this probably isn’t how you imagined your last semester at Mizzou. But is there something about this experience that will stick with you going forward?

Daniel Serres: [00:07:15] Yeah, this is definitely not how I imagined my last semester at all. But, you know, I think for me, I personally just take it in terms of it’s teaching me to not be so stuck on a certain deadline or like a certain timeline of when I’m supposed to be doing the next thing in my life because, you know, everybody’s looking forward to graduation or these big milestones that come with being a senior. But unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to experience that at the same timeline that we were expecting to. So I kind of keep that in the back of my head like, I’m not the one going through this, but also like this is for the greater good of society to make sure that we are not spreading a virus. So that is something that I keep in mind. But I also think, you know, it’s a tough time because a lot of seniors are going to go through, you know, like grief of losing these moments with their families. And that’s completely fine. And on top of that, I think it’s also like, having to find a job and seeing if that’s going to be available after graduation. So these are all very real things. So, you know, if anybody’s listening that is a senior and can identify to that, just know that you are not alone. And also, I would encourage anybody who is listening to reach out to seniors during this time to make sure that they’re fine and, you know, just kind of talk to them about what they’re going through and giving them that space to share what they’re experiencing right now.

Moderator: [00:08:36] No, of course. And so with all those challenges, you know, how are you and your fellow seniors, you know,  finding new ways to kind of mark this last semester for you all?

Daniel Serres: [00:08:46] Yes. I think Twitter has been really active just with everybody kind of sharing how they’re feeling about things. But also, my personal Twitter has been like blowing up my timeline with people just reminiscing about like old years, old traditions, what they would do like, social settings and you know, what they would do downtown graduation week posting pictures and stuff. So I think that’s been kind of helpful with just reminiscing about usual traditions that Mizzou communities have on campus. But, you know, the downside is also that we might not be able to experience that. So I think in the next coming weeks, we’ll probably see. We take it one day at a time. We’ll see what happens and maybe we’ll find other ways to connect with one another. I think as of now, we’re just reminiscing on, like, the things that we’re not going to be able to potentially do, but also just kind of trying to stay in the moment of like making sure we finish senior year strong and, yeah, just taking everything one day at a time.

Moderator: [00:09:37] Yeah. And so for both of you, how are you all staying connected to the Mizzou community?

Toyin Jackson: [00:09:44] For me, I guess it’s kind of weird because like, I’m still technically like around Columbia. So I feel physically close to it. But like, I feel like half of us have left and half of us haven’t. Especially for those that are in-state, it’s just an easier situation to be at home if you want to be. But I think social media is a great avenue for that. I think it’s really powerful in that it keeps us all together. And it keeps us updated, kind of like, Daniel was saying on Twitter. I’m not on Twitter, but I assume Twitter’s been pretty active. But I think it’s just like empathizing with people that are, you know, taking this a little bit harder than others. And it just, being there for people, that’s kind of I have been feeling and staying connected. Just like, not being afraid to talk about stuff and just kind of processing it all together. It kind of helps to have people to process it with.

Moderator: [00:10:36] Definitely.

Daniel Serres: [00:10:36] Yeah. I think for me it’s also been like, I live with three of my closest friends. So we see each other every day. You know, we’re in our rooms like most of the day because we’re doing our homework and stuff. But at the end of the day we come together, we’re like cooking food and we might throw some jokes about whatever happened that day. But definitely social media and just having roommates around has helped a lot. And, you know, my family is very good about checking-in as well. So, seeing that and then also hosting like Instagram Lives with friends or just doing a bunch of different things on social media helps a lot.

Moderator: [00:11:09] I think staying connected to the community is important. I think in the midst of, you know, social distancing and a lot of people working from home or, you know, being limited to being at home, I think we realize how much, I know we’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t think we realize how much the social aspect of college specifically, but just life in general, is very important. And I think, you know, how much we take it for granted, actually so I’m glad to see that a lot of people have been able to and have been adamant about, you know, staying connected and not, taking this time, you know, while we’re in isolation to not necessarily be isolated from other people. So, you know, the Instagram Lives and Twitter has been, has been great from a standpoint of getting people connected and kind of just, you know, keeping spirits high. And so usually, you know, we’ll end these episodes with a joke usually, or we’re used to, but I think just in times like this it is important that, you know, we leave off every episode with some advice or suggestions for people to continue to push through this and work through this and just always kind of gain a better understanding of how to just continue to be productive, you know, during this time as well. So, do either of you guys have any advice for how students can continue to help each other, you know, even if they’re far apart?

Toyin Jackson: [00:12:26] I’d say, for me, as someone who is like I’m in Columbia but my roommate had to go back to out our families, so I’m alone. And there is definitely a difference between being lonely and being alone. And I feel like it’s just really important in this time to check up on yourself first, and people, just because mental health is such a big thing. And I feel like a lot of anxiety can come from situations like this where it’s so unknown and the progress is like, we’re taking it day by day. So I think my biggest piece of advice is just to kind of take care of ourselves, take care of people that you love, and just like, give people help. Just be there for people.

Daniel Serres: [00:13:09] Yeah, I would definitely echo what Toyin said. I think one of the biggest things right now is, once again, like taking everything day by day and also realizing that your timeline or your plan for how things were going to go is probably not going to happen that way anymore. So yeah, definitely sitting there realizing like, oh, maybe I should watch a movie or go listen to this new album that dropped. I think we’re getting a lot of different art that’s really coming out like pm Netflix or different platforms for us to explore and kind of get our minds off of things right now, and I think that’s very helpful. So just continuing to not only foster a relationship with yourself and your thoughts, but also trying to find different outlets to not be so stuck in your head right now is very important.

Toyin Jackson: [00:13:52] Yeah, yeah, I agree. I’d also say, to like build on that, cancel those plans. I think that’s the best thing. Just like cancel your plans. They’re not happening. Just, it’ll be OK. Just cancel those plans.

Moderator: [00:14:03] Definitely cancel those plans. We’re going to have to understand that it’s not a situation where it would benefit us to just rush back to, you know, going back to how things were before, you know, the pandemic happened. So, I think that’s something to be considered as well and I think you guys gave great advice to students. And I think the only thing I would add is that, and we’ve mentioned it before, you know, or we spoke about this before, but being open to having those conversations with people like, especially seniors, there’s a lot of, you know, Daniel like you said, there’s a lot of seniors that are, you know, hurting, you know, for multiple reasons right now, in terms of not being able to have that monumental moment in life and not being able to experience that. And so, you know, talking with those people, you know, calling to check in on them, letting them vent, just being an ear, you know, for them to listen to, or just be a virtual shoulder, you know, for them to cry. I think that’s very important, because if there was any other reason why that wouldn’t be able to happen outside of, you know, not being able to be, you know, around each other or gather or have large gatherings, you still would want to do that for those people. So that shouldn’t stop, you know, given our circumstances. But no, I think that’s great advice across the board for students. With that being said, I would just like to thank both of you for joining us for this first edition of this special podcast and lending your time during these busy schedules I’m pretty sure both of you have. And yes, just remember to stay safe and stay healthy.

Toyin Jackson: [00:15:30] Thank you so much.

Daniel Serres: [00:15:31] Thank you. You too.

Moderator: [00:15:39] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU master’s student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the Quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time to stay on top of what’s happening with our remote community. Thanks for joining us for this special edition series, Remote MU. Stay strong Mizzou.