In response to health regulations enforced around the globe for COVID-19, NYU is conducting the rest of its spring semester in a remote learning environment. While logistical hurdles abound (let's all learn how to use that mute button!), our resourceful and imaginative faculty, students, administrators, and staff have already shown that they’re up to the challenge, making creative use of a variety of technologies to continue the work of teaching, learning, and community-building online.
Below, we’ll be curating stories of innovation and resilience from the tens of thousands NYUers who are working collaboratively to adapt their work to a virtual environment—sometimes with surprising results. It may be some time before we see one another in person, but each day brings new evidence of how our community will emerge from this period stronger and more vibrant than ever.
“Video Sculpture is an installation art course where students create sculptures that move, react, or interact with the viewer. One surprise about going online was that I could demonstrate video mapping using the actual faces of the students who were online watching the course. I grabbed the video signal from the students faces and mapped it to a physical structure and then showed them the process using my webcam.”
Experience: "While COVID-19 has created many challenges, it has also created new teaching opportunities. My agriculture course traditionally takes place at the NYU Urban Farm Lab—an outdoor classroom, research lab, and community farm. On the farm, students learn to grow, care for, and harvest seasonal edible crops in an urban environment. Since students are now no longer able to harvest crops together in person, I’ve reworked the course so that they can farm at home. Students will explore how to propagate plants from vegetables or vegetable scraps they already have in their kitchens. They will also learn how to pickle and can vegetables at home for preservation. Finally, for the students’ final projects, they will design a self sustaining garden at their homes. This can be done in their backyard, on a terrace, roof, or an indoor hydroponics setup if they don't have an outdoor space. We’re hoping to help create the next generation of homesteaders!
In addition to growing, managing, and preserving crops, we’ll be looking at the history and future of urban agriculture. In the course, we have already covered the past 100 years, learning about its ebbs and flows. The students learned that urban agriculture is usually pushed or supported by local government, federal government, or grassroots organizations during times of crisis. We are now in a crisis. With certain considerations in mind, I’ll be pushing my students to project if there will be another rise in urban agriculture—especially with the fear of food shortages and another recession.”
The class quickly shifted focus this semester as COVID-19 spread. Students went from writing about a range of topics to learning how to report on a pandemic in real time, while also becoming adept at how to overcome unexpected challenges and safety issues—lessons that will serve them well in their careers.
"As soon as the crisis began in NYC, they started reporting," says Latty. "I worked with our webmaster to get a site up quickly to host the work, and every day I have been working with them on stories and they keep filing. I am so proud of them and truly believe this is the best of NYU Journalism—fearless inspired reporters, pushing through so many obstacles."
The student's stories are chronicled on this website, and cover topics including the dwindling of NYC tourism, lockdowns across the country, and the struggles of the service industry.
“For that first lecture on Zoom, I pretty much just used the same presentation that I would have used in Skirball. That is, a presentation of lecture “slides,” with illustrations, photos, and short videos embedded within it. I also use a lot of props (e.g., my calendar book often flies across the stage to represent an errant molecule or atom) and body movements (I can bend and stretch like a chemical bond), and so the ability of the students to see me is always a component of the presentation. I also accept questions during the lectures and use “clickers” to ask the students questions and to motivate them to talk to each other—at selected moments during class. Zoom either has the ability to include all of these, or at least has similar capabilities.
In using Zoom, something that was an unexpected benefit of going online was that I sat with a whiteboard behind me and was able to hand draw a graph at an appropriate moment—which I can never do in Skirball. I know that Zoom also has the ability to allow the students to ask questions and that it has a polling feature. I plan to use those in the future. What I didn't expect was that the students used the Zoom “chat” feature to ask questions of each other throughout. A colleague who sat in on the lecture commented that the chat messages were on topic and quite insightful.”
Course: In with the Old, Out with the New: Debates on Tradition in Western Music, which surveys some of the most dynamic debates on music’s past, theorists, critics, artists, and audiences as preserved in historical literature.
Professor: Kwami T. Coleman, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
“The major adaptation is in the realm of playing class audio and video. One of the cool functions embedded [in Zoom] is that it allows me (and all users) to share their screen, which allows me to have media files in separate windows that can be shown/played and there's still a floating window with my face in it where I can provide commentary.
One surprising thing about going online is students' willingness to "show up" and be attentive and engaged. Strange to instruct a class that looks like the opening credits of the Brady Bunch though.”
The coronavirus epidemic provides a way to understand the role of the mayor and governor in a crisis and how the closing of the city's economic and cultural life has led to the loss of jobs and threatens its city's future. Participation through Zoom is often better than in-class attendance. We connect students with NYC even though they are located miles away. NYU undergraduates learn how New York City has experienced disasters over the past two centuries, whether from disease, terrorism, or financial crisis. With more than 50 students located across the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia, we explore how this has transformed the relationship between New York City and the rest of the nation. In this course, offered through NYU Wagner and the Metropolitan Studies Program of the College of Arts & Science, students learn about the stress on hospitals and health care workers and the communities where coronavirus deaths are concentrated. Students are able to share their ideas and insights through the chat function of Zoom as the lectures unfold, illustrated with up-to-the-minute charts and graphics.
"Without knowledge, action is useless, and knowledge without action is futile." –– Abu Bakr As-Siddiq
My Zoom online course at the Silver School of Social Work examines ‘mass incarceration.’ Our syllabus—which could not have been more timely—begs the question: What has social work done to fight this Human Rights abuse? However, prior to the class, a brave student emailed and asked if we could also discuss our final assignment—a ‘praxis project’ which asks students to utilize the knowledge gained from the class toward an action (social media advocacy, educational literacy, interventions, etc.) that could benefit a population of their choice impacted by carceral systems. The student argued that with the onset of COVID-19, where much debate rages on what to do with vulnerable people in jail and prison, we would not afford to wait another two weeks to begin this conversation. We had a great class in which we began to formulate ways in which we could support various movements locally, nationally and globally that are working to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in jails and prisons during the COVID-19 outbreak. We decided also to use social media to connect and invite activists and organizations to partake in portions of our class and share with us their work and the ways in which we can support it. I am super proud of my students for showing up during an unprecedented moment in the arch of history—and for their commitment to vanguard social work’s organizing value of ‘social justice’ and dignity for all people.”