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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

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Feature Story

Making a Difference in a Pandemic: DU's Faculty & Staff

By Hope Marks, Senior Journalism major

The COVID-19 pandemic has left classrooms empty at the University of Denver while the university's faculty and staff have worked tirelessly in their homes as well as on campus to guide their students in the shift to online learning.

Many professors in the department were aware of the quick changes they would need to make to their courses before spring quarter began. Some professors had to work hard to change their entire coursework plan to be more accessible from a distance, while others only had to make a few changes.

"This is a completely redesigned class," says film professor Dr. Sheila Schroeder of her Narrative Capstone class. "I had to come up with different projects for them to do."

Normally, Dr. Schroeder's narrative class is spread over the course of two quarters, during which students work in small groups to create a short film. Students complete the pre-production work during the first quarter, and the filming and editing during the second quarter.

"The plan was to have the students shoot and edit their narrative films that they had worked on in the winter quarter," she explains. "Obviously, we couldn't do that, so I had to come up with different projects for them to do that also kept in mind that their phones were going to be the best camera that they had access to."

Dr. Schroeder assigned three different projects to make up for the missing coursework, each of which allowed for more mobile-based production: a career plan, editing a teaser video for a film, and a music video.

Ethan Crawford, the Media, Film, and Journalism School's Director of Technical Services, has been working hard with faculty and students to ease this difficult transition. He says the web-based system for equipment checkout has been a valuable asset to MFJS, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Technical support requests are coming from all directions, in greater quantities, with more unique complexities than ever before," Crawford shares. "Problem-solvers are in high demand."

A strong technical foundation has been crucial to MFJS's success during the pandemic. While nearly all faculty and staff are working remotely, the technical support has allowed different teaching styles to be successful.

We had anticipated a lot of glitches, so we were working through those scenarios to come up with not just one plan, but a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D," says Dr. Kareem El Damanhoury, who is teaching Online and Visual Journalism this quarter.

Online and Visual Journalism is a production-based class, so students need a lot of equipment to accurately complete assignments. With the help of Crawford, Dr. El Damanhoury was able to set up a computer loaning program to allow students to check out departmental laptops that are pre-loaded with software like the Adobe Premiere program.

"We could not ship the Canon 80D's (the department's professional grade video cameras), the tripods, and everything else to each and every student," explains Dr. El Damanhoury. "So what we did instead was that we put a system in place where students could check out lavalier microphones and smaller tripods for use with their phones, and we shipped that gear to them."

The faculty is also making sure that their students are safe and doing well in this current pandemic. Many of them have reached out to their students, making sure that they have everything they need and checking on their safety.

"With the assistance of DU, I've had to do more outreach to students who are falling behind and are overwhelmed by not only being in school, but by family circumstances, by health issues," shares Dr. Schroeder. "I've been very grateful for DU's support and I know the students are as well."

The University of Denver's OneDU model has help students to stay strong in today's time of crisis. Having everyone in the DU community help each other, both inside and outside the classroom, has made the biggest difference in dealing with this new online, isolated lifestyle.

"I am pleased to see the DU community working together like never before, sharing resources, pivoting quickly to online working and teaching, videoconferencing all day long," says Crawford. "This is not an easy transition, but we are rolling with the punches, and remaining committed to our inclusive values, and to DU's students' success above all."