Working Apart, Learning Together

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Viterbo faculty and students are turning remote-learning into an opportunity, whether that be by recording virtual opera scenes or practicing new telehealth techniques. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spring in-person classes at Viterbo have been canceled, which has pushed professors to quickly adapt to a new online learning environment. 

David Richardson conducting his students in a virtual performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni Act II Sextet.

In associate professor Stephanie Thorson-Olesen’s psychology class, students would normally be working in the department’s recording labs, fine-tuning their interviewing skills. Those mock counseling sessions are now taking place through Zoom. 

“My students are so impressive, they quickly learned how to use Zoom and recognized that this is good practice for tele-behavioral health, which is often done this way,” Thorson-Olesen said.

David Richardson, Viterbo music adjunct faculty member, took inspiration from virtual choirs he’d seen online to bring his class together.

“The concept involves the singers recording their voice part while listening to a master track on their headphones,” he said. “These videos are then synced together to create an ensemble appearing to be performing in real time.”

This resulted in a spectacular recording of a virtual opera scene, that was a big hit with students and faculty. 

“I have now started using this same method to create polished virtual performances of our students singing with their piano accompaniments to be used not only in their lessons, but also to be used for their final voice juries,” Richardson said.

Like many of us, students cooped up at home during the lockdown, are spending more time than usual streaming their favorite TV shows, which gave music theory professor Mary Ellen Haupert an idea.

“My students will be writing pieces based on their favorite Netflix series theme song,” she said.

The lockdown had the potential to make it more difficult for students and faculty to maintain the connections that are such a key part of life in Viterbo’s tight-knit campus community. But, here too, faculty and students are working creatively to maintain those bonds.

As part of a graphics course, associate theatre professor Chad Kolbe has started a virtual discussion with students, where he asks them to post the good they have experienced during an otherwise difficult time.

“It is helping the students have a sense of community and feeling that they are not alone in this,” Kolbe said. “I am not only trying to get the information to them dealing with the content of the class, I am also trying to help them navigate this situation. They are struggling, but they are also doing amazing things.”