Photo by Colin Belles
By Colin Belles
With empty parking lots Skagit Valley College has continually updated their Covid-19 resources and information page. The last update the college has posted tells students that the site “remains closed and will be moving to remote operations until April 24th “. They also go to explain that all courses are available remotely and will continue to do so until further notice. The only exception SVC has made is to allow some lab classes and professional/technical programs that require hands on learning. Having the option to move to online classes does allow students to keep on track for graduation and gives them the flexibility and safety in this trying time.
Since the classes have moved mostly into the digital format it has been a learning process for teachers and students that have not hosted or taken online classes before. It is very different than in class work where you normally would meet with the professor multiple times a week. Online learning requires students to be more proactive in their learning and continue to be motivated. Some classes are more difficult than others to have online because some would require everyone to have a good internet connection and be on the same time as the rest of the class.
After speaking with the music department chair Diane Johnson, she gave some insight to how the classes have been going since the start of Covid-19 and is hopeful to have in person learning for Fall quarter. Johnson said that “we cannot do anything that we normally do, we play in orchestras, we play in bands, we sing in choirs, we sit with everyone in class around a piano and none of that has been able to happen.” She explained that music students are very social people. The day the school got shut down was the day before their concert. She has students that have not gotten the chance to perform live. She says that she meets with her students through zoom, her students meet twice a week via zoom and even then, she does not hear the entire choir together. Each of her students take private lessons and those are also being held through zoom. The only way she hears her whole choir together is when each of the students record their part and she clips it all together just like videos that have been seen on social media. They would usually have a recital at the end of each quarter, and she said that it is not nearly as good as being in the theatre with a live audience. Recording quality can vary between students because they do not all have the same quality of recording equipment which affects the overall music experience.
Johnson said that she has not seen or expect the music department to have a major loss in enrollment. Fall is when enrollment for the music department starts. She goes on to explain that some students told her that they were opting out of taking music classes this quarter to reenroll when they can be back in the classroom with her. She thinks that not just the music department, but SVC all together has also seen a slight decrease in enrollment because students do not want to take online classes. The music department sees the most enrollment impact when the school advertises that music classes are an option that students can take. She said that the school has not openly advertised the music classes since 2017. Students are not encouraged as much to scan through the entire catalog of classes as much as they used to.
Students that are taking the music classes are there to further develop their skills as musicians. She says that her students are highly intelligent and can further their skills without as much guidance. Being online Johnson said that she has not noticed a delay in their development but, instead they are just at a disadvantage. Technology plays a big part in the delay the students have because it requires each person to have a good internet connection for zoom calls. Johnson says that it is harder for her to communicate with the students because she has a poor network connection which makes the video and audio lag while communicating. The recordings that students make vary between each other because they do not all have the same recording equipment.
Johnson brought up the Covid-19 vaccine and how everyone should get the vaccination. That way she would be able to go back to the classroom to teach, see, and have her students perform in person. She said that teaching music online is like playing ball at home “lets play baseball but everyone has to play in their own backyard, this virtual ball is being pitched to you and then I’m going to virtually hit it back”. The music department is handling online learning well and doing the best they can with what they have.