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Colleges Adjust Learning For Programs That Once Relied On One-On-One Interaction

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama in Oakland.

Universities across the city have adjusted programs that were typically interactive to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Point Park and Carnegie Mellon universities have changed their journalism and theater programs to include more virtual learning and limited class sizes.

Point Park School of Communications dean Bernie Akney says that the journalism department is adapting to the new changes by conducting interviews through zoom and limiting the radio production class size to one student.

As a former health journalist, Akney says he’s advising students to report on stories unique to the current situation.

“I think you're going to get some neat, specialized publications that are going to develop because of the pandemic,” Akney said.

At Carnegie Mellon, the theater department is following a hybrid learning model. Students attending dance classes in the studio will stay at least 10 feet apart. Home kits with microphones are sent to remote musical theater students.

Drama professor Catherine Moore says that they have stopped in-person shows and switched to livestreaming, which presents its own challenges.

“In some cases, you have to get the rights to be able to produce a particular performance live... and some authors are not willing to allow their productions to be streamed,” said Moore. “So now we have to look at some alternative tips.”

Faculty members can also hold classes remotely. Moore says that there are cameras set up at different angles in the studio so that faculty can see students work in that space. But in-person learning is not possible for all classes. Students attend singing lessons online to maintain university guidelines.

“Singing lessons are completely remote... we can't have someone in a room singing because we know that that spreads aerosol and droplets,” said Moore.

Moore says that the changes the pandemic brings have influenced students to express themselves in their art.

“We're in this in this crazy time of a pandemic and a time of such social change.... all of those things coming together at the same time is so strongly influencing the art that they [students] are going to create and the stories that we're telling.”