Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2020

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UNLV students, staff embracing remote classes

UNLV Remote Learning

Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services

University of Las Vegas Nevada BIOL 100 & 197 Laboratory Coordinator, Chenoa Wilcox, left, works with Nathan Magtoto, Laboratory Instructor and Assistant, on making videos to take the BIO 197 to an online/remote format March 18, 2020. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)

Bryce Palafox can wake up five minutes before his classes begin at UNLV and still be on time. There’s no jockeying for a parking spot or racing across campus from the dorms.

Classes for UNLV’s 30,472 students are being conducted online because of the coronavirus emergency.

Palafox, a journalism and media studies student, lives in Las Vegas with his brother and grandmother. But other students are scattered around the globe, from Japan to Pakistan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Palafox said it feels like being “on vacation with those summer reading assignments,” but the shift online has gone seamlessly. “Everything is sort of manageable,” he said.

UNLV switched to remote classes on March 23 and will continue online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. Graduation ceremonies have been postponed.

Ben Morse, a lecturer in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies, said he was surprised at how well the transition has gone “because this is such an unknown quantity…I think any time you do that, it’s difficult.”

Christopher Heavey, UNLV’s interim executive vice president and provost, said the university spent several hundred thousand dollars on laptops to loan to students who didn’t have access to a computer.

The university also kept one computer lab open on campus, which is operated using social distancing guidelines, Heavey said.

“We’ve been working with the deans to make sure they’re kind of checking in on all the faculty members,” Heavey said. “We sent them a spreadsheet of every class that they have and we called it ‘Leave No Class Behind’ to make sure that they kind of touch base with every instructor they had to make sure that person was prepared to put the courses online.”

Morse, who runs the Rebel Media Group, a student-staffed digital media group, said coordinating the operation remotely has been “a really good experience for the students and for me to see how you can still make all this work if you can’t necessarily meet in person.”

But some classes are easier to teach online than others, Morse said.

Podcasting, for example, can be done remotely, even though in-person instruction is preferable, Morse said. Other classes, such as editing video or audio announcing, can be more difficult to do online, he said.

“I can only imagine how much that difficulty threshold rises when you’re talking about something like anatomy or any sort of science when you really have to be in a lab to do something,” he said.