Posts

niche.com cites SOU's conversion to remote learning

SOU recognized by niche.com for doing well in conversion to remote coursework

SOU was recognized Monday by the rankings website niche.com as one of “Eleven Schools That Did Online Learning Well This Spring.” Universities that made the list were from all parts of the U.S., but SOU was the only one mentioned from the West Coast.

“We used the Moodle platform as well as Zoom call platforms to communicate,” SOU senior Kaylyn Jordaan told the website. “This resulted in only two different logins and clear communication and expectations.

“I had three of my five classes require Zoom meetings and logins,” she said. “The other two had weekly check-ins, and due dates that stayed consistent.”

SOU’s experience in shifting to remote and online classes for spring term, combined with the professional development opportunities that many faculty members engaged in over the summer, are expected to result in improved fall term experiences for students.

Niche.com was founded in 2002 as College Prowler, producing print guidebooks for prospective students. It began offering free online content in 2009, and now provides research services for home-buying, job searches, parenting and coronavirus support – along with college guidance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic turned college life upside down for administrators, faculty members and students across the globe,” niche.com said in introducing its online learning list.

“Though every institution faced intense challenges pivoting to fully online instruction nearly overnight, some rose to the occasion,” the website said. “We talked to students at 11 different schools that went the extra mile when it came to making the switch.

Other institutions that made the list are Mississippi State University, Florida International University, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Howard University, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Rutgers University-Newark, Trine University, Brigham Young University, University of Connecticut and University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Virtual meeting of SOU Percussion Ensemble

SOU music ensembles get creative in their new, virtual reality

With some schools cancelling ensembles altogether, Paul T. French – Southern Oregon University’s Director of Choral Studies and Vocal Studies – had doubts about the spring ahead for his corner of the Music Program in the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU. The idea of taking the choir virtual was especially daunting, with the experience rooted in collaborative rehearsals and harmonious performance.

“I didn’t even have a Google calendar,” French joked, “so we’re all kind of crawling forward and learning this together.”

SOU’s Chamber and Concert Choirs are joined for now and still rehearse twice weekly online. With upwards of 50 people on the screen, French and concert choir director Kendra Taylor watch as the singers mute themselves in their homes and perform individual parts to a piano accompaniment written by French’s wife, SOU instructor and staff pianist Jodi French.

Once they’ve learned and perfected the parts, they’ll record and send them to Taylor, who will plug them into and arrange them on an online music platform called Soundtrap.

“It calls for a lot of accountability from individual students because they can’t lean on other people, so the bar is higher and their own contributions are that much more meaningful,” Paul French said. “I’m proud of the students because they’re compassionate when we screw up and want to do whatever it takes to move forward, and after our second rehearsal the chat bar was full of all these tremendously positive and excited comments.”

The recording will be released later this spring. They hope to add a video component and perform the piece live in the fall, if all goes well.

Terry Longshore, SOU’s director of percussion studies, is taking a similar, virtual tack. Originally, he and SOU Raider Band director Bryan Jeffs had been invited to take 17 students to New York City in May for the inaugural “Long Play” music festival by the renowned contemporary music organization Bang on a Can.

In lieu of that trip, and considering the limitations some students have without access to their instruments, they’re working on an 18-minute piece in which 16 performers will pour dry rice over various materials – metal, wood, and leaves, to name a few. It will explore textural changes created by the rate at which the rice is falling. They will eventually turn their individual recordings into a video collage, and will later have the chance to interview the piece’s composer, Michael Pisaro of the CalArts School of Music.

Their other ideas include breaking into small groups that will create original soundtracks to short, silent films.

“They’re excited about the projects because they get to take advantage of what we have and try to make lemonade out of it while still learning something, having a unique creative experience and putting something out in the world that we’re proud of,” Longshore said.

French concurred with the sentiment.

“Given how isolated we feel, we’re not together, but we can see each other and create something together,” he said. “We still need art and this is what we can do.”

Story by Josh McDermott, SOU staff writer