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Monday, August 15, 2022 — Houston, TX

Music, architecture and arts students adjust to online classes

Illustrated by Yifei Zhang

By Viola Yu     3/31/20 7:22pm

With the transition to online classes for the rest of the semester, students in the Shepherd School of Music, the School of Architecture and the visual and dramatic arts department are confronting the unique challenge of conducting arts classes over an online platform. 

Hanyang Wang, a piano major from Brown College, said that he is using Skype instead of Zoom, the platform used for most online classes at Rice, to meet with his professor. 

“Zoom has a volume auto-adjusting system,” Wang, a sophomore, said. “We tried to turn it off but it still has an influence on my pitch strength, so my professor and I decided to use Skype, which is more objective on volumes.” 

Wang said that he usually records his performance first and sends it to his professor for an email critique, and then sets up an individual Skype meeting with his professor for a more detailed evaluation. 

“I feel that online teaching is better than I thought. As a piano major, I spend most of my time practicing on my own, so it does not affect me that much,” Wang said.

Dean of the Shepherd School of Music Robert Yekovich said that a number of different approaches are being used for online music classes, including Zoom and Skype. Some students record their performances and upload them to YouTube and meet with their teachers over Skype or Zoom later to discuss the performance, according to Yekovich.

Architecture major Shree Kale said that the transition to online classes has been particularly difficult for the School of Architecture.

“Our education is very much so centered on the ability to discuss our projects with peers and professors,” Kale, a Duncan College senior, said. “Transitioning to online means it’s more difficult to explain your project without easily referencing something by pointing at it or without laying our five different options on a table for you and your professor to review.”

Lola Deng, a Martel College senior studying art history and VADA, said that the structure of her classes has changed with the shift to remote learning with shortened group meetings and individual Zoom meetings with the professor. 

“My first assignment for senior studio since the Zoom classes began was to build a studio at home,” Deng said. “That was really interesting. I decorated my balcony to set up my workplace. Actually, I am very lucky as I have the tools and materials that I need at home, but I know some of my classmates don’t, so they had to change their projects.” 

In addition to the class changes, the senior VADA students and their professors have not yet figured out how their annual senior show, a showcase of their year long projects typically held in Sewall Hall, would work online, Deng said.

“We haven’t decided how the senior show would be,” Deng said. “Maybe do online live shows or build a website? I don’t know.”  

Kale said that architecture students will also miss out on their final reviews due to the move to online classes.

“These are exciting parts of our semester and where we see our whole project come together,” Kale said. “This is particularly difficult for us seniors because we have been working on these projects almost like a senior thesis since last semester [...] so there's a lot of work that we won't get to show.”

Vicky Ni said that her film senior studio class changed to individual conferences with the professor to discuss their project progress. But because the Rice Media Center is closed, students can no longer borrow film equipment from there, and due to social distancing guidelines, they cannot go out to shoot additional material. 

“As school is closed, I can’t borrow equipment to shoot more things, but I’ve already done a lot, so I focus most of my work on editing now,” Ni, a Martel College senior, said. “Our professors are also helping us to change or continue working on our senior projects.” 

Ni said that online classes are even better than in-person courses, as they have more flexibility.

“I don’t feel much difference between the online classes and normal classes. Actually I feel even better [taking] the online classes as I can take picture notes, which was not very possible in normal classes,” Ni said.

Taylor Li, an architecture student, said that there are also shortcomings with the online classes, especially for group discussions and group critiques. 

“My studio [held] group critique weekly before, and as we are in the same space, I [could] easily see others’ progress on their projects. But now, we work on our own. I can’t see others’ work and can’t compare my progress to theirs. That makes me feel bad,” Li, a Baker College senior, said. 

Kale said that the lack of access to fabrication spaces or a computer lab has also prevented architecture students from doing some of their work.

“One of the biggest [things we can’t do is] make models. Models are probably the clearest way that we represent our projects and one of the most exciting parts. Without access to a fabrication space, that is no longer going to happen.”

Yekovich said that the Shepherd School lent out a number of instruments to students who play non-portable instruments, such as piano or percussion instruments, for students to use at home who would otherwise not have access to their instruments. Additionally, some students purchased small keyboards for practice purposes, according to Yekovich.

Despite the challenges architecture students face with online classes, Kale said that professors have been extremely supportive in understanding that students are in a unique position.

“Both of us want to push our projects to be as great as they can, given the limited resources,” Kale said. 

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