“Zoom room” classes connect regional campuses

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History professor Molly Sergi talks in person to her class on the Geauga campus, Feb. 5, 2020 as the other regional zoom rooms tune in.

Krista DeFini Reporter

Molly Sergi tests her microphone by saying hello to her students before giving her lecture. Eight students sitting in front of her at the Geauga campus are waiting as the monitors turn on. Four are sitting in a classroom at the Trumbull campus testing the camera delay. Three are sitting in an East Liverpool classroom waiting to hear Professor Sergi’s voice and one student walks in late at the Twinsburg campus. 

Kent State regional campuses are offering a new type of classroom learning. These classrooms involve cameras, microphones and four other campuses in one class.

Kent State introduced the Zoom room classrooms for the first time in 2018 with only three courses. The program has since grown into 24 courses this year. These courses cover accounting, economics, business, math, English, history, psychology, social studies and French. All regional campuses have at least one Zoom room classroom in their facility. The room size and student enrollment vary at each campus. 

The professor is at one of the four campuses giving the lecture and broadcasts to the other three classrooms. Each classroom is recorded and projected on to the split-screen monitor showing all the students at each campus. 

Molly Sergi, a history professor at Kent State’s Geauga campus who teaches a Zoom room class, admitted it is a harder style of learning. 

“But the benefits outweigh it, because they are paying for a live class and they are getting a web-based component to it. Which means they can take all of their exams online at their own campuses,” Sergi said. 

One of Sergi’s students, Joe Chirozzi, a 49-year-old nontraditional student, picked up on little kinks in the Zoom room classroom style.

“She asks a question and I want to answer it down in Trumbull, but somebody else gets to it before because there is that slight delay… Or if I don’t speak loud enough the microphones won’t pick up my sound and I don’t want to say I did say it, you just didn’t hear me,” Chirozzi said.

The delay of the connection is also preventing the students from interacting. When Sergi goes over assignments the delay can stop them from asking questions because she has already moved on to the next topic, said Chirozzi.

The lack of student engagement in any classroom can cause miscommunications, these classrooms give you the opportunity to respond to other students not just in the classroom but online. 

“This is the best of two worlds where they get to interact and talk or you can sit there and vegetate too. It doesn’t matter.  You can still get that component of interaction online. Where they are forced to interact with other students online. I ask them to respond [in class] and if they don’t want to that’s fine, but they do have to respond online,” Sergi said.

The professors are not locked to one campus when teaching a Zoom room. They can move from campus to campus to give each class that live interaction.

Students also can attend a different campus if they want to be in the live class, with the professor.  

Krista DeFini is a regional reporter on the Twinsburg and Geauga campuses. Contact her at [email protected]