Students attend virutal class and study inside the University of Georgia's Main Library on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. Compared to previous first days of class, few students were present on campus, as many classes met online. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

With the start of the fall 2020 semester mostly online, professors at the University of Georgia have encountered technical difficulties during the first week of classes. Hybrid and fully online teaching methods employed by university faculty endured a rocky transition from typical in-person classes.

UGA started school on Aug. 20, and classes look different than any previous semester. Professors faced challenges with the transition to hybrid or online classes amid COVID-19. They voiced complaints, struggles and frustrations from the first weeks of classes.

Scott Nelson, a professor in the department of history, hosted an unwanted guest on his Twitch platform. Twitch is similar to YouTube, and Nelson uses it to stream live, or synchronous, online lectures. Nelson said his Twitch lecture “had a troll come in” within the first week of classes.

“This troll called me pops, so I initially thought it was my kid. Then he started dropping the F-bomb in the session, but luckily some of my students were more familiar with Twitch than I was, and they got him banned,” Nelson said.  

Despite the unexpected guest, Nelson said most of his students still enjoy the Twitch platform and he will continue to use it while his classes are fully online.

Due to COVID-19, university faculty were forced to change their curriculum after receiving pressure to continue a modified in-person format. The hybrid method of teaching is proving to be difficult and tedious among professors.

UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor said the Enterprise Informational Technology Service prepared for increased online activity on campus by compiling tips for how to use DawgCheck, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, eLearning Commons and the UGA Mobile App. 

“Requests this August were similar to what we see at the start of any new semester,” Trevor said.

Ted Daniel Rossier, a professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, attributed the bulk of his problems to Kaltura. In his constitutional law class, students are split in three groups that rotate for in-person class while those not in attendance watch the class recording. Rossier is concerned that students who don’t attend class will have to wait almost a full day before being able to access the lecture.

Kaltura has experienced many issues since Aug. 20, including access difficulties on Aug. 27, application programming interference on Aug. 26, Aug. 30 and Sept. 3 and video playback issues on Sept. 4.  

“It took overnight to get my class recording to where it was visible for students,” Rossier said. He said these problems are happening with both students and professors all over campus.

While Rossier said that having some in-person opportunities are better than none, he recognized that the system is flawed and would rather deal with these issues than moving completely online. 

“It is an imperfect alternative that hopefully we won’t have to use for too much longer,” Rossier said.  

Rossier also expressed his concerns for the quality of technological devices available to professors despite the increase in online instruction.  

“In order to get good quality recordings where you can hear everything, you have to have professional recording equipment in every classroom and that is cost prohibitive, so we are stuck using little tablets or the classroom system to record,” Rossier said. 

Even though online classes are less personal, Nelson said that some students are more outgoing in discussions through online classes than in person. 

“I have a couple kids who strongly disagree with me which is awesome, like that’s what you hope for,” Nelson said. “I think they are kind of emboldened by the Twitch, and I think that’s great.”

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