Joseph Salamon, News Editor

Students and faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis now have access to a much more interactive and fulfilling classroom experience. The new Zoom application creates an environment in which faculty can use their network to coordinate video conferences with relevant professionals.

Straying from the traditional classroom experience consisting solely of teacher-to-student interaction, Zoom introduces a third party, allowing students to learn and ask questions of whomever their professor decides to video conference with.

On February 7, Jill Alexander, associate teaching professor in the Department of Communication & Media, used Zoom for her sports public relations course. She scheduled a video conference through Zoom with Dave Lockett, Ultimate Fighting Championship director of public relations.

Lockett addressed the classroom, speaking of his past experiences in the field of sports public relations, and then opened the floor for a question and answer session. Louis Meyer, junior, communication, stated that “using tools like Zoom allows teachers to bring in people like Dave Lockett who can provide real life experience and teach you what the field is like first hand.”

When it comes to deciding on a certain career path, students should be given as many resources as possible to figure out their likes and dislikes. “Even with an up-to-date textbook, there is a limit to what one can learn,” Meyer explained.

Before Zoom, professors would have to work with a limited network in order to bring an outside viewpoint into the classroom. Oftentimes, professionals would have to travel to campus and open a large portion of their schedule to accommodate for a short lecture or question and answer session with a class.

“Most professionals lead very busy lives,” Alexander stated. “The Zoom application allows me to introduce my students to public relations professionals across the country without the expense of travel.” Zoom is changing the way UMSL students learn, and has the potential to enhance each department’s curriculum.

According to UMSL’s website, Zoom offers two different account packages. The basic account can host up to 100 participants, features high definition video and voice, private and group chat, a 40-minute time limit on meetings with three to 100 people, along with other things. An additional pro account features no duration limits and offers cloud recording.

In a classroom setting, the conferencing function would typically only need to be limited to a one-on-one interaction between the professor’s screen and whoever they are conferencing. The main reason individual students would need to be part of the conference is if there is no class meeting during the time of the conference. As professor Jill Alexander stated, “This is Missouri and as you know, our weather can be unpredictable. I was able to provide each student with the log-in details so that they could access the session even if the weather resulted in poor road conditions.”

Zoom is still a new feature to the UMSL education experience, but it shows potential to have a positive impact on how—and how much—students learn day in, day out. This positive impact might encourage more professors to use the application more often.

Using Zoom in class can also serve as a reminder for students of the importance of building a professional network. Zoom can only be used to its fullest potential if professors know the right people to call upon for certain lessons. As for Alexander, she plans to use the application as often as she can.

UMSL’s website provides helpful documents for faculty, staff, and students to learn more about Zoom, as well as information on who to contact to set up a Zoom conference in a classroom.