The move to teaching online was, for many of us, a huge leap. Many Umbra Institute professors have been pleasantly surprised with continued student engagement despite the Atlantic and 6-8 hours lying between them and their students. Elgin Eckert (Cosa Nostra:History and Cinema of the Mafia) reported that often the students who had been the quietest in class were the most active and thoughtful in the online discussion groups. Her colleague Jacopo Cossater (Digital Marketing: Strategies for Wine and Wineries) agreed, noting that given the courses’ small size, moving to Zoom allowed them to largely maintain the intimacy of a discussion-based class. The digital format even allowed a new, potentially even more careful look at the topics at hand.
The students’ dispersal to different locations was an unexpected plus for their contributions to the class in several cases. Trained as an anthropologist, Elisa Ascione (History and Culture of Italian Food) leveraged the disparate locations to draw out discussions of difference and cultural relativism. Students “brought a variety of positions to online discussions that helped the class to explore theoretical issues even more than what I observed in face to face relations while they were in Italy.” Finally, and most poignantly, Philippa Stannard (Intro to Digital Photography) said this about her students: “I can tell you I have been in awe of my students’ ability to capture photographs of the wide range of experiences that they have been through in the past few months. They are producing honest, powerful, and insightful images that highlight resilience, growth and hope in the future.”
The Umbra Institute would like to thank its professors and students for their hard work and resilience this semester as they weathered unpredictable circumstances.
Reflections from a Selection of Spring 2020 Photography Students