When spring semester moved online due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, instructor Laura Harbert had to be creative with her class MDIA 3705: Writing and Producing the Non-Fiction Podcast. Harbert knew that audio storytelling had a unique role to play in documenting daily life during this time of unprecedented disruption, so she quickly purchased a domain, named it Life with COVID-19, and carried on with class.
Many of her students are seniors finishing up their last semester of school, and they really embraced the project. As a team, they recognized the importance of documenting this time. These students are the future of media creation, and they will look back on this time as a defining moment in their lives.
Harbert spent nearly two decades in the public broadcasting world before coming back to school. She produced for podcasts as well, and knew how much these new skills would help students moving forward. Flexibility and persistence are as important as production skills. Students had to use the tools they had with them, as there was no access to the college’s production labs or equipment.
The following is a Q&A about MDIA 3705 from the student perspective of Olivia Stefanoff, a senior majoring in integrated media with minors in film and marketing.
Q. Why did you choose to take this class?
A. I chose to take MDIA 3705 because I've always had a love for podcasts and thought it would be a fun way to learn the intricacies and steps it takes to create them. Podcasts are becoming more popular now within the industry so having a basic knowledge of how to cultivate and create them seemed like a good skill to acquire.
Q. How has your class changed since going remote?
A. Since going remote our class has had to rely on communication solely through online platforms. For this class it mainly consisted of chats and video calls via Microsoft Teams. Every week usually twice a week our professor and other team members that were a part of Life with COVID-19 would meet. During these meetings we would discuss our goals for the week, talk about who would focus on certain tasks, and just check in to make sure we were all staying sane during this transition of virtual learning.
Q. Have you learned any new skills by being virtual?
A. Since transitioning into solely virtual classes I've definitely gained more prominence in consistently checking email, blackboard, and Microsoft Teams. Being on top of communication has been something that I've found to be very beneficial during this change to virtual classes and ensures that you are able to stay organized and on top of your work.
Q. What was your role in the class?
A. Eight students including myself decided to do a final project headed by our professor. We thought it would be relevant and important to do a project focusing on the current situation and life adjusting to quarantine. As a collective we all worked together to create a google voicemail so people from all over could call in and talk about how COVID has affected them. We worked together to create a website, social media accounts, and produce full length podcasts to Soundcloud. My role during this project consists of a couple different things. I am one of the social media managers for Life with COVID-19, which means I aid in the cultivation of media to post to socials and promotion of our podcast across various mediums. I also act as one of the podcast editors when needed.
Q. What was your favorite part of the class?
A. My favorite part of the class has been learning to create a story purely from audio. Coming from a background of more of a visual storytelling aspect, this class enabled me to become more well-rounded in storytelling. And being able to have first-hand experience in cultivating an idea for a podcast and having the opportunity to on a project hands on and bring a vision to fruition. I also loved showcasing our projects in class and getting to hear all of the talented people in my class share their work.
Q. You’re graduating. Any plans?
A. I will be moving to Columbus and applying to media and marketing jobs. A lot of the internships I had applied to were cancelled because of the virus so it's really changed my plans a significant amount.
Q. Is there anything else we should know about the class?
A. If someone is interested in becoming more well-versed with the recording and production behind audio storytelling this is definitely a class you should take. I have been able to become more confident in adobe audition and have projects to add to my resume.