Dr. David Reilly, professor of political science at Niagara University, jokingly calls himself a Luddite, but you’d never believe it by watching the videos he’s produced for his classes, which must be conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are well-crafted—complete with title music and props—and quite funny.
“My students know that an online format is not my preference,” he said. “It's fair to say that I'm not a fan of technology... I have a flip phone.”
Despite his misgivings, Dr. Reilly has produced several YouTube videos, some of which discuss COVID-19 and other related events through the lens of international relations. He adds pictures, information, articles, and links that provide the context for his statements.
“I've tried really hard to identify the ways that the technology can be an advantage rather than a deterrent to learning,” he said. “I have never done videos before, and I am working with a Mac for the first time. So there has been a steep learning curve. But the videos give me a chance to get creative and to inject a little humor, and so I'm enjoying the process.”
Dr. Reilly finds the videos allow him to cover more ground, with more information, than he would in a traditional lecture. He can also structure his thoughts and script out exactly what he wants to say, which often leads to a better organized presentation. Although he admits that the remote classroom makes it difficult to know which students are engaged in the discussions and to gauge their reactions to the material presented, he said that connecting the lessons to current events seems to work for the students in his classes (as well as for anyone else who might stumble across the videos). He has done some videos on the effects of COVID-19, in terms of both international economics and U.S. domestic policies, and one on colonizing the moon, after Trump's executive order encouraging U.S. businesses to consider how best to mine resources in outer space.
Another positive to the video format is that prospective students can see more clearly what the current learning environment looks like, Dr. Reilly noted.
“Although they don't get the background information—the readings, the discussion boards, and chats, and lectures, and discussions that occurred prior to the pandemic—they can see what things look like now, and hopefully, it gets them excited to be a part of what we're doing,” he said.