Tag Archives: Communication

Truth to Power: My Time in Journalism

DAVID B. GUMBS |

ST. THOMAS – In his 1839 play, “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy,” the English writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton first coined the phrase “… The pen is mightier than the sword.”

More than a century and a half later, the idea that the written word could be stronger than any force of aggression or intimidation remains both undeniably true and immensely important. It is a belief that has taken hold across all of humanity regardless of borders such as nations, culture or language.

It is also an ideal whose usage – and indeed misuse – has shaped the course of history time and again, and will continue to play a guiding role for mankind as we collectively move into this new age of uncertainty.

Thanks to the astounding advancements in technology, the world is now more connected than ever before, and events that were once unknown or kept far at a distance from us can be brought to the attention of the entire world.

However, with all the potential for good that this can generate, there is an equal, terrible potential for harm; for we are indeed more connected through news as a species than we have ever been, but that same news also arguably less trustworthy that it has ever been too.

To easily have half-truths and yellow journalism enflamed opinions and stirred outrage and passion in the hearts of many, only to ruin the lives and reputations of innocent people by the time their falsehoods are exposed to the world.

In this time of both journalistic greatness and uncertainty, institutions such as the UVI Voice and UVI’s Communications classes are more important that they have ever been before.

Through my experiences in my Com 200 class, I learned how to do research, draft articles and write for an audience in a professional and – most importantly for news – impartial manner.

My time as a writer and reporter for the UVI Voice helped me even more giving me real, hands-on experience in working for a newspaper company in an educational and familiar environment. These two experiences have helped me immensely, and as we move towards a future where the power to become a reporter and change the world is at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important that we have a place that can instruct us and teach us about the enormous responsibility that comes with that power.

We live in a world where pen being mightier than the sword is not only a clever adage but the law, and in this world, each and every one of us has the power to change the world.

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College Without the Classroom: How Online and Video-Conference Classes at UVI Compare to Traditional Courses

ARIGE SHROUF |

ST. CROIX — It’s 4 o’clock on a Monday afternoon as Sarah Jagrup heads to her first class of the new semester. A brief glance at her schedule indicates she has Caribbean Literature in room 401 from 4-5:15 p.m. She is unaware that the class is a video conference course or that the professor is on St. Thomas as she enters the theater in the Evans Center Building.

She walks in to find the room in complete darkness and completely empty. Sarah double-checks the room and time on her schedule. Reassured, she turns on the lights and makes her way to the center of the room as she waits for her classmates and her professor to arrive.

Ten minutes pass and nothing happens. She is still alone in the largest classroom on campus. Sarah decides to investigate why no one is there and finds out that the class is video conference, so she heads to the library to get help from the IT department.

After a thorough investigation to determine which classroom the class is being held on in St. Thomas, the helpful IT technician connects Sarah with her class on St. Thomas.

When the connection goes through, she finds they have been conducting class without her for the last 30 minutes. She is the only student registered for the course on St. Croix while there are about 17 or 18 students on St. Thomas. A single person missing is easily overlooked.

Touch screen display which controls the video conference equipment.  (photo credit: uvi.edu)
Touchscreen display which controls video conference equipment.

Sarah goes through this tedious process of trying to connect with her professor and classmates on St. Thomas every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. She makes it a habit to contact IT before making her way to her class since she anticipates an endless list of issues with the equipment. She is at a total loss on how to operate the video conference equipment herself until six weeks into the semester, when an IT technician decides to show her how to operate the technology.

As an education major, Sarah has to have a certain amount of patience, but she confesses that after several days of dealing with lags, glitches, missing out on class time, and being overlooked, her patience was at an all-time low.

“It was horrible and disappointing to me. I was lost and really fed up with the course,” Sarah said. “I could not wait for it to be over.”

“I felt like the ugly duckling, and I was at a total disadvantage,” Sarah said. “It should not be that bad, but it is. The people on the other side just don’t understand our frustration.”

After such a horrible experience, Sarah developed an aversion to video conference classes, but she would soon realize that video conference and online classes are impossible to avoid at the University of the Virgin Islands, and in any case, it is a totally different experience when the professor is on St. Croix and the St. Croix students have the advantage.

Out of the roughly 330 classes currently being taught at UVI’s St. Croix campus – some of them repeated courses being taught by several professors or in different sections – 70 of them are video conference courses and 33 of them are online. Most of these courses are upper level courses and the professors are located on the St. Thomas campus. This means that about 31 percent of all classes being taught on the St. Croix campus are asynchronous upper level courses in which the student either never sees the professor or in which the professor is merely one of several faces on a screen.

Online and video conference courses do have their advantages because they allow students to have access to more classes and more professors than one campus provides. Online courses in particular can also be more convenient for commuter and non-traditional students who have busy lives and have a harder time making it to classes on a regular basis.

Despite the advantages, students and even some professors seem to prefer regular classes to online or video conference classes.

Dr. David Gould, an English professor, prefers teaching in the classroom to teaching online because in online classes there is “not enough face to face communication and online classes encourage plagiarism.”

The login page for the site used to connect to classes online. (Photo credit – Arige Shrouf)
The login page for the site used to connect to classes online.
(Photo credit – Arige Shrouf)

“I prefer regular classes in a single classroom in which I can interact with the professor and my classmates more effectively,” Corwin Commabatch, a junior majoring in business administration said. “But online classes represent a challenge that can be useful for when we graduate and we are on our own.”

According to Commabatch, online classes force students to be more responsible, to “learn to adjust and be professional” and they are more convenient because they allow him to work at his own pace.

Dr. Valerie Combie, a Master Professor of English, certified to teach online classes said, “I always prefer regular classes. I like the interaction and I can assist students more when they are present in real life.”

“In video conference classes, it is harder to engage with the students,” Dr. Gould said.

With about 88 percent of junior and senior level English courses, 85 percent of upper level communications courses, 58 percent of criminal justice courses, 50 percent of accounting courses and 35 percent of upper level psychology courses – just to name a few – currently being taught online or via video conference, UVI professors and students are no strangers to the varied class formats and most have their preferences.

Zohn Fleming, a sophomore speech communication and theater major said, “I like the video conference classes better because I get to hear a lot of different opinions from students on both or all three campuses. I wish more of my classes were video conference, but I don’t like online classes because I just keep forgetting to do the work.”

With asynchronous classes, it sometimes seems to be a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

“The video conference class got to the point where I just did what I had to do and nothing more. I would sit in class and be on my phone or iPad the whole time because no one cared,” Sarah Jagrup said. “My interest was not there at all because there was a total disconnect and I was left out. I wished I had more access to my professor.”

“I can’t engage in an online class when the professor is on St. Thomas, but now that I am a senior, I just don’t care anymore,” Sarah said.

“I don’t think it’s fair for students on the remote campus,” Dr. Combie said.

Sophia Horsford, a junior majoring in criminal justice said, “the professors in St. Thomas are hard to get in contact with and if more of our classes were regular classes with just St. Croix, we would have no technical difficulties.”

I would prefer if more of my classes were regular/traditional classes because in class it’s more personal,” Olinger Augustin, a sophomore majoring in communications said. “You don’t have to yell over to the camera and you are more likely to be remembered.”

Shanah Bannis, a senior psychology major said, “I prefer regular classes for the interaction and online classes for the convenience, but in video conference courses is it not easy to engage both sides.”

Despite the challenges of asynchronous courses, they play a crucial role in our campus and, when the technology works and the students are kept engaged, these courses can be effective and provide the campus with a useful resource to connect with not only St. Thomas but St. John as well. Without video conference and online courses, there would be over 100 fewer classes at UVI and taking the necessary classes would be an even greater challenge for students trying to graduate in a timely manner.

Video conference classroom in the St. John Academic Center, allowing students to connect with the two main UVI campuses.  (photo credit: uvi.edu)
Video conference classroom in the St. John Academic Center, allowing students to connect with the two main UVI campuses.
(photo credit: uvi.edu)

“I actually like VC classes,” Dr. Gillian Royes, a communications professor said. “It can be fun with small classes where the students on both campuses get to discuss issues together.”

“Providing video-conferencing and on-line courses provides a service to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to matriculate,” Nancy W. Morgan, a professor of education, said. “With a motivated student, is not ‘something’ better than ‘nothing’?”

For students like Sarah Jagrup who have had horrible experiences with online or video conference classes, that motivation is hard to come by or maintain.

“At the end of the day,” Sarah said, “you just have to suck it up and get used to it because more and more of your classes are going to be online or video conference.”

WUVI embarks on new territory

WUVI Embarks on New Territory

Elisa Thomas|

ST. THOMAS- After only one year of existence, the student-run college radio station,WUVI AM 1090, announces upcoming additions.

A new studio will be created on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix, where technology will allow both the St. Croix and St. Thomas studios to communicate with each other and  also to the transmitter.

This addition allows students to create and produce radio shows and go live on the air from St. Croix.

The first steps of the process are already in progress due to allocating and purchasing carpets to soundproof the prospective studio’s walls.

“We already host a number of shows out of St. Croix, using a cobbled together telephone system,” Dr. Alexander Randall, faculty advisor and professor of digital media communications at the University of the Virgin Islands said.

“Dr. Chenzira Davis-Kahina produces a show out of St. Croix that’s coming through telephone lines. With the new studio we’ll be able to do a really professional version of that.”

The prospective St. Croix studio is located in the former Research and Technology (RT) rooms of an on-campus dormitory.

The new studio will be funded by a five-year federal title III grant provided by the Department of Education.

The money afforded by the grant is to develop new curriculum. The grant also covers transmitter fees, and rent for the antenna along with other equipment.

“But along the way we said in order to make new classes in the field of broadcasting we needed a radio station to teach about broadcasting,” Dr. Randall said.

The prerequisite courses for student involvement on WUVI are Broadcast I and II.  These courses prepare students for managerial positions and live show broadcasts.

Students are made familiar of studio equipment and software such as consoles, telephone’s couplers, microphones, the MARTI system, streaming devices, Adobe Audition and DRS 2006.

Members of WUVI. From left to right: Michael McFarland, Najuma Dunn, Renee Williams, Marisha Jno-Lewis, Dr. Alexander Randall, Nicole Moore, Elesha Hazel, April Rose Fale-Knight, Heru Shango and Mike Pride.     Photo by: Elisa Thomas
Members of WUVI. From left to right: Michael McFarland, Najuma Dunn, Renee Williams, Marisha Jno-Lewis, Dr. Alexander Randall, Nicole Moore, Elesha Hazel, April Rose Fale-Knight, Heru Shango and Mike Pride. Photo by: Elisa Thomas

“There’s no such thing as student involvement. It’s not just partial participation; they are running the radio station. If you take away the student aspect the station will fall apart,” Studio Manager, April Rose Fale-Knight said.

The 12 hour daily programing features student & faculty created shows such as U.V.I Insider, Democracy Now, Music and Culture Experience, U.V.I CES, H.B.C.U Connect, Caribbean Beats, College Voices Unzipped, WINGS Women’s Issue, Jazz Stories, Avenues of Healing, VICCC and Conscious Vibe.

WUVI AM 1090 also carries a syndicated version of the Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS).

WUVI is the only station in the Virgin Islands to carry the Tom Joyner Morning Show which provides national news and includes segments of local news by U.V.I students.

At intervals in the Tom Joyner Morning Show, local, co-culture, UVI and regional news are  aired by Marisha Jno-Lewis, Manefa O’Connor, and Shawn Seabrooks.

Marisha Jno-Lewis, news director of WUVI uses the DRS 2006 software to air her show at WUVI AM 1090.   Photo by Elisa Thomas
Marisha Jno-Lewis, news director of WUVI uses the DRS 2006 software to air her show at WUVI AM 1090. Photo by Elisa Thomas

“I was so nervous and scared to take on such a big responsibility,”Marisha Jno-Lewis, news director of WUVI said.

Jno-Lewis delivers the local, Co-Culture and U.V.I news within the 9 o’clock hour. “It involves me waking up at 5am to get the Daily News subscription to write the latest news,” Jno-Lewis said.  “Because the news is incorporated in the Tom Joyner Morning Show, I have a time limit of five to six minutes roughly.”

The station provides radio content of news, varieties of music, drama, politics, spoken word and educational programing. The WUVI signal reaches as far as Dominica in the south and to Puerto Rico in the east.

“We do a good job of reaching the masses, giving informed updates of news, music and what’s happening at U.V.I,” Seabrookes, host of U.V.I Insider and the regional news segment said.

The existing station is located on the third floor of Penha House on the St. Thomas campus and airs each day from 6 a.m to 6 p.m.  Students are able to develop their own content and gain hands-on experience in the radio and production field.

U.V.I students are receiving a great opportunity. “If you look around in the community there’s no other radio station that is being run by students or young people,” Fale-Knight said.

Kiss Me Through the Phone

RESIA THOMAS|

ST. CROIX—From juggling schedules to career moves to challenges in communication, couples who have been separated by a long distance change in address can tell you the challenges they’ve faced in maintaining the romance. So, can long-distance relationships (LDRs) really work?

Sgt. 1st Class of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard, Julian Álvarez, 24, admitted it wasn’t an easy feat.

Continue reading Kiss Me Through the Phone