Check out all of our COVID-19 coverage and analysis.
In times of uncertainty and anxiety, faced with tough decisions like campus closures and convocation cancellations, higher ed leaders have turned to video on institutional websites and social media channels to connect emotionally with stakeholders. This started with the president of Harvard University, although I think BCIT president Kathy Kinloch released one of the first in Canada. Some leaders are releasing one or more video updates per day, such as King’s University College principal David Malloy, and McGill University associate provost Christopher Buddle. George Brown College had the first sign-language video on COVID-19.
My full Youtube playlist, “Coping with COVID-19,” includes about 500 video messages and updates from presidents and deans, recordings of town hall meetings, interviews with researchers, online learning tips, home exercise videos, and mental health advice videos for students. Of course, not all campus videos are being mounted on Youtube: on February 25th, Red River College interim president Christine Watson launched a daily series of informal smartphone videos, “Where’s Watson?”, on LinkedIn and Facebook. uWindsor’s medical doctor Matt Scholl is providing video updates on Facebook. McMaster University released a series of information videos about COVID-19 on Vimeo, and Mohawk College also shared the video on their website.
The biggest flurry of greeting videos occurred in the days immediately before the Easter weekend (April 10-12), also marking the end of classes and beginning of final exams on many campuses. Presidents were generally thanking everyone for their effort, celebrating the renewal of springtime, wishing everyone a Happy Easter, and reminding us all to keep our social distance. I watched about 20 such videos, starting with MSVU president Mary Bluechardt, uVic president Jamie Cassels, TRU president Brett Fairbairn, CCNB president Pierre Zundel, Wilfrid Laurier U president Deborah MacLatchy, and Sheridan president Janet Morrison. (I appreciate the way St Lawrence College president Glenn Vollebregt makes his videos and the full text available as options.) Memorial University’s new president Vianne Timmons introduced herself to the broader community and invited them to donate to the new student emergency relief fund. Centennial College president Craig Stephenson emphasized the importance of recognizing the stat holiday even while working from home, and urged staff to switch off their emails (before now!). Mount Royal University president Tim Rahilly announced the first draft of the new strategic plan, with the mission of “opening minds and changing lives.” uSask president Peter Stoicheff delivered a 24-minute address to the General Academic Assembly, starting with a thoughtful reflection on the 1918 pandemic at UofS. The greetings from Saint Mary’s U president Robert Summerby-Murray and uWindsor president Robert Gordon featured pretty good lighting, sound and background instrumental music too. Kudos! On the Thursday afternoon, these videos were joined by Mike Mahon of uLethbridge, Philip Steenkamp of Royal Roads (who says he is growing the equivalent of a “playoff beard”), Kathy Kinloch of BCIT, Santa Ono of UBC, Deb Saucier of VIU, and Joanne MacLean of UFV. (UBC’s video ended with a virtual duet of “What a Wonderful World” by two music students.)
A couple of COVIDeo categories stand out:
Kudos to those institutions who have gone beyond mental wellness lectures,to give students a bit of peaceful contemplation, and a taste of the campus they left behind, with videos of now-empty grounds and natural beauty.
Notre Dame sent a “Postcard from Home”:
Baylor University shared a “Postcard from Baylor”:
All you hear is birdsong at sunrise in this “Campus Moment of Calm” from Hamilton College:
Grand Valley State asks “Where have all the Lakers gone?”
SUNY Brockport tells it like it is – “this is weird”:
We’re also seeing some virtual substitutes for campus therapy dogs. A lot of video messages from home are giving cameos to household cats and dogs, but sometimes they are the stars of the show.
“Moose” the golden retriever reminds us to “Spend Time Outdoors and Enjoy Nature” in this lovely video from Algoma University in Sault Ste Marie:
Adelphi University asks “Couldn’t we all use some Adelphi bunnies about now?”
And of course, school mascots have been busy demonstrating social distancing, from Eastern Michigan U’s Swoop the Eagle:
to Sheridan’s Bruno the Bruin:
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the CBU Caper’s entry in the “Stay The Blazes Home Challenge”:
Many people cope with anxiety through humour and music. We’ve all seen the news coverage of Italian balcony serenades:
Many students and staff have been releasing videos using ironic soundtracks like the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” or REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” Some of the best COVID-19 parody songs out there include ZDogg MD’s “My Corona” (to the tune of The Knack’s “My Sharona”), or Five Times August’s “We Didn’t Spread the Virus” (think Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”).
But within the higher ed community, there have been some great contributions too.
Jason JW Grant, manager of the Cultiv8 Agricultural Sandbox at Dalhousie, has created a fun song designed to convey key health information, “Do I have the COVID virus?” (set to the tune of Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars”):
Michael Breuning, interim History Chair at Missouri University of Science and Technology, recorded a guitar solo of “I will Survive” specifically from the perspective of faculty members transitioning to online delivery. “You gave me two days to adjust, to move everything online. Did you think I’d crumble, did you think I’d lay down and die?” (Plenty of in-jokes about Canvas, Panopto, and Zoom.)
The staff at Jefferson University Hospitals were downright prescient when they released a hand hygiene video almost a decade ago, set to the music of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”:
Fleming College released a music video, #TogetheratHome, recorded by dozens of musicians and local citizens from home, in support of their COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund:
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