Programs offering free or discounted use for online classes during school shutdowns

Adobe is just one of the programs with a special offer for students working away from school computers, where they would normally be able to access the software through their school. (Photo by Edward Boice)

As schools close their doors and many transition to online classes due to COVID-19, businesses across the country are creating offers and presenting their products to students and teachers to create the best education experience online.

At Waynesburg University, teachers are utilizing opportunities from programs like Adobe and MakeMusic Inc. Chad Sherman, associate professor of Communication, utilizes the Adobe programs Photoshop and Illustrator for his Photography and Digital Illustration classes.

“Now that we have access to the software that we use in the physical class, it will hopefully make online classes pretty much identical,” Sherman said. “At least, that is the goal. With screen sharing and conferencing software, we can continue as we would with the normal classroom.”

Without the Adobe products, Sherman said he would have to follow Provost Dana Baer’s advice to Waynesburg professors, which is to get “creative.” There are free vector and photo editing programs, which Sherman explained he probably would have turned to if Adobe did not offer their Creative Cloud.

“I don’t have any particular [worries] about the Adobe programs themselves because once they are installed onto a computer, they run like they would in any other scenario,” Sherman said. “It’s the ability to share my screen over what is probably going to be a less than ideal connection to the students. Having any type of lag makes it really hard to follow someone illustrating or editing in Photoshop. So basically, the data transfer is what worries me.”

Adobe’s offer extends until May 31.

MakeMusic Inc. made their program SmartMusic free to download for teachers who are not subscribed to the program until June 30. The program has books and ensemble piece sheet music. While a student is playing those pieces, the program can listen to whether notes are played wrong or correctly. There are other tools included, such as a metronome, a tuner and a way for teachers to comment.

Ronda DePriest, director of the Music Program at Waynesburg University, uses a SmartMusic subscription through the university and plans on using it for online classes.

“I use it as an extension tool for what we are learning in symphonic band, and then I have also used it in the past with the kids in the musical,” DePriest said. “It gives some immediacy back to what they are doing.”

One issue DePriest foresaw before her online classes started was that SmartMusic wants users to speak into microphones sold by the company. DePriest said she heard that earbuds with microphones may also work. Besides the microphone issue, she thinks the program is a “wonderful tool.”

For video conferencing, there are a plethora of programs available. Waynesburg University has license with Microsoft Teams and Canvas, which both have video conference functions. DePriest and some other professors are using Zoom for their classes.

“I hope that everybody’s happy and healthy in all this and see the opportunity in the challenge rather than the challenge in the opportunity,” DePriest said. “There’s opportunity to be very creative here.”

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