As a senior, I have seen one in-person and two virtual CSA Days. Presenting an oral presentation my freshman year was a challenging yet rewarding experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to share the research I was and still am so passionate about.
When I presented in person, I worked closely with my faculty advisor to rehearse within the time limit, add slides at the end of my presentation for potential questions and project my voice to an audience. Each of these skills has helped me gain confidence both inside and outside the classroom as I’ve worked on many more presentations throughout my undergraduate career.
Now that CSA Day is occurring in a hybrid format, I feel that students do not have the opportunity to catch up on these skills that have been so difficult to practice over the last few years. This year, oral presentations are pre-recorded, posted on Meredith’s CSA Day YouTube page and then presentations are watched during sessions throughout the day on April 7 with a live question and answer session.
If groups of students, faculty and guests will be gathering in classrooms to watch the presentations, why can’t students present in person? I consider myself very conscious of the hazards presented by COVID-19 and suspect this might be why the presenters are not speaking live. Yes, it is a potential risk to remain in a classroom with a large number of people for an entire presentation session. But it makes no difference whether or not you are in the room presenting, or in the room sitting and watching a recorded presentation. I think it would have been possible for Meredith to require masks only for CSA Day, and then return to the current Community Standards the day after. This would have given students an opportunity to practice their oral presentation skills which I believe are so valuable.
During the pandemic, Meredith did a great job of making sure that students were still able to present their information through a YouTube channel. I almost felt that my research would reach more people on the internet than it would in a presentation room in Ledford. But what was obviously missing from the virtual CSA experience was the development of live presentation skills.
The virtual submission of presentation videos also adds additional work to students who are already feeling the pressure of the spring semester. While learning how to fluently use Zoom recording technology is important in this new age, taking the time to create a presentation and record it (sometimes with multiple takes) is often more tedious than presenting to a live audience.
It is important that as we safely ease back into in-person events, students are encouraged to practice public speaking and presentation skills that are necessary beyond college. CSA Day is a safe and encouraging place for this to begin for students who have been getting by with virtual presentations for the past two years. By having students record their oral presentations, the College is doing them a disservice and not pushing students to develop important skills.
By Ally Cefalu, Arts & Entertainment Editor