Looking into Biola’s Communications

Biola has been communicating daily with its students and communities.

Looking+into+Biola%E2%80%99s+Communications

File | THE CHIMES

Charlotte McKinley, Freelancer

Before the semester began, students waited with anticipation for faculty to announce if campus would open in the fall. On Sept. 17, an email from the Biola Internal Communications team provided them with an answer: Biola is to remain closed for the remainder of the semester.

BIOLA’S COMMUNICATION

Although unable to conduct in-person classes, Biola is working closely with the Los Angeles County Health Department to reopen in the spring, according to Vice President of University Marketing and Communications Lee Wilhite

We’ve been staying in touch with the county every week… we have a really close connection with them,” Wilhite said.

When the university first went online, emails were sent out weekly to students to keep communication open, and faculty was given information regarding where Biola was at with the regulations of the county.

The Biola leadership hopes the university “can be back fully in person in spring” and they will not have to take another semester online, according to Wilhite.

According to Anna Sinclair, a professor in the Department of Public Relations and Strategic Communication, Biola has been doing an admirable job adapting to the struggles and challenges that COVID-19 has presented.

Sinclair mentioned that faculty were constantly told by administration, “We don’t know what this looks like yet, but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know.” The faculty had weekly meetings on Thursdays during the Spring 2020 semester to confirm what was or was not happening. There were updates from President Barry Corey and Provost Deborah Taylor, both of which were transparent with what was happening. Being constrained by California’s laws made it difficult for the university to make decisions. 

IMPLEMENTATION

In their implementation of Biola at Home, the university began training faculty on the best online teaching practices and utilizing Zoom. They purchased extended Zoom calls so it would last the duration of the class period. For Sinclair’s Introduction to Public Relations class, students are slated for a three-hour Zoom session. 

Furthermore, the professors pre-recorded videos to help with the workload and understanding of the material so it would be easier for the students to reach their academic benchmarks. 

A GLANCE AT OTHER SCHOOLS

Biola is not the only university which had to adapt to new communication strategies. North Idaho College’s Community Relations Coordinator Maureen Dolan explained NIC’s slogan for the year, “Together We Will,” was created to show that the students are not going through this pandemic alone. 

Due to the stringent criteria Gov. Brad Little of Idaho laid out for colleges to reopen, NIC is in constant communication with the state. 

“We’re still in Stage 4, along with the rest of the state of Idaho,” Dolan said in an email. 

Throughout the pandemic and their adaptations, NIC had an unexpected silver lining: online classes. Dolan said that NIC noticed the online classes worked very well and will continue to implement them in future years regardless of the pandemic.

Montana State University’s News Service Director Michael Becker mentioned that MSU had increased communications with its students compared to that of previous years pre-pandemic through email and to the public via press releases. 

Becker says that the COVID-19 social media posts received more attention than the posts not regarding the coronavirus. He said their primary communication target was to “know the symptoms, wear a mask, and social distance.”

STUDENT REACTIONS

Students have differing opinions on the amount of communication Biola has been providing. Freshman pre-nursing major Abigail Brust explained that the uncertainty brought by these times is challenging.

“I feel like [Biola] has been giving a lot of updates which is good, but also a lot of uncertainty. [We’re] often left in a weird spot because no one knows what’s happening,” Brust said.

Sophomore pre-nursing major Trent Mortensen felt as if Biola did what it could, given the circumstances.

“I wasn’t offended or anything that they changed their information so fast. I mean, I don’t know, it was kind of disappointing, but really we were kind of uneducated on what was happening at that time,” Mortensen said.

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

Biola has yet to evaluate the communication strategies it utilized during this pandemic. According to Mortensen, the length of the emails were too long. 

“At least send a different email that has just the main bullet points,” Mortensen said.

“I think that updates on the Biola app would also be helpful because most people have their notifications set up,” Brust said. “The Biola app is almost more of an effective way to reach students rather than email because most students don’t check their email that frequently.”

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