You may have heard about Jared Leto’s story. The actor had no idea about COVID-19 and was shocked to learn about the pandemic after spending a dozen days away in the desert with no access to communication. Our very own Chris Taylor experienced the same kind of shock when he returned from a productive 12-day trip to Wales. He penned this powerful blog post, and urged his students to continue telling stories, now more than ever. In the spirit of Chris’ “storytelling still wins” stance, you are about to read stories showcasing how our CCIM community made “lemonade” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lemonade #1: Introducing the “Cardinal Flap”

Let’s start on a light-hearted note. We are taking you a few weeks back, just before the University issued their social distancing guidelines. The CCIM leadership team was coming out of a meeting where they discussed the plans each unit had crafted in response to the COVID-19 threat.

Then, this happened.

That’s right. They came up with a new, touchless greeting. They named it the “Cardinal Flap”. Feel free to use it as you see fit.

Lemonade #2: Free Ads for Local Restaurants

McKinley Avenue Agency ad

Now, meet the McKinley Avenue Agency—CCIM’s student-run advertising and media sales agency. The students working for the agency were among the first to react and sprung into action when the COVID-19 threat started to negatively impact local businesses. Betsy Meyer, their Professional Advisor shares, “the sales team came together and decided the best way to support the community during this time was to offer free advertising to help our struggling local businesses. Matt Dowell, Sales Director, and Abby Hines, Advertising Director, worked together to come up with the advertising packages that would best reach the Ball State and Muncie communities.” Currently, they’ve had four local businesses reach out to take advantage of the opportunity.

Lemonade #3: Practicing Online Tools to Reduce Uncertainty

As many of our faculty, Communication Studies Prof. Carolyn (Carrie) Shue did not have a lot of time to transition into a virtual classroom. In three days’ time, she had to redesign her senior-level applied communication course while learning the technology that has enabled advances in online education. Although Dr. Shue taught online in 1998, she hasn’t done so since. Therefore, she opted for a test-and-learn approach. The first week was about learning which approaches to classroom engagement would work best for different educational tasks. Dr. Shue had students practice sharing their goals during their time of social distancing through online video posts.

“Overwhelmingly, the students stated they enjoyed seeing each other and being seen. I know I enjoyed seeing them. Several students acknowledged the importance of keeping a routine and not procrastinating now that their time is unstructured given the shift to online learning. My favorite surprising and inspiring goals were from the students who identified creative art projects they wanted to complete including adult coloring books, painting and graphic art.”

Dr. Shue also tested out discussion boards by having students create a story chain highlighting key course concepts. The story prompt began:

It was a crazy week in COMM 452! Moving online in 3-days’ time!?! The students wondered … Did Carrie have the ability to pull this off?

The students created a fun, encouraging story tied to key course concepts with an overall tone of success which Dr. Shue found encouraging for the weeks to come.

“Both the video goals and text story contributions were facilitated in Canvas using the “discussions” tool available to all students. I wanted us to practice the tools I knew we all had access to in Canvas to reduce uncertainty and make sure I could help with any technical issues. My goal is to focus on three technologies – Canvas, Mediasite, and WebEx. With these three tools, I’ve learned I can facilitate all my course content and engagement goals in meaningful ways while staying connected to my students.”

Lemonade #4: Weekly 1-to-1 Calls with Students

Dr. Ray Steele (Professor of Information and Communication sciences) was worried about losing the personal interaction and direct feedback so vital to the CICS experience. Although Dr. Steele shares materials electronically and facilitates interactions through collaboration platforms, he did not feel it was enough. True to his commitment, he started calling every student to personally to discuss the week’s materials and to sustain those connections. Even though he can’t meet in person, Dr. Steele is making sure that social distancing doesn’t mean disconnection.

Lemonade #5: Songs for the Elderly

Music and Memory A population particularly vulnerable in these trying times are the elderly people. Michael Gerhard—Associate Professor of Telecommunications and faculty advisor of Music & Memory* Muncie—started a website to bring virtual visits and love to nursing home residents. The website currently offers four virtual student visits. In those videos, students share words of encouragement and sing songs. More content will be added as the crisis continues.

*Founded in 2010, Music & Memory® is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.

Lemonade #6: A Silent Virtual Writing Group

Associate Professor of Communication Studies Kristen McCauliff has been using discussion boards to keep in touch with her students. When one of her graduate students posted that she was having trouble staying motivated to write, Dr. McCauliff realized she was, too. She decided to do something about it and created Weekly WebEx Writing (WWW) times which will debut next week.
“We will not chat during these sessions (other than a brief greeting as people join). It will be silent but we’re together–writing! Just a way to form community and structure in some accountability. We are still meeting Monday evenings as a class. This is when students have a chance to ask questions and share success stories about their ongoing papers. I give them all pep talks then. But, if those Monday sessions are any indication, people will be putting up funny signs and wearing their lucky hats. Last night, Robert Pattinson “joined” us!”
Attendance to WWW sessions is optional for students but Dr. McCauliff plans to open up the group to other Communication Studies faculty teaching graduate classes.

Lemonade #7: A Chatty Virtual Writing Group

Peggy Fisher Virtual Class

Photo: Peggy Fisher

Communication Studies faculty Peggy Fisher leads an immersive learning class for the St. Mary Catholic Church in Muncie. The deliverables for the project titled Preserving the Past and Looking Toward the Future: Historic Preservation and Digital Storytelling for a Muncie Landmark Church consist of a book and videos. As they are finishing up the first draft of their book, Dr. Fisher is using cloud technologies to keep the group laser-focused.

“We are using Google Hangout pretty frequently to work on the project. Yesterday, in fact, we spent almost three hours online together going through a book we are working on page by page for edits. Students are also editing video on their own personal computers. I am in frequent contact with our community partner, St. Mary Church, and they have been very supportive of the changes we have made to the deliverables the group will provide at the end of the semester.”

Lemonade #8: Online Classes Professionally Produced

Dr. Frank Groom (Professor of Information and Communication Sciences) was initially concerned about providing students with the same rich experience he provides in his courses. Hearing we were shifting to online instruction, he immediately went into action and worked with Ball State’s Unified Media Services. The production crews helped record all of his presentations for the rest of the term. He is interacting with the students remotely now, and he was able to share professional content because of the great resources hosted within CCIM. And, the response from students has been very positive!

Lemonade #9: Creating a Virtual Newsroom

Daily News Remote Operations

Photo: Lisa Renze-Rhodes

Though much has changed about how it’s getting done, the Ball State Daily News is publishing and printing each week right on schedule. In the days leading up to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order restricting Hoosiers’ movements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooke Kemp, the Daily News editor-in-chief and her team met to discuss their remote publishing plan. Then they set to work.

“A lot has changed in the past few weeks, but The Daily News staff is still working hard to provide thorough, high-quality content for readers,” Kemp said. “Right now, we are all working remotely from our respective homes, but we are in constant communication, relying on messaging, Google Docs, WebEx, and other tools to try and maintain a sense of normalcy.”

The team meets twice a week in large editorial board meetings, then in small group conversations about specific stories. Everyone seems to be adjusting well, Kemp said. Though much has changed about how it’s getting done, the Ball State Daily News is publishing and printing each week right on schedule.

“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful, talented, and dedicated staff and while we may not be able to go back to “business as usual” in our beloved Unified Media Lab, we understand that there really is no such thing as “business as usual” when it comes to journalism,” she said. “These are unprecedented times that present challenges, opportunities, and stories that we surely will not soon forget.”

Lemonade #10: Zoom Blooper Reel

Juli Metzger (Department of Journalism), Melinda Messineo (Department of Sociology) and Jennifer Blackmer (Department of Theatre) had a remote meeting scheduled for their online Creative Inquiry class. Enter Prof. Blackmer’s husband. The video below starts as he is highly confused about the tasting notes written on his coffee packaging from the Caffeinery. A hilarious back-and-forth follows between Prof. Blackmer and her husband, with bonus commentary from Profs. Metzger and Messineo. The cherry on the cake? Prof. Blackmer did not realize that the whole thing was being recorded. Evidently, what happens in Zoom, does not stay in Zoom.


Have a story to share? Feel free to send it to us via our story submission form.

Useful links: The latest updates on the COVID-19 situation can be found here.