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College Life | Undergraduate | Graduate

Making Online Connections

Hope Osborn is a first-year theater and psychology student at South Dakota State University. She is currently completing all classes online from her home in Milbank. Her blog outlines the new connections she has made online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing and staying at home caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can make it hard to avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation. Aside from the usual Snapchat, FaceTime, texting and phone calls, students are finding new ways to stay in touch and spend time with one another.


For example, South Dakota State University’s School of Performing Arts has found new and fun ways to spend time with each other. Zoom, Netflix Party and Discord allow you to do activities while in contact with your friends.


For the students that participate in theatre including myself, Associate Professor of Theatre Billy Wilburn got things started by creating a Netflix Party for students to watch “Incredibles 2.”


“I made the realization that social distancing did not mean that we couldn’t communicate. One of the most important parts of college is the social connection with one another,” Wilburn said.


Netflix Party is a free Chrome extension that can be downloaded onto any computer. An administrator selects a movie and then shares the party link so users can watch a movie in real time with a chat box on screen to communicate without interrupting the movie.


Discord is another app that the theatre students are using. The free app’s initial use was for gamers to play various games together, but students have found new uses.


“I started using Discord in high school, but not regularly until now … because of COVID-19. It allows up to 50 people on a server,” says senior theater major Mary Hendricks. “I like Discord a lot because it is so easy to use.”


Jackbox Games is a game the students often play using Discord. The game is set up much like Kahoot. One player with the game shares their screen for others on the Discord server, and students then go to the Jackbox site and enter a room code to play. I can’t count how many times I’ve laughed uncontrollably with my peers while on Discord. We play many different ones and they’re all fun and hilarious.


Freshman theater major Kelsey Werpy said using Discord allows one to feel less alone by being able to hear everyone’s voices when playing games.


In addition to Netflix Party and Discord, Zoom can be used for things other than lectures and classes. Students and faculty have used it to catch up with multiple people at once. Senior theatre major Morea Nichols said, “Zoom is like FaceTime with multiple people. It has an aspect of community that I really enjoy, and it is really accessible.”


In addition to theater, I also am a member of the SDSU Concert Choir and Choralia, both under the instruction of Laura Diddle. During this online-only course delivery time, Diddle has set up a few Zoom calls for us to stay connected with each other and even with friends the Concert Choir made in Italy during its tour over Christmas break. Just this week, Choralia had a Zoom meeting to catch up with each other. While it does get hectic with that many people, it is a fun kind of chaos.


The students advised others to take care of oneself and reach out. Being home away from your SDSU community does not mean you have to completely isolate yourself.


“Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone during this time. You’ll realize everyone needs somebody to talk to,” Wilburn said. “I think a lot of times we get in our heads we don’t want to burden anyone … but everyone is having the same problem.”


So, keep your chins up, Jackrabbits! Use apps like these to stay in touch with your friends and stay connected during this time of social distancing.

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