ETC Executive Coffee: A Talk with Vubiquity’s Darcy Antonellis

During the seventh installment of ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… series, Vubiquity CEO Darcy Antonellis posed an intriguing question for USC students: “If you were asked to create the educational system of the future, what would learning look like for college-age students or post-grads such as yourself?” Graduate and undergraduate students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Iovine and Young Academy participated in this lively November 4 discussion. Students expressed interest in online schedules, networking meet-ups, collaboration and support, the technology gap, group-based learning and more.

Mateo Sturla, an Iovine and Young Academy freshman who Zoomed in from his home in Lima, Peru for this discussion, described how the Academy set up multiple weekend networking meet-ups so his class could get to know each other. This gave him confidence. However, both he and his classmate Aditya Guruprasad missed seeing body language and having face-to-face contact.

Sturla suggested longer breaks between Zoom classes than the scheduled 5-10 minutes, which usually was less because classes started late and ran overtime, to allow students to exercise and refresh themselves.

Abhinav Tiku is both a cinema and business graduate student. In his role as a teaching assistant he found that cinema students require more one-on-one support when being taught things remotely that have normally been taught through the camera. To compensate, the students have stepped up and are taking ownership of their own education. They are finding ways to collaborate more and support each other.

Sophomore Alexandra Miller pointed out that distance learning is exacerbating the technology gap between well-off and less well-off students. She is shooting on her iPhone while some of her fellow students have $2,000 rigs. ETC CEO Ken Williams noted that the School of Cinematic Arts equipment, which has historically reduced that gap by giving everyone access to professional equipment, is not available at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cinema senior Jostin Soto added that networking is more difficult because of physical distancing. He is less able to connect with industry contacts and less motivated to be active in student organizations.

Antonellis and Williams both pointed out that students are learning the new normal. The industry is learning and adopting new processes that will continue to be followed long after the pandemic ends.

The COVID disruption has produced surprising lessons learned and success stories. Miller found that her best class mixes a live discussion with pre-recorded material. By prerecording the lecture, the professor presents the material in a more organized and easily-absorbed manner. She described it as a well-produced documentary with post-screening discussion. Tiku added it is ironic that as we engage through media instead of in person, the media education itself isn’t as media literate as he would like.

Sturla really likes one of his classes where the professor alternates between 30-minute lectures and 30-minute small-group breakout discussions. That format helps his retention because he has to remember what the professor said in order to discuss it with his breakout group. Guruprasad agreed, adding that group-based learning is important for networking and as a complement to other online resources.

For more of the discussion, check out the 12-minute highlight video online.

The ETC@USC’s Executive Coffee with… Series

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC produced a series of virtual “executive coffee discussions” during the Fall semester. These one-hour discussions provide an opportunity for students and ETC member company executives to connect and discuss topics of mutual interest during this period of remote learning and social distancing.

For each session an executive posed one question or topic, students from across USC submitted brief statements of interest, and the ETC invited between 5 and 16 students to participate in the Zoom meeting. Each session was recorded and an 8- to 13-minute highlight video was produced.

The sessions were hosted by Verizon (September 23), Universal Pictures (September 29 and October 9), Fox Corporation (October 14), Equinix (October 22), ETC execs (October 29), Vubiquity (November 4) and Dolby Labs (November 12).

The videos are available on the Executive Coffee with… page online.