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Reconsidering the Zoom University, synchronic/asynchronic and online teaching and learning

I am absolutely exhausted. And it’s only late October 2020.

face I want to preface this blog post by saying that I love teaching, and that I know that part of the reason why I am tired is that I am honoring all the commitments to my previous institution (CIDE) and my current one (FLACSO Mexico) so I am teaching more courses than I am used to. I am definitely not a stranger to online teaching, did it over the summer with wild success and I have enough technological literacy.

I also have a passion and interest in pedagogy so I have taken courses over the summer, experimented with sample classes, etc.


My good friend, Dr. Juliette Levy, sums it up:

I have been an educator since I was eleven years old. I love teaching, mentoring, tutoring, educating. But doing this online thing via synchronic (and I would say even asynchronic) delivery is not sustainable, at least in the way we seem to be doing it right now.

I do miss being physically in the classroom, surrounded by brilliant students.

I draw energy from my students. I also can walk throughout the room. I can also scribble on the whiteboard.

A lot of proponents of asynchronous delivery suggest recording short segments so students can watch them on their own time. I have seen great lectures that are recorded in a way that puts much less stress on the speaker by using a camera and recording the lecturer as they walk students through whiteboarded ideas.

But the kind of applied, hands-on stuff I teach is not really very easy to deliver in the YouTube lecture kind of model. I also wonder about spending so much time physically sitting in front of a computer – to take classes, to do homework, to email, to coordinate with friends and colleagues for group work. This is very concerning.

I know that online teaching works. It’s been working for ages. The problem is that we have multiple compounding factors making online teaching harder. Students are worried about funding, worried about their parents’ and loved ones’ health (hoping they won’t catch COVID19), frantic about their own health. Can they really take online classes and just focus on that? No, I don’t think so. Because if they are parents, they don’t have daycare (because they’re closed in most countries).

Perhaps we need to just keep the sound for some classes, or record short segments (VERY short) with quick online meetings with students. I don’t know, but this is getting very tiring. I wrote a Twitter thread reflecting on this that might be of interest to my readers:

Here, I explain my new model for 3 hour classes:

And I added one last bit: perhaps just listening into some classes would be better? Others won’t work, of course, but maybe this is a thought.

At any rate, I really hope we can control the COVID19 pandemic because this is getting really out of hand.

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