Is there anybody out there?

Which student are you?

I received an email from work on Thursday, March 12th, 2020.

It was to notify all faculty that due to the rising number of cases of the novel coronavirus, the college campus will remain closed and all classes will be suspended for two weeks.

Two weeks! I mean, yea, okay, sure. Why not?

The WHO had only officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic the previous day, and it was way too early for anyone to have a sense of the scope, severity, or extent of what we were heading into.

Two weeks to get things under control? Makes sense. Two weeks to flatten the curve. Two weeks to catch up on work, errands, Netflix, the gym, friends, family, and sleep. It sounded pretty good.

Of course, as the situation progressed at the alarming rate that it did, it quickly became apparent that classes would not be resuming in the near future. The decision to pivot the rest of the semester to online learning was made around one week after the pandemic was declared, and online classes began two weeks later, originally (naively?) ear-marked as the return-to-class date.

During this time, the word “unprecedented” was thrown around a lot, and with good reason. There was no blueprint for what was happening, and it was no different in the education sector.

Online learning was not new of course, but there is a difference between teaching (or taking) a course designed for online delivery versus adapting one, half-way into the semester, quickly, and on the fly.

I know many teachers for whom this transition wasn’t easy in the slightest. But if I can be honest, my heart went out to the academic coordinators in colleges and universities all over the world.

Everyone did their best to manage, some with better results than others.

Big ups to all the ACs who delivered under pressure.

But wait, where am I going with this?

I’ve no intention of sharing an opinion on the efficacy of online classes, thought perhaps it’s something to consider for the future. Instead, I just want to vent, pure and simple.

Can I please vent for two minutes by sharing an experience that I find simultaneously amusing and annoying? The kind of thing that would make you laugh, if it didn’t make you cry?

The rest of the 2020 spring semester was not without wrinkles and hiccups, but everyone made it through and shortly thereafter, the rhythm of online learning really began to set it.

Fast forward to today. Spoiler alert: my classes are still online, but everything is going well.

Except one thing:

Most students don’t ever turn on their cameras when we are in a zoom class.

Actual image of me after class

Look, I get it:

There are a number of reasons — many of which you are probably not even considering — that would make it perfectly understandable for someone to keep their camera off during a live class; and this type of blanket shaming of the behaviour from a teacher who should know better is, frankly, disappointing.

I really do get it.

But for every student whose reason for not being able to / wanting to be on camera is legitimate, there are five, ten, twenty five others that aren’t.

I’m not providing lectures, I’m teaching. It’s a lesson, with questions and the requirement for class participation. What am I supposed to think when starting at a bunch of names? How can I know anyone is even listening?

Worst part?

When I demand participation, a lot of students will simply use the chat feature. Like ICQ.

Remember ICQ?

Alright. Whatever.

/end rant.

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Shayan Kashani

Shayan Kashani

Writer — Teacher — Philosopher —Runner —Reader — Nomad.