This is my life for a while, isn’t it?

I just got out of class, which was part explaining science, and part negotiating how we’re going to continue from here to the end of the semester. The students had questions, I have questions, and we have relatively few answers.

Next up, I’m coordinating a biology faculty meeting which may get eaten up with addressing the multiple questions we’re going to have about how to suddenly switch to teaching online. We’ll have questions, I hope we have some answers.

Then I’m teaching a lab, which will be very short, because I’m just going to abort the experiment we were about to start and tell them we’re going to switch to me doing online demos and getting results, which they’ll have to analyze and interpret.

Finally, I’m just going to lie down. I didn’t get much sleep last night, trying to figure out how I’m going to have to revamp everything in both my classes. I expect I’ll be spending spring break trying to cope with this headache.


  1. brianl says

    Shared by a former colleague:

    So I attended a workshop to try to get us very quickly prepared to teach at a distance until the end of the month. There are a few things I’ve learned that I think are important to share:
    1. Be kind to yourself and your students. Everyone is stressed, even if they’re playing cool. That includes faculty. And that’s okay.
    2. Many universities have a considerable number of pedagogical experts that, quite frankly, I have only been dimly aware of until yesterday. Be kind to these people. They are suddenly very slammed.
    3. There are a much larger number of faculty on university campuses that desperately need to retool. We have faculty who do not know how to use even the course management software that we’ve been on since I’ve been here (12 years). It is moments like this when that disparity becomes really fraught. It is also unacceptable.
    4. You will not recreate your classroom, and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. Moving a class to a distance learning model in a day’s time excludes the possibility of excellence. Give yourself a break.
    5. Prioritize. What do students REALLY NEED TO KNOW for two weeks. This one is hard for me. But we have to strip it all the way down–in my campaigns class, that means I need them to post infographics on their research and now post narrative context and slides. But I’m going to punt on presentations because we just don’t have time. Which sucks. But these are not normal circumstances.
    6. If you’re making videos, student viewership drops off precipitously at 5 minutes. Make them capsule videos if you make them. And UPLOAD to YOUTUBE because it TRANSCRIBES for you. Do not assume your audio is good enough or that students can understand without transcription. This is like using a microphone at meetings–I don’t care if you don’t need it, someone else does and they don’t want to ask.
    7. Make assignments lower or no stakes if you’re using a new platform. Get students used to just using the platform. Then you can do something higher stakes. Do not ask students to do a high stakes exam or assignment on a new platform.
    8. Stay in contact with students, and stay transparent. Talk to them about WHY you’re prioritizing certain things or asking them to read or do certain things. I’ve moved to doing that in all of my face-to-face teaching anyway, and it improves student buy-in because they know content and delivery are purposeful.
    9. Do not read on best practices for distance learning. That’s not the situation we’re in. We’re in triage. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That’s not what this is. Do what you absolutely have to and ditch what you can. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you’ve failed.
    10. Be particularly kind to your graduating seniors. They’re already panicking, and this isn’t going to help. If you teach a class where they need to have completed something for certification, to apply to grad school, or whatever, figure out plan B. But talk to them. Radio silence, even if you’re working, is not okay.
    And this is not something I learned in the workshop (some of these other things aren’t either, they just make good sense), but for those in positions where they have to report on their year’s activities, including teaching and service–REPORT ON THIS. We are, in real time, doing very significant labor for the university at no additional compensation and with little training. Report on that in your activities for the year. Frame your work as both teaching AND service. You are helping put your university on more solid ground by doing this and doing this on the fly–that is LABOR. Frame it as such. I told every junior faculty person in my department to do this, especially, and told them I would highlight that in my reports on them so it’s repeatedly on record.”
    (I don’t personally know this poster, but passing on b/c the advice is SO practical)
    Thanks, Ashley Maynard for this shared post

  2. garnetstar says

    My inorganic laboratory class just got switched to remote learniing for the entire rest of the semester. Until May 1.
    I’m supposed to videotape myself doing the labs, get some data, and post both for the students to write their lab reports.

    Now, them just writing their reports from data isn’t all that good, but as brianl@1 says, you have to give yourself a break.
    But chem labs just aren’t very photogenic. I’m trying to imagine a video of me weighing out some chemicals and solvent and then watching them reflux for an hour or more. Then filtering, and getting some spectra, which entails putting the sample in a machine (that they’ve already used all semester) and punching a button. Just very….dull.

    One of the best labs I cannot videotape at all, because we use magnets that are 10,000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the earth, and will kill anyone who has a pacemaker who even enters the room. Naturally, no recording device is going to live through that kind of magnetic field: it’ll be completely wiped before the taping even starts. So, that one is not very adaptable to remote learning.

    Maybe I could have an explosion that leads to a devasting building fire, now there’s some footage that would hold students’ attention.

  3. JustaTech says

    As a distance-learning student the only piece of advice I can offer is, when you are speaking into a microphone or a speakerphone, don’t move around. I had a whole course where the professor was constantly moving her head while she recorded the audio for the lectures (and during our live sessions) and it was very hard to hear what she was saying as the volume was all over the place.
    I also had a CEO who liked to walk around while on speakerphone with the whole company and he was incredibly hard to understand.

    Oh yeah, and video editing takes an eternity.

  4. blf says

    JustaTech@3, Would a rigid headset-mounted microphone solve that volume-changing problem?
    The point being that unless one moves so “violently” the headset goes flying off (I’ve done that!), the microphone stays in a fairly constant position relative to the speaker’s mouth. A wireless headset with such a microphone would allow the speaker free movement, and using my own such headset as an example, the range is adequate for any plausible lecture / lab scenario.

  5. says

    Those of us who call dances use wireless headsets. One thing to remember is if you move it to take a drink be sure to reposition it and check it is working properly.

  6. davidc1 says

    While the rest of the world are telling people to avoid crowding together and cancelling events
    over here in good old Blighty , bojo has just said that the UK will have to take it on the chin.

  7. Sean Boyd says

    I tutor math at a community college. The college just announced that spring quarter will be delayed one week, and be completely online for the duration of the quarter. It will make tutoring interesting, but at least I’m one of the lucky ones that actually gets to work next quarter. I feel bad for the security, maintenance, custodial staffs and the administrative assistants, many of whom won’t be employed (or will be underemployed).