With the immediate switch from residential education to remote learning many, including the institution I work for, switched to finishing out the semester via video conferencing software. While in many ways this is a necessary move, but some are beginning to feel the fatigue of always Zooming. This brings up a couple questions:
The Chronicle this morning posted an article on the reasons for our Zoom fatigue:
The body language and other cues that we expect but can’t access; the way we monitor our own appearance; the stimulation of staring into faces at close range; the inability to take a break, move, or change our surroundings.
I believe this is largely correct. Mentally, we are expecting something more than what we can actually get. Video gets us only so far in a virtual connection. Seeing others on a screen creates a false sense of expectation that the connection we feel may replicate the in-person experience. When this is done for multiple hours a day, day after day, week after week, and month after month, it is naturally going to take a toll on us.
Mike Caulfield posted on Twitter awhile back:
You know how wiped you feel after that series of Zoom call meetings you had today? Because it’s a lot of the energy of face-to-face without many of the psychological rewards of face-to-face.
I think we are all learning what we already knew. Physical connection is a key and necessary factor in the human experience.
The other question that is probably arising among many people is the question, is this truly what online education is? Are the experiences I am feeling teaching this now remote distance course what all online courses are like?
In short, no. While there are special cases that certain courses will have an advantage of being synchronous and a remote-learning design the bulk of a student’s online education should not be in this format.
Online education is more than just live class meetings via video conferencing. When we think about online education much works needs to go into rethinking and reconceptualizing a course and thinking through how to deliver and meet the same course objectives that we would in an on-campus class.
Online courses should be a mix of video, reading, interactive content, discussions between students, and more. Much of this happens naturally in the classroom (and sometimes, unfortunately it does not). When you are teaching online it take more preparation and planning to do an online course well.
Most online courses are asynchronous, which means that students and teachers are not meeting at the same time. Content is delivered through video, reading, discussion, and other activities. Even if your online course is asynchronous I would encourage you to think of thoughtful and focused ways to provide synchronous opportunities for students.
As with most things in life, there are both advantages and disadvantages to asynchronous learning. First I want to outline some of the advantages for this type of education:
But there are some difficulties for asynchronous learning:
Online education should be thoughtfully planned out for a student in an asynchronous environment. Teachers should think through the goals of the course then work backwards creating new ways to help students achieve those learning objectives. An online course should not exactly replicate an on-campus course but this doesn’t mean that it is easier or has different learning goals for the students.