I sat in my corner in the bedroom from where I have been interacting with my students since the beginning g of this crisis. I have just finished a weekly meeting during which the faculty share updates on the progress of their classes discuss challenges, and reflect on possible changes for the week to come. I quickly run to the bathroom so I won’t have to interrupt the class with a bathroom break. The meeting ended about five minutes ago and I have to be in my chair and ready to fire up my students in the next five. Motivate them the best I can, which is to call their names one at a time to ask them how their day went and how challenging the independent assignment they had to complete twice a week went.
Last night, I had spent some time reviewing their previous assignment and assigning grades, and marking some absent for failing to complete the independent assignment, which is used, apart from the stated learning objective, to determine attendance on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our asynchronous days. Nearly half of the class had completed and submitted most assignments, so I decided that some pep talk was in order. As we waited for more students to sign in to our virtual classroom, I shared some useful announcements about the exit test and the summer semester. Some students had expressed concerns and asked questions that I had been unable to answer during the previous synchronous session. The students mostly listened silently. Occasionally, a student would try to justify why they still haven’t uploaded an assignment or completed a survey they were to have completed about two weeks earlier, which would have provided information to the administration about their desire to attend the program in the summer or not.
At last, class begins around 5:15 PM with some 15 students logged in. Some would disappear from my screen and log back in. Technology or connection issues? Hard for me to say. Ordinarily, there would be 25 in the classroom. Since the beginning of the crisis, some students, who used to attend regularly had gone AWOL.
It’s been a challenging ride, to say the least. But I do know that using video clips or short movies or documentaries has been much easier. Consequently, I feel that I have enriched my teaching beyond the use of worksheets. Now, students can watch several videos about say, the use of the passive voice in English. A video would introduce the concept, another one would break down and explain the structure, and yet another video would provide some “real-life” communication context, and finally, there is ample time for group and individual practice. Yes, sometimes, we may look at teaching virtually as potential chaotic on account of the blank screens and unresponsive students, but we certainly can’t discount the benefits.