Profs owe us more from online classes

working from home means living at work. tribesh kayasta via Unsplash

Many online strategies aren’t working

Heading into the fall, I think we all knew things would be different this year, and it would require some getting used to. The one thing I wasn’t expecting, though, was the gross mishandling of online classes by many profs here at the University. 

The first case of mishandling is how many profs have implemented weekly forum posts as assignments. Where classes used to give out marks for in-class discussion and interaction, more and more profs are now demanding extra work outside of classes – researching and writing up forums posts week by week. For a handful of marks, students are required to put in extra time outside of class, sometimes an hour or more, just to replace in-class discussion. This seems counter-intuitive. Teachers have this wonderful resource known as Zoom where students can speak up if they feel confident, or type their answers if they don’t. Why don’t more teachers use our allotted class time for our class participation mark, instead of putting extra work on students week after week?

The next issue is in regards to quizzes. Some profs have decided to get rid of in-class quizzes in favour of open-ended “do-it-when-you-want” style quizzes. Quizzes that are open from one hour to another, so that students can take them anytime. That’s great, except for the fact it is – again – more work for students in an already busy and stressful time in their lives. Now, not only do they have to study for this quiz, they have to find a time outside of class time to do the hour-long quiz. It altogether makes it a lot more chaotic. Trying to fit studying, classes, quizzes (and for many of us, work) into a day is stressful to say the least. 

Finally, there are the myriad of ways teachers are trying to handle exams. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that teachers are trying to find creative and innovative solutions to online exams (all of those except those that decide an invasive third-party data-leaking software is the solution, of course). But some solutions are plain silly. My least favourite of these is when teachers make exams extra long and extra hard, in order to keep students from looking at their notes. This is flawed thinking. If you make an exam longer and harder, it won’t encourage students to study more and know their information. What it will do is incentivize them to find new innovative ways to cheat or look through their notes, just so they can complete the exam on time without failing it. 

We’re in a glorious age of technology, and I would encourage all teachers to experiment and try new things. Please listen to students when they say something isn’t working. What is learned here will be used in classes to come. COVID-19 has redefined the classroom, and even when this pandemic ends, things we are innovating now will be carried on into the future. This semester right now isn’t just about student learning, it’s about all of us learning to use the technology we have to our best ability, and create new ways of teaching and knowledge assessment that will hopefully be beneficial for future generations. 

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