Like so many educational institutions worldwide, our college closed ten days ago and it now seems unlikely that we will see our students in person before the Autumn. Although not unexpected, the closure happened at extremely short notice and many lecturers were caught napping. For most of us, last week was a hectic week of preparing notes, tutorials and other resources that students can use for online learning. A parallel challenge was a crash course in learning to liaise with staff and students using digital tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google hangouts and Slack.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus is a very serious crisis, but I must admit that I am quite enjoying the experience of remote teaching so far. In the first instance, I am always happy to learn new digital skills, they usually turn out to be useful in all sorts of ways. More importantly, a lot of my students seem to be quite happy to get on with studying their notes. Many of our students have complained in the past that between attending labs, lectures and tutorials, there never seems to be much time to go over their notes and reflect on the material. I certainly found this myself as an undergraduate science student in UCD and I suspect it is even more of an issue in the IoT sector. So while some of my colleagues are delivering their lectures via video link, I prefer to use the crisis to try out the so-called flipped classroom, i.e., let the students study the material first and ask questions on it afterwards.
As regards the summer exams, the college authorities haven’t yet decided how to proceed; it seems likely that the exams will be done either by online assessment or by deferring to the autumn. I hope it’s the former, I hate to think of our students having to study over the summer months. Mind you, it’s not clear yet what any of us will be able to do this summer!
Last but not least, when prep for remote teaching has settled down, I suspect I will have quite a bit more time for research. I have several unfinished articles I couldn’t find time to attend to during normal termtime, I’m looking forward to getting back to them …