The Frustration of Teaching under COVID.

Here’s a typical class session under COVID:

I get to the class a few minutes early to set up for class. This requires a computer, a USB camera and area microphone that I’ve brought to class. Add in an HDMI cable to the projection unit, and I’m hooked up. My computer screen is now projected onto the screen up front.

I open up Zoom and see my face projected upon the big screen. Urgk. I don’t like looking at myself larger than life. I twiddle with the camera so it’s at the right angle — it’s never at the right angle; due to the camera’s height limitations it will always be looking up my neck.

The whiteboard behind me is useless, because it projects backward to the Zoom students. Moving around while teaching (my favored style) is useless because then I will disappear from sight. Every visual must be from the computer because it must be visible both for the in-class students and the online students. Luckily, Zoom allows for screen-share, although that can get awkward at times with clicking it on and off and on again to see new documents and windows.

I pull up a few windows — the first with the seating chart, which will be visible when students come in. Only half the class meets at a time due to COVID distancing, and we need a static seating chart for COVID contact tracking at the University. Our class still is not distanced enough, so we wear masks at all times. 

Students start trickling in through the door, so I point out the seating chart so they find their right chairs. Some students sit down without consulting the seating chart, so I need to explain to those students we have a seating chart. On the computer, my Zoom students start to fill up in the waiting room. I message them, letting them know that they need to keep their video on during class. If last week’s introductory session is any indication, at least one will not. Then I let them in.

Teaching is a challenge, because two-thirds of my class sit in desks in front of me watching the screen, which is the Zoom display with a shared document as the current focus — a PowerPoint screen, a document, etc. One-third of my class views remotely using Zoom. It’s hard teaching to both these classes, and I spend too much of my time yelling “Can you hear me?” to the Zoom people, who are silent and not sharing in class work. It’s insanely hard for me to pay attention to two different classrooms at the same time. 

After an unsatisfying class period where I feel I have done twice the work with half the results, I wipe down all the seats and tables with disinfectant, and I wait till the next class shows up and do it all over again.

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