Sometimes making things easier actually just makes things worse.

We get it, virtual learning was no one’s first choice, but in trying to make things “easier” this semester, some professors really just made things worse. Here are a couple of examples of things we wish hadn’t been done:

  • [Using] group projects as a way to compensate for not being in-person. I must say I have mixed feelings about this because I actually had a wonderful time in some of my group projects this semester, but as a concept, please don’t force us into group projects over Zoom—the digital format just makes it feel all the more awkward and stressful.
  • Using Breakout Rooms During Large Classes. It’s awkward enough to be on camera in the first place, but then forcing us into breakout rooms with people we don’t know makes it even more awkward. There’s always someone who doesn’t have their camera on and the rest of us just tend to stare at each other awkwardly as we wait for someone to talk. If we have to engage in class discussions, it would be better if the rooms were made up of just one or two other people.
  • Recording asynchronous lectures that are the full length of (or longer than) the class. If you’re going to do asynchronous, cover the material concisely in 30-45 minutes. If you’re going to do synchronous, do the full time, with questions and comments and going off on tangents and all that typical in-person lecture stuff. Then just record it for all the people in different time zones. Please do not do asynchronous lectures that take me a full class period to watch – you’re basically replacing the time normally spend on questions with more material, thus making it doubly hard.
    • To add to this, the author of this post feels like asynchronous lectures made it very difficult to ask questions as they arose. I would much rather have synchronous lectures that are recorded so that if I can make it to class, I can ask questions in real-time and not later when I may forget them.
  • Having asynchronous exams. These don’t work. If they’re straightforward/easy, people cheat, but if you make them more complicated and convoluted, they are a nightmare to take. We aren’t cheating, but we do have to actually do this absurdly difficult exam you’ve cooked up. If you want to give an exam, bite the bullet and do it during class, cameras on, as if we were in person. If you don’t want to do that, figure out an alternative assessment that isn’t an exam. An essay, a worked proof, a project, whatever. Please just give us an assignment that is reasonable and comparable to the difficulty of an in-person exam.
    • The author of this post personally has no problem with (and prefers) asynchronous exams but feels like they should either be longer and of the same difficulty or the same length and harder, not both. It should not take the full 48 hours allotted to take the exam assigned since it puts those people who have jobs/a lighter courseload on those days at a severe disadvantage.
  • Static notes. For math & physics classes: normally, professors write notes on a blackboard as they teach. It may seem like you could cut some time and effort, simply write everything out all in one go, and just send us a PDF to follow along with during the lecture. This is not a good solution. Please please write notes in real-time, as you lecture. There’s a reason we take lectures to learn, instead of just reading somebody’s notes: reading a static sheet of notes is not a good way to absorb material for the first time. Pointing to different parts of your notes with your cursor may feel the same to you, but it is exponentially more difficult for a student.

Please professors, take note and make next semester feel less hellish.

despite their best intentions via Pixabay