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Oh, the joys of online teaching!

03 July 2020
Job de Grefte
Job de Grefte

After more than 3 months of online teaching, lecturer Job de Grefte looks back on this period.

"It has been almost three months since we were locked-down, and it is getting pretty tedious. I’m lucky to be able to work at all, but my job is definitely less exiting than before. As a researcher, I used to enjoy spontaneous discussions with colleagues, going to conferences and attending talks at our faculty. As a teacher, I relished group discussion, interactive lectures and informal talks with students. All this is currently (nearly) impossible.

In return, we get the joys of redesigning our courses for online teaching (which means considerably more work), a lot of video-calls, and more grading than ever. And just when you start to settle in, everything changes again for the next semester. Plans for the future are notoriously vague (due to the uncertainty about COVID-development, but also due to the large disparity between views on how to properly and responsibly start offline-teaching again). Which, of course, means even more video calls over crappy internet connections.  All in all, most fun parts of my job seem to have been replaced by significantly duller ones.

But not all is bad. First, working from home has its advantages, like the ability to blow off steam om my drum kit in between work, and (much) better coffee. Second, and even more motivating; students seem to rise to the challenges of online teaching exceptionally well. For while studying must have become less effective and more difficult, particularly for those students abroad, current difficulties have only emphasised students’ willingness to learn and their creative capacities.

For example, students keep showing up when we want them to, and overall, participate as best as they can. If real-time group discussion is difficult online, students easily pivot by actively participating on our course’s various discussion boards. Students are more diligent than ever: I have never had higher completion rates for my course assignments. They show a remarkable discipline in a time when it is perhaps more easy than ever to let things slide a little. If students are willing to make the best out of this bad situation, then surely, so am I.

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing to come out of this crisis is the acknowledgement of student’s untapped creative potential. I will focus on an example from a course on business ethics that we teach for about 200 students at the FEB. Normally in this course, we do a lot of practical assignments during the tutorials, like formal debates and presentations. Since these formats don’t really work in an online collaborate room, we decided to replace them with other - less real-time - assignments.

One example is the video assignment shown below, where we asked students to make a video that reflects on Bandura’s factors influencing moral disengagement (these are factors that prevent people from recognizing a situation as having an ethical dimension, and therefore hamper ethical decision making).

I was taken aback by the quality of the submissions, and the creativity and overall joy in learning that radiated from these clips. It shows that we can learn things now that are relevant even after the current crisis ends. It provides the kind of energy that makes me feel another semester of (partially) online teaching may actually be perfectly doable."

Job de Grefte, PhD
Lecturer in Philosophy
Faculty of Philosophy & Faculty of Economics and Business

Last modified:30 January 2023 1.39 p.m.

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