As the US universities and higher education institutes are transitioning to online methods due to the widespread of COVID-19, I’m sitting here reflecting on this quote by the undying Salinger in his marvelous book “Franny and Zooey” which goes on as “An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.” What a better statement to express the challenges and beauty of combining every pedagogical tool to face the challenges of non-traditional issues such as this one?
Consider the current status: We are all trying to practice social distancing to protect the most vulnerable ones (and frankly, even the healthy young blood might be better off without getting a nasty superflu), yet students need to get their education, professors commit to finishing the semester and TAs need to find a way to do their job in the midst of this perilous time. Online seems like a reasonable solution, We have the tools, right? Yet, it is not equitable to ask everyone to get access to good internet so that they can sit in a virtual classroom. The quality of education, the interaction between students and professors, and the challenges of doing and grading assignments and exams all are going to be affected.
This is a strong reminder for us, the hopeful teachers of tomorrow, that we need to mix it up to get there. The current norms and rules might change as everything is changing. And we need to mix it up a bit. If we have clear goals (and whatever those goals are), the tools can adapt. Sometimes you need to present your lecture, sometimes you offer a case-based approach, sometimes you ask them to form groups and prepare a presentation, and sometimes you need to go in an uncharted territory of learning new tools and provide them with something that works: a recorded video of you talking to your computer, a mix of youtube videos that cover that topic, or a link to an online course.
At the end, It is always about them, about the perfect way to teach your material, in your own terms and no one else’s.