Director’s Blog

Spring is Coming…And I Just Can’t

by | Feb 26, 2021 | Director's Blog

Spring quarter seems to be arriving with a sense of gloom and resignation. Coming up on the one-year mark of the world shutting down is weighing heavy on us all. I mean, who would have thought we would be teaching Spring quarter remotely – AGAIN?! Students and faculty are collectively groaning, “Enough with the Zooming, I am Zoomed out.” How can we approach yet another quarter of remote teaching?

First, consider what needs to be on Zoom. I know we have talked a lot about making connections and using breakout rooms, but frankly, I’m sick of staring at my face in Zoom. You don’t need to cut it out all together – just revamp what parts of class need to be on Zoom. For example, do students have to do a group conversation or problem in a breakout room? Or can they leave Zoom and text chat through a platform of their choosing instead? Do students have to watch a video through Zoom? Or can they watch it individually? Sometimes this means just having them mute and turn their cameras off versus leaving Zoom altogether, but at least it’s still a small break.

Next, revisit your Canvas page. Students appreciate a Canvas page is that is clear and easy to navigate. Some of you have designed beautiful Canvas pages – I have Canvas envy when I see them. And that’s great! But if your page is beautiful yet it’s impossible to find the next assignment, students are going to be grumpy. One quick and easy thing to do to simplify your course page is to hide all the features you aren’t using. The menu of options then looks much shorter on the student side and therefore less overwhelming when they first arrive on your course page.

Then, make space for humor. We all need more to laugh about these days, so have students post their favorite memes about remote learning. Or they could share short videos that make fun of Zoom (here’s my favorite video mocking conference calls). Maybe they could share the title of their favorite funny book or movie. There’s so little room for casual conversation in the Zoom world, so see if there are ways to incorporate discussions that aren’t just about class.

Finally, embrace the perks of Zoom. While I miss you all, I certainly do enjoy attending Zoom meetings in pajama pants and slippers. It’s nice to be able to turn your sound and camera off and scream into the void. That certainly won’t be acceptable once we’re meeting in person again. And on Zoom, your coffee mug can literally have anything in it and no one is the wiser. Just casually blow on your hot “tea” and dream about talking to people outside of your home. Imagine how socially awkward we’re going to be once we’re in large groups again.

In other news…

What I’m currently reading: Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. Wow, this is the true story of a family with 12 children, and 6 of them develop schizophrenia. It is a fascinating and heartbreaking look at the history of mental illness and the continued search to understand the reasons behind it.

What I’m currently drinking: My plan for this weekend is to try a Sumac Martini. If it’s good, that might be my hot “tea” for Monday’s meetings.

Andrea Aebersold

Andrea Aebersold

Director, Faculty Instructional Development

Andrea Aebersold is the Director of Faculty Instructional Development at University of California, Irvine. She earned a PhD in English and was an associate professor of teaching before coming to UCI. She specializes in active learning, evidence-based teaching, and reading mountains of books.