Perspectives VIII: A Zoom with a View

By Dr. Catherine Glass, Instructor, Health Sciences & Biology

Image by Hatice EROL from Pixabay.

Early in 2020, students all over the world experienced a sudden, dramatic, and unprecedented shift in their academic world. Nearly a year later, we find ourselves preparing for more semesters teaching and learning in the virtual environment. Some instructors at Langara are taking the opportunity to share their perspectives on the impact of moving to online teaching and learning.

Our eighth contribution brings us full circle to our very first author Catherine Glass. Catherine initially shared student responses to a midterm question she asked about coping with the dramatic shift in the last two weeks of March 2020. In this follow-up, Catherine shares some observations of her experience being online, with both students and colleagues in her article, “A Zoom with a View.”

This post will help us to switch gears for our next set of perspectives which will focus our attention on the student point of view.  If you have students that would like to share their experiences in writing or another format (audio, video, meme, etc.), please contact Jessica Kalra at jkalra@langara.ca.

A Zoom with a View

While my students write their midterms, I sit in my Zoom room in case they have any questions. Last week, a student came to Zoom early to show me their new puppy, Koda, before the exam started.

Koda the puppy. Used with permission.

In September, a first term international student was accused of academic misconduct in another class and contacted me in a panic. They sat alone in their room, tears pouring down their face.

Inspired by cat lawyer, I searched out entertaining filters. Alas, I am a technological Luddite and have to settle for standard Zoom filters. I invigilated with a plant sprouting from my head: as a botanist enchanted by cotyledons, it felt right.

Catherine’s Zoom screen with filters.

On the first day of classes this term, I asked each class how learning online made them feel.

Catherine’s Menti screen.

A colleague and I check in with each periodically. After one long chat, as we said goodbye I accidentally said, “Love ya,” and felt compelled to apologise. They met and matched me by blowing a kiss at the end of the next chat.

Icon by Freepik at flaticon.com

At a recent meeting about managing COVID at Langara, the agenda was relentlessly cheerful, with innovation after innovation for us to add to our repertoire. This made me feel depressed and overwhelmed. I do not want to innovate with more online tricks; I want to see my students. In a focus group I attended which explored how the college can better recognise employees, every participant said they felt most recognized by their students:

You are very human and that makes you shine.

A bright international student checked in with me at the end of the fall term. We had a long chat and I learned a lot about them. Their family assisted them to get here for their first term, but now they are expected to support both themselves and the family. They had just secured a full-time job working night shifts. I expressed concern about them how they would manage their schoolwork with such hours, not to mention the clear breach of employment “rules.” They looked me in the eye and laughed almost fondly:

So many of us work these kinds of jobs.
Do you think we want to do this Catherine?

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1 Response to Perspectives VIII: A Zoom with a View

  1. Meg Evans says:

    “I do not want to innovate with more online tricks; I want to see my students.”

    I agree so strongly with this. And I hear it from zoned out, zoomed out students. All these different programs that we all learn are like so many hoops to jump through, but we still do not get the real feedback that comes with seeing students irl.

    Thank you for this, I am glad I am not alone.
    Online tricks is exactly it.

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