‘Clothes on, cameras on’: A lecturer’s verdict on online learning

‘The level of nudity has been shocking’

The days where we’d swing by our seminars with a Pret in hand, boasting how we hadn’t done this week’s reading are a memory of the past. Although we’d like to say we’ve adjusted well to the new normal of online learning, there’s always room for improvement. The King’s Tab asked Tom*, an English Lecturer at King’s College London, about the unspoken rules of online learning. 

‘There’s been way too much nudity’

When we said that students were learning from the comfort of their own bedrooms, we didn’t realise just how comfortable they were getting.

Tom told The King’s Tab: “We have been really amazed by the number of people in beds not fully clothed. The level of comfort has been unexpected.”

Just when we thought online learning couldn’t get more awkward, Tom says: “There has been a shocking amount of nudity on Teams. Some of my colleagues have had to send emails warning students to please be dressed and out of bed.” 

‘There are no boundaries online’

Tom revealed there have been “ a number of questionable locations that students are joining us from.”

He said: “People using phones have been calling in from some really strange places. Some students have had clouds of smoke in the background. It’s pretty obvious people are getting stoned in the same room.”

As remote learning means that there is no longer this divide between personal and professional. “Some walls save us from ourselves”, Tom said. 

‘I want to go back to the real world’

Whilst some students clearly aren’t afraid of being in front of a camera, others have instead retreated behind their screen. Tom told The King’s Tab: “People not turning the camera on has also been a big issue as there are voices coming from different angles – sometimes it’s hard to know who’s speaking.”

As well as this, whilst you can tell who isn’t engaging in an in-person seminar, Tom says “in a virtual room it’s difficult to know who to target and help. How do you help them if you can’t see them?” 

‘I even miss the commute’ 

Yep, even lecturers crave social interaction. Tom explains that as he doesn’t have a study, he works in the same room all day. “I teach and sleep in my bedroom”, he said.

With meeting after meeting, he says there “is little-to-no downtime for us and no travel time to decompress.” With a heavy schedule “there’s little space to even go for a run – I really have to push myself.” 

‘I do enjoy the Doctor Who element of breakout rooms’

However, Tom does believe there are some positives to online learning. Although most of us wince at the thought of a breakout room, Tom loves them: “It’s so fun! The nerd in me enjoys teleporting into different rooms.

“I wanted to pop up into different rooms wearing different Halloween costumes!” 

On a more serious note, Tom said: “Even though students miss out on the lecture experience, they have taken down far more content from recorded lectures.” Another advantage is that lecturers can share their screens, as Tom said: “It is very easy to bring up a book and get everyone on the same page.” 

‘Students need to be a lot more disciplined’

Tom gave us a few words of advice on how to get to grips with online learning. He urges students to “use office hours more than they are”, and they can be “a really useful way to fill in anything that is missed because of technological issues and breakdowns.” It also “puts less pressure on a seminar to get everything done.” 

And, whilst we might be able to hide behind a screen, Tom warns: “Students have to make sure they’re prepared. It spares us all of those awkward silences.

“You can’t just rock up to a Teams session in the same way as you would a normal lesson. This year requires lots more discipline.” 

*Names have been changed for anonymity

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