Let’s start with a big shout out to all the academics out there on the frontlines. The last two weeks have been really tough, so let’s all stand up and clap for you! Bravo! As a member of the LX.lab and a casual academic, I’ve not only watched you rapidly and stoically adapt to this new way of teaching but also experienced it myself – and let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not easy! There have been lots of late nights, early mornings and weekends that have just disappeared down the rabbit hole of time; searing headaches, eyestrain, brain freeze, back-ache, and face-plant embarrassing moments online when we’ve fumbled around in front of our students like deer in the headlights trying to use new technologies.

However, what has struck and moved me more than anything is understanding what a key presence we are and need to be in our students lives. While it may feel as though we’re learning to fly the plane whilst in the air, students are grateful and showing up. And so must we. That means putting aside everything we think we know, letting go of perfectionism, and getting comfortable with working in the unknown as we help our students to learn and grow into a new and unchartered world. As one of my students said this week, don’t sugar coat it. This situation sucks and is scary, for all of us, so more than ever we need to be a beacon of light and hope for them.

How academics can create connection

For students, our online classrooms not only provide a link to their futures and each other, they also provide a sense of normalcy in a world where there is currently none – and are a welcome distraction from the monotony and stress of isolation and social distancing. So how do we bring our best selves to Zoom and Teams? While the LX.lab and Postgraduate Futures offer a range of helpful technical and pedagogical resources, these are a few of my personal favourite tips to share:

  • Pace yourself! You can’t learn it all at once and no one expects you to right now. Take care of the essentials first, including yourself and family, and the rest will improve with time. It’s going to be a long road so don’t burn yourself out.
  • Let go of judgement and perfectionism. Everyone is doing their best and that’s all you can do in these unprecedented times. Mistakes will happen.
  • Less is more. It takes longer to prep and deliver online, so reduce your content load and focus on understanding through discussion and interaction to help reduce cognitive overload.
  • Be patient and kind to yourself and others. This will get easier!
  • Be authentic and human in the classroom. Technology and pedagogy aside, students are also seeking connection and meaning – we are all grappling with a lot of big, existential questions right now, so context is key.
  • Take little breaks (when prepping and teaching). Play short games or do quick icebreakers in class to bring everyone together and have some fun.
  • Keep a diary. Note down what’s working and not working; keep a list of helpful resources to come back to later when you have more time.
  • Be agile and iterate. Improve things as you go along, bit by bit.

Jump into the comments box below and share your own tips and learnings from the last few weeks. We’d love to hear from you! Keep up the amazing work and remember, together, we can make lemonade out of lemons!

Feature image by Fré Sonneveld.

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