A Personal Reflection

The situation: I am in Frankfurt, Germany and we have been in lockdown for over 6 weeks now. As in most other European countries, our work has switched to home office. In our situation, this means working our regular load of teaching, examinations, thesis supervision, planning the next semester, responding to the developing situation re social work student placements etc online…

Our university made available online tools for teaching a few days before semester teaching started. Su sequently, there has been significant resources and support made available to be able to work with these online tools. There are tips and tricks galore – if you have the time to process it all.

For me personally, this period has been and continues to be significantly challenging. I have a five year old who is at home and has to be entertained. My husband, like me also works full time at a university so we have to juggle home and work constantly. I sometimes feel I have double the work in half the time. I am asking myself whether I can keep up this pace: be a good mother, partner, teacher, colleague, researcher, possibly till Aug, if we remain in lockdown.

Opportunities: I can appreciate the opportunities in terms of flexibility of space and time this situation and virtual working brings. I am excited about trying out the new methods and ideas and getting updated in terms of the tech. I also believe that some of the resources I develop now will actually supporting teaching in the future, enable flexibility and save a lot of time.

I knew that the next generation is much more apt at technology and their discipline online really makes me wonder why we don’t sometimes see this discipline in the class. This tech era is really theirs.

I also see that we are in a time of crisis and the university context, even if online provides structure to our students, gives them an opportunity to come together and interact with their peers that does not have to be self-motivated and thought through, gives an opportunity to conyi life as it would have been, to learn and engage usefully in this time.

Risks: I do fear that this switch comes the cost of students (some, if not all) as well as my health. There is already some evidence that the digitalisation may not work for everyone. I am concerned about the students we are leaving behind, particularly since we are doing social work. Are students. With families able to manage? Does everyone really have access to this digital technology? I have already had feedback where students were not visible or could not be heard in the online class because of connectivity which essentially rendered them voiceless and invisible. How does one participate in such a situation?

I am also very impressed by some of the digital stuff online and from my child’s kindergarten, which unfortunately does not always interest my brat (this is meant light-heartedly). This gets me thinking whether all the well-meaning stuff and online teaching is really suitable and effective for our students or are we just meeting our workload irrespective of the impact. I spoke to a student from another university and she tried to outline the insecurities and chaos that they experience when they are not able to register for courses, receive different instructions from different teachers, receive 10 emails for the same course to explain, change and again explain how the online format for their particular course is to function and what the expectations are.

I am concerned that I have not been able to think through what this kind of learning will mean for my students, what is learnable from the different formats, how does this change the nature of!earning, what is expected from me, what impact does this have on my relationship with students….I am sure there is literature on this which I have not managed to read but I also think that online teaching in this sudden scale is new to most of us.

Chaitali Das