Almost everyone has to deal with online meetings because of the pandemic and also lessons, calls, etc. Not only in the Netherlands but all over the world! And in regards to this topic enough material on “how not to …”. A student who has forgotten his camera is still on (only his sound is off) walks through the screen naked, oops! There are many other and funny examples to be found online. Also about hacks from students who film themselves as if they are paying attention and play it via an iPad so that the teacher/trainer thinks someone is listening.

As a lecturer I can say there quit a lot involved in an online session! It starts with different preparation, with some online cleverness like moderation and sharing links, material and funny gifs in the chat. When I start I ask the children at home to be quiet and if you have a child of 2, you have to look in the eyes of your sweet wife if she can go outside with him for a moment. But if you and your wife have to go online at the same time … then what? Placing a toddler in front of the iPad with a box of candy in front of him? And what to do when your 6-year-old comes in to ask if he can take his box of lego, while you have indicated 3 times that you are in an important call…We make the best out of it, ofource!

During an online lesson, I asked one by one the opinion of the students. They had to turn on their microphone and give their opinion when I called their name. Until I called out to John. “John…. John …… .. John, are you there? ” … But no answer. He was allegedly online but I didn’t know what he was doing or if he was physically at home. Fortunately, this is not very common.

Turning on the camera gives some feeling that the participans actively involved in a meeting. At least you see a face and facial expressions that give the sense that you can interpret from the body language whether someone finds your story interesting. However, students do not always have access to a connection that can handle all traffic which makes it sometimes difficult in education. We can not “demand” it, if it is possible at all in a house where 6 students live who are all in a similar online meeting.  Still it is remarkable that when one student is not visibly available other students quickly show solidarity and turn off their cams as well.

Having a video call or conference requires more focus than a face-to-face meeting, also according to research. Video chats mean that we have to work harder to process non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice and body language; the constant shifting your attention between people takes a lot of energy. I understand now why many colleagues complain about fatigue. Even more than before, when they had an offline session.

Many people look at themselves when speaking in an only session, apparently. I also catch myself doing this. How is my hair, am I looking strange, should I wear different clothes? Maybe I need to make sure I don’t see myself. Still, keep in mind that you are more visible in video calls than in offline meetings because you get a close-up of each person’s face separately rather than a whole group of people at once. That said, have you noticed the strange AI in MS Teams already which focusses on your face.

Many of us, like me, are easily seduced to multitask during a phone call or online meeting and participate in the conversation. However, I notice when doing that I am not really involved in the conversation and the bottom line is that multitasking does not benefit the conversation at all. Yet I often catch myself answering an email or looking at WhatsApp. Ouch!

What I can not do at the moment is walking by a group of working students, have a conversation at the coffee machine, do a spontaneous personal or group intervention, and even pose that quick question. Furthermore, I do not see if some of the regular safety nets for students are in place, like just having a look at the screen of a fellow student who takes the other student by the hand and explains in their language. An extra unplanned coaching conversation or just some extra informal information to slide in. Even Friday afternoon drinks with colleagues suddenly become a kind of online meeting again, in which we zoom in on each other and sometimes with strange silences or people talking together making it impossible to follow.

Yes, I keep my head up and am progressing through the semester however I do miss the personal touch.

Authors: Dries van den Enden & Erdinç Saçan

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Over Dries van den Enden

Docent Fontys ICT - iFontys lid - Oprichter van de minor Data Driven Business Lab - Voorstander van student gecentraliseerd onderwijs (SEAL)