Corona Is a Bad Teacher

There is already light at the end of the tunnel. We can be reasonably confident that in the autumn we can, once again, go back to standing behind our lecterns, but what world are we returning to? The year has been taxing and challenging in many ways, and every teacher and student has developed different ways of working in the exceptional situation.

Ways of proceeding can be considered: we can go back to 2019, continue the year 2020 or form some kind of a synthesis out of them. What is clear is that the coronavirus epidemic cannot be our guide to what is sensible or fair. Are we taking an informed leap or jumping into the unknown?

At the moment, universities are likely having a discussion about forms of teaching in the coming autumn. A variety of contact, remote and hybrid implementations have been considered, and decisions have been made on different administrative levels to varying degrees.

It is, however, necessary to state that the decision about the implementation of teaching should be made as communally as possible – it cannot be an individual teacher’s responsibility. The scheduling and space questions related to teaching are difficult even in normal times. The essential question is whether students and teachers want to return to campus or to continue studying and teaching from home.

There are likely as many responses as there are respondents. For some students, remote learning has been a tremendous ordeal, but at the same time, many others have welcomed the new freedom. Similarly, the experiences of teaching personnel vary.

It is certainly not fair that in the future every student would be offered what they want, when they want it and in the way they want it. Common frameworks for encounters and teaching need to exist.

It is also not fair that both contact and remote teaching would be delivered simultaneously in the same working time. Hybrid teaching, where some participants are present in the teaching space and others participate through a remote connection, presents many pedagogical challenges. To conquer them, we will hopefully find applicable practices and new tools for teachers’ pedagogical toolkits. Teachers naturally choose methods that they find sensible based on their own pedagogical competence, but the larger frameworks should be discussed thoroughly.

Many things happen remotely now: these experiences have been presented widely in editorials and columns. Many routine meetings may be transferred to remote implementations, and supervision may follow.

In this context, the question of working spaces becomes relevant: if, for example, in a three-person office one person teaches remotely, another supervises remotely and the third person is in a remote meeting, cacophony is guaranteed. Quiet spaces are in short supply. All this forces people to seek to work from home regardless of the conditions there. It is not an all-round optimal situation – we still remember well the early days of working from home in spring 2020, when children and other family members made sudden appearances in the background of teaching and meetings.

It is necessary to consider profoundly what is the way in which we will do teaching in the 2030s, in the spirit of the Finnish higher education institutions’ common Digivision. The picture will certainly be very different from now, but it is, in any case, important to have a dialogue about the ways of implementation, because the question affects everything from teachers’ working time to student housing in places of study and to lecture halls remaining in use for teaching.

Many crude proverbs exist about rushing and its results, and I will not repeat them here, but in any case, it is clear that corona is a bad teacher.

Translation: Elina Siltanen

Santeri Palviainen
Chair, The Union for University Teachers and Researchers in Finland, YLL

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 44