What just happened? The Leap to Online Instruction during the Coronavirus Crisis

Can we take a second and talk about the emotional toll of switching to all online instruction?

Interactive virus-map in the scariest possible color scheme. You can find it here.

So, dutifully, my fellow instructors moved our courses online.

Suddenly, we were Zooming (and otherwise teleducating). We went from highly engineered chair-desks to the futons and couches and deskchairs of our homes. We went from in personal contact to distance education.

Now, I know some very talented people have been working out the kinks of online instruction for decades now, but for those of us who are comparatively new to this — who were just thrust into it — it feels like something has just been lost. Not to mention…

Stressing our already fragile student body

I know we’ll rally. I know we’ll make do. But that does not minimize the significance of the change. The severity of the speed.

I have lived in online spaces enough to know that bodies have weight and physical co-presence has a force to it, and three dimensions convey so much more information than 2). As I was scanning faces in the strings of boxes of the Zoom windows, I was straining to see how my students are doing, while at the same time experiencing loss.

We have lost something suddenly, and, as my colleague Stephanie Bower pointed out to me, now we need to mourn. As she recounts, the feeling is similar to the feeling at the end of the semester when the students leave campus, except at the point, we have at least completed our lesson arc. We have reached an expected end.

We’ll make do. We’ll rally. But can we take a pause for a moment and mourn what was lost? Thankfully, it was not lost to war or earthquake. Most thankfully, it was not lost to death through the spread of disease — and hopefully, these measures make a difference. But that does not mean we don’t feel its absence — nor that its loss is any less traumatic.

Online instruction can handle a lot. Faculty and students are resilient. But I, for one, am mourning the loss of an in-person classroom experience built one precious co-present moment at a time.

writer/researcher of emerging digital writing forms. Prof of Writing @ USC, Dir. of Com. for ELO, Dir. of HaCCS Lab