Professor’s ‘yawn’ rant offers a lesson in viral video

By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
November 17th, 2010

Even if lecture capture technology isn't used in a classroom, a student could record an embarrassing moment on a cell phone.

Cornell University Professor Mark Talbert’s search for a student who yawned during class was first seen by about 200 students. The recorded rant had been viewed 218,000 times on YouTube as of press time—and educators say it’s a reminder that anything said in a lecture hall these days can be held against you in the court of viral video.

Talbert, a senior lecturer in Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, was recorded in a late October lecture searching the hall for a student who had yawned loudly in the middle of Talbert’s presentation.

Talbert asked the more than 200 students to identify the person who had yawned, adding that the “overly loud” yawning had become too frequent.

“My bad side is as bad as my pleasant side is pleasant,” he said. “Don’t push me that way. … If I hear one more of these overly loud yawns, get up and walk the hell out! Yawn outside! Stay out of class—whatever it is you need to do to get over it.”

Talbert, who later asked the class for an anonymous tip revealing the yawner, continued: “You should be asking yourself, ‘Why am I the one loser that has to [yawn] when 220 know better? Don’t push me to this point again.”

Talbert, who did not respond to an interview request from eCampus News, told The Cornell Review Nov. 15 that he sought out the interrupting student because the yawn seemed intentionally loud and disrupted his lecture.

“It wasn’t a yawn, it was a loud yawning sound, you know, like when somebody wants to put out the message to the auditorium that he’s bored,” he told The Review. “Everybody’s yawning, including me. It wasn’t a yawn, it was somebody making an intentional loud bored noise week after week after week. It’s like, look, you don’t have to come if it bothers you.”

Professors and lecturers said that while viral video lectures could be embarrassing for educators, knowing that a breach in decorum could be seen by hundreds of thousands might discourage professors from classroom meltdowns.

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