For a few years now, the specter of online teaching had been encroaching into my classroom as the inevitable fate of higher education in the United States. Slowly but surely we, professors of all sorts, are enticed to design our syllabi as “online courses,” both as a way to recruit hard-to-reach students and to conform to our universities’ unavoidable e-teaching trajectory.
Meanwhile, many of us halfheartedly resisted such a fate, mostly by asserting the importance of “real-life” professor-student exchanges on the basis of experiential learning principles. Truth be told, online teaching somehow felt like the death knell of our role as educators. Some of us feared that we would be eventually substituted by computerized teaching proctors that would effectively deliver lectures on-demand, without asking for sick leave or retirement benefits in return. How long would it take before we were completely replaced by automated versions of ourselves? Would professors like me be deemed obsoleted once e-learning technologies were set to do our jobs faster and for a tenth of the price?
Although these were the types of rhetorical questions that nobody dared ask out loud, they still remained in the back of the minds of many—me included—until now.
Let’s fast-forward to the COVID-19 crisis. For a month now, educators of all sorts have been forced to replace the classroom with a virtual version of itself. In a matter of hours, we all hurried to self-train on online teaching and remote learning technologies, and signed up for crash courses on how to successfully manage the virtual classroom.