Remote Teaching Makes Us More Human, Rice U. Expert Says

While teaching is physically remote, we are learning that it can be much more personal than on-campus teaching.


HOUSTON – (April 23, 2020) – In March, thousands of universities around the world said goodbye to spring break and hello to a world of online instruction.

At Rice University, only three undergraduate classes were scheduled to be conducted completely online from the beginning of the semester. Now more than 1,900 have gone remote.

The biggest revelations have been about the human — rather than the technical — dimension of teaching, said Caroline Levander, vice president for digital and global strategy at Rice and a leading humanities scholar. Levander and University of Pennsylvania professor Peter Decherney explore the dynamic in a new Inside Higher Ed blog series, “Education in the Time of Corona.”

Levander is available to discuss her insights with the news media.

“While teaching is physically remote, we are learning that it can be much more personal than on-campus teaching,” Levander and Decherney wrote in their first blog post. “Remote teaching requires us to become more aware of the human condition of our students. When students come to campus, they leave their homes and families largely behind, stepping into a new world where classrooms and dorms obscure the lives they led prior to matriculation. Now we are teaching into the worlds our students have had to return to — the homes they share with others, or the homelessness of earlier years, or the hostile home environments they escaped from when they came to campus.

“And like our students, faculty, too, are revealing what makes us most human. As we fumble with the mute button on Zoom or ask our students for help with video sharing, we expose our incompetency rather than our mastery of the material. As pets, kids and aged parents wander into the virtual classrooms we have created on kitchen tables or in our small home workspaces, students see the tugs on our attention and the challenges we, too, temporarily escape when we come to campus to teach in well-maintained classrooms and hold office hours in well-appointed university offices.”

Previously published on permission.

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