Pop Quiz: Out sick

I don’t know about you guys, but up here in my neck of the woods there has been a nasty cold going around for the last couple of weeks, and I’m only just getting over my turn at the buffet.

I’m lucky to have a fairly strong immune system in that I very rarely get sick, but for some reason whenever I do manage to get a cold it nearly always incapacitates me for a couple of days and ends with a cough that lingers for weeks. All this to say that I was forced to take a few days off last week, and it was almost completely unrelated to the release of GTA V (I mean, if I’m stuck home anyway there’s no reason not to do a little exploring in Los Santos).

One interesting result of staying home last week was skyping in to a seminar I’m auditing so that I could listen and participate while remaining at home in bed. Here is what this experience taught me about remote learning: not being in the room is a huge barrier to participation. Normally in a group environment people are aware of each others’ body language and can tell when another person desires to speak, respond, or interject and react accordingly. When that person is a tiny image on a screen (or only a disembodied voice), this dynamic is fundamentally changed, and it is much harder for the remote person to speak up or offer questions and opinions. In fact, the only time I spoke at all during the session was when I was posed a direct question relating to my expertise. This experience has lead me to even more skepticism of online courses.

The question of presence in a classroom also leads to another issue. As regular readers may know, I am not teaching this term due to budget cuts, but when I am teaching illness often poses a special problem: what to do with my classes. The courses I teach are usually scheduled quite tightly and I can rarely afford to fall a class behind, and furthermore it’s usually impossible to get someone to cover my class on short notice (as opposed to planned absences for travel).

In the past this has often meant dragging myself in through sheer force of will and chemistry and croaking my way through a lesson when I should really be in bed with some soup or milk tea. I don’t appreciate it and I know the students don’t really appreciate it, but short of padding my schedule I’m not sure there’s a good solution. After my experience last week, I certainly can’t imagine teaching via Skype, and besides that doesn’t solve the problem of being alert and coherent and stringing two words together without a coughing fit.

So what do you all do when you are sick? For those who have access to substitutes, does it actually do any good? Do you think you would be able to remotely teach a room full of students?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: Evan-Amos

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!

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