Life in hell

May 29, 2020

I had long heard rumors from academicians about how “online teaching is a nightmare,” “online teaching ruined my life,” “online teaching sucked the brains out of my...

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I had long heard rumors from academicians about how “online teaching is a nightmare,” “online teaching ruined my life,” “online teaching sucked the brains out of my head,” “online teaching is a new and insidious form of labor degradation,” and the like.

I foolishly tended to write these complaints off as hyperbole, saying “it can’t be that bad.” No more. I get it now. The Covid-19 era, which turned my formerly in-person adjunct class into an online course, has been instructive.

If anything, by my experience, online teaching is worse than anything I had heard or read. It has been a nightmare.

Online teaching the first time through became a health menace for me this spring. It has been lethal, both mentally and physically, to have been hit with a massive requirement of extra, unpaid online labor, requiring energy I didn’t have for hours and hours of typing, typing, typing, into a computer screen and calling, calling, and calling tech people and internet providers and computer companies on the phone.

Unpaid and extra new online tasks and madness? Oh, indeed: # Hours researching and ordering a new Dell computer in a (partly failed) effort to be up-to-technical speed for the online transition. # Hours tracking and calling about the long Covid-era delays in getting the computer-delivered. # Hours spent in online shopping for and purchasing of a camera for my old computer to have a visual presence until the new one arrived in the spring quarter’s fifth week.

# Hours spent trying to get past online parasites to obtain camera drivers direct from Logitech. # Hours and hours spent trying to get through instructional videos on the D2L Web-based teaching system, Panopto videos, Zoom, and more. # Hours and hours spent trying to determine when students are available for online text-based classes. # Hours and hours typing, typing, and typing responses to students on the bizarre and unwieldy D2L system and via email. (I did finally determine that it was not physically possible to respond to all text comments).

# Hours spent setting up and trying to maintain a Facebook group for the class after D2L participation strangely disappeared early in the class. # Hours and hours spent typing up and sending out group emails trying to keep geographically scattered, distracted, distant, unresponsive and in some cases traumatized students on board and focused on a “low-priority” class (“just history,” of no special importance).

# Hours spent trying to determine why XYZ edu’s Outlook email system wouldn’t let me download papers from students and what to do about it. # Hours spent setting up a new Yahoo account specifically for the submission of student papers and sending out the address of the new Yahoo account.

# Hours spent adding and juggling different browsers in accord with the idiosyncrasies of XYZ edu’s software (Internet Explorer “does not support D2L” but Chrome shuts down downloads via XYZ edu’s Outlook email …hence Firefox.) # Hours and hours spent on the phone with (genuinely nice and smart but often overwhelmed) people at the XYZ edu online help desk.

Excerpted from: 'Life in Hell: Online Teaching'.

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