Sun screen: maintaining routines in the HEAT of COVID 🔥😎

Today, we kicked off the Summer Academy with a morning check-in and a lecture. For some of us, it was their first experience with online teaching, while for others it was just another online lecture. Either way, we shared some common feelings that we wanted to reflect upon in this first blogpost: 


First of all, we all agreed that turning on the cameras felt really nice. Especially for those of us who had experience with online courses where all students had their cameras turned off, we all found that seeing the other students’ faces felt more engaging and more true to the classroom experience. 

We also found that having our own camera on forced us to be more attentive and adopt a studious attitude: just like sitting at the front row in a physical classroom, having our camera on during the online lecture felt like the lecturers had their eyes on us and it would have felt odd to be doing something else while they were speaking. This “first-row” effect had a positive effect on all of us, keeping us focused and engaged. 

Another aspect of this morning’s lecture that we discussed was the choice of the professor to lecture without slides. Our experience was that if such teaching may already make it hard to follow in a classroom context, it makes it really challenging in an online setting. With lagging connections and distractions in our own homes – our families, flatmates or partners walking by, being in another video conference, etc. – it is easy to lose track of the lecture for a few moments. In such cases, having visual cues to rely upon can be greatly helpful and we all realized how underappreciated slides were, especially online. While it is unclear whether lecturers and speakers should adapt the format of their slides for online presentations (and how it would be done), it seems that having slides may significantly improve the capacity of students to stay engaged in the lecture, despite under-optimal learning environments. 

Finally, we noticed that while online lectures can be done in a very engaging and interactive way, it is hard to compete with presence learning when it comes to the social dimension of university. In the classroom, students are given coffee breaks, which are excellent opportunities to simply chit chat and socialize, but also discuss the content of the course, expand on some interesting ideas, etc. 


The second point of reflection we would like to share concerns group work in an online setting. Here, again, the experience was overall positive and we were glad about our ability to coordinate over the weekend and communicate efficiently this afternoon. A specific aspect that we discussed was the dimensions of inclusion that is reinforced when using video conferencing tools. Concretely, when discussing as a group of 4 people, we found that all of us were directly asking each other to share their thoughts and opinions on the topics at hand when noticing that they had become quiet. 

Because the participants appear on the screen, and speakers are highlighted, it felt like we were more aware of who was actively engaging in the conversation and who wasn’t, pushing us to make efforts to make sure that all voices were heard. Some of us perceived this aspect of group work positively, as it may make (potentially shy) group members feel more included, and encourage them to share their thoughts and opinion, thereby improving the participant’s experience but also the quality of the discussion’s output. On the other hand, some of us felt that it might be intrusive to call people out, considering that if they remain quiet, it might be simply because they are thinking about the discussion, or don’t have anything to say. 



Finally, we would like to share some of our group dynamics in coming up with a theme for this week. After this morning’s lecture, we implicitly used the lunch break to brainstorm individually. When we met at 13:00, we were ready to share some of our interests and ideas. After we all introduced our ideas, we consensually agreed on exploring “screens”. For better or for worse, it is a very broad theme, so we had a lot to discuss, and we ended up deciding that each of us would cover their main area of interest in relation to screens. We have decided to cover very distinct aspects of the topic, reflecting the variety in disciplines of our backgrounds: 

  • Historical perspectives 
  • Changes in perception of screens
  • Screen culture and immersion
  • Cognitive processes in work-related settings 

Our next steps are to dig into desktop research to explore each of these paths and see how they may relate to one another. 

Anna, Dragana, Maylis and Sofia