Lasting Lessons of the Academic Lockdown


Most university and college campuses have been mostly closed for a month or so at this point, with professors teaching their courses online from home and meetings happening via videoconferencing.

Professors, students, administrators, and staff have all had to change, to some extent at least, how they work individually and together, and have also, perhaps, changed how they think about certain aspects of academic life, work, and our relationships with each other.

There are fears that the massive move online might be used as an excuse for longer-term “cost-cutting” changes many educators feel would be for the worse (e.g., a decrease in in-person teaching options, reduced hiring).

But perhaps there are elements of academic life under lockdown that are worth preserving, or that have prompted thoughts worth keeping once this current threat has passed. If so, what are they?


photo by J. Weinberg

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Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

MEETINGS (-): fewer of them, most of them online. Much more efficient, much less agonizing. I’m not confident that we, as an academic community, or my institution in particular, will realize that meetings have been dramatically devalued by the current crisis (quite unlike in-person teaching in fact), but I still hope we will.

LATTES (-): I guess students and faculty didn’t really need their expensive Starbucks in wasteful cup every morning after all.

NAPS (+): when you’re home with the kids and one of them starts their (absolutely compulsory) nap on you, preventing you from doing the work you’d planned, you drop your book, ditch your laptop, and take it all in: an afternoon nap with a toddler adorably snoring in your ear is the best.

DRIVING (-): less obvious for many, depending on where you live and work, but spending more time walking and biking in the neighborhood rather than driving places you don’t really need going to, seems good to me. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

Strong disagree on lattes…Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Haha! Fair. Homemade not close enough?Report

jj
jj
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

“when you’re home with the kids and one of them starts their (absolutely compulsory) nap on you, preventing you from doing the work you’d planned, you drop your book, ditch your laptop” – how do you work WHILE having kids at home to begin with? I do not see how that is possible, unless (1) the kids are older or (2) someone else is doing the heavy lifting…Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  jj
1 year ago

During nap time, when the older one doesn’t sleep on me. Mine are 1yo and nearly 4yo. I’m alone with them at home. Report

jj
jj
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

I see. That makes sense. It’s just the way you wrote it, it sounded like you only dropped your book and laptop at nap time…Report

Kenny Easwaran
1 year ago

Online meetings are definitely a thing that should continue. There are some sorts of meetings that need us to be in person, but my department has had higher attendance at our faculty meetings since they moved online. In normal circumstances, there are many people who miss meetings either due to childcare or conference travel, and online meetings make this much easier. I’ve found the online meetings less unpleasant, and I suspect there are many circumstances in which the mute button will prove to be helpful.

Weekly online reading groups and talks – several organizations I’m affiliated with are doing things like this, and it’s been nice to have access to events outside my own university. I already had one such reading group before, but having more is great. And it’s been especially great for some grad students to be able to attend specialist seminars at universities outside our geographic area.

There’s a lot of paperwork my university requires for graduate students. Documents like the certification of the proposal defense, and the dissertation defense, used to have to be on hard copy, with all signatures in ink. Now they are being accepted online. This should definitely continue.

But I think also, once we are allowed to return to the office, I will aim to spend much more time in the office than I historically have. I now realize how much I miss seeing grad students walk by in the hallway, and remembering what day of the week it is because I’ve commuted, and being able to distinguish home and work. I had noticed minor problems of these sorts before when I had done a lot of work from home, but being forced at home for a whole month has made it clear how bad these problems really are.Report

Victor Caston
Victor Caston
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
1 year ago

Totally agree on the online meetings and reading groups, as well as valuing being back in the dept again!Report

Presentist
Presentist
1 year ago

04/17/20? Maybe too soon to incite mass clairvoyance!

If pandemics teach us anything, it’s that today’s “lessons” probably won’t last …. During reformations the only reliable fact is flux. Getting the study questions configured properly, let alone answering them, will just have to wait.

Rephrase, for more useful blog-parlor colloquy:

When we look back upon this awful time, which actions will we celebrate and which will we regret?Report