On Synchronicity

Image of the album cover for the Police, Synchronicity

My plan for this quarter was to do everything asynchronously. I was going to pre-record mini-lectures for my courses, post them, and then have students respond and hold discussions in Canvas discussion forums. 

Now that the quarter has started though, I find myself shifting strategies. I am now intending to hold weekly Zoom meetings (during what would normally be class meeting times) where I do my mini-lectures in Zoom, record the session, have some discussion there, and then follow up with a Canvas discussion. I've settled on this blending of synchronous and asynchronous for a few reasons:

  • I worry that, if I pre-record stuff, I will feel a lot of pressure to make it "perfect," and in so doing, will end up re-recording sessions, editing them to death, and generally wasting a lot of time on it that might be better spent elsewhere. If I plan to do lectures live in Zoom, it will be more of a "one-and-done" sort of thing. 
  • I asked my students, and they really want the live option. I think they're feeling displaced (as are we all), and are seeking connection. I didn't want to take that away from them. 
  • I think it's crucial that attendance is optional. We'll see how many come to the Zoom meetings each week, but I'll be fine even if it ends up that I'm lecturing to an empty "room." But I suspect it won't come to that. 

So, here's the thing: I've been pushing the need for asynchronous work in our courses, and I still think most of the work needs to be doable asynchronously: reading, viewing videos, participating in discussion forums, drafting, giving feedback, etc. The truth is that synchronous teaching is more difficult, especially for those who are new to remote instruction.

But I also do think there's room for some synchronous work, beyond Zoom conferences and office hours.