In a Webinar on Netiquette and Ways of Managing Online Classes, Atty. Golda Benjamin, who teaches Sales Law, Legal Research, and Refugee Law at the SU College of Law, urged her colleagues to find ways to conduct online classes that are creative and engaging, to spend less time online scolding the students, and to learn to take care of each other.
According to Prof. Jonathan Te, president of the Silliman University Faculty Association which organized the webinar, the activity is the first among a series conducted on the Zoom video app, dedicated to help equip the faculty in the transition to online education.
The activity complements the series of trainings earlier conducted by the University on the use of the Silliman Online University Learning (SOUL) platform for distance learning,
Benjamin, who has been doing online consultation work the past six years, warned her colleagues how easily people, even adults, can get distracted when faced with a computer. She said we have to consider the high probability of students simply online-shopping for what’s on sale, chatting with friends on various apps, or simply watching Kdrama on half of the computer monitor while an online class is going on.
She shared some tips with her fellow teachers that have helped her navigate daily online discussions, supervising more than 20 professionals for a London-based NGO:
1) Have two alternate platforms (like Zoom or GoogleMeet) in case the SOUL platform fails.
2) Pick a workspace that is private. Benjamin recalled one time she was discussing international investment agreements with professionals in Europe, and her retired father, who didn’t know she was in a video conference, suddenly hollered, “Day, maligo ta’g dagat!”
3) Apologize less for ambient sounds like dog barking or the rooster crowing because they are only natural.
4) Take short breaks. Benjamin said turning off her video for a few minutes to rest her eyes or stretch has helped her survive daily online meetings that being 9am and end by midnight Philippine time.
5) Mute the audio (or turn off the video) of students not yet reciting to improve the quality of the conversation.
6) Close all browsers, turn off all notifications from other apps during an online class to lessen distractions.
7) Upload modules/materials through free screen-sharing apps.
8) Never assume that the Millenials know technology better. She recalled how one student literally stood up to leave his workspace when he was requested to “Leave” the video conference so that his presentation can be deliberated on. “They are as anxious of the new normal as we are.”
9) Set Online Classroom Rules. She said the teachers’ rules from five months ago — like no use of gadgets in class — may not apply anymore.
Benjamin also suggested to clean up one’s desktop – which is what the students get to view, and to ensure that the account name of the gadgets and the apps are registered under the teacher’s name.
“We need to learn how to make technology work to our benefit, and importantly, how it can serve the interest of learning,” said Dr. Karl James Villarmea, professor of Christian Ethics and Interpreting the Hebrew Scripture, and one of the participants in the webinar.
In the same webinar, Benjamin showed the participants her office setup in one corner of their home that she said maximizes natural light. On the floor behind her computer desk is a rubber play mat for her nine-month old daughter whom she takes care of 24/7.
She also showed the gadgets necessary for one to be able to adequately Work from Home. She explained that having a wired/Ethernet connection at home is better than having wireless WiFi. Ethernet, she said, provides a “more stable and faster connection, giving the user greater reliability and security”.
She recommended the use of a wireless keyboard and a wireless audio headset (in addition to good speakers) to “give us greater flexibility to walk around the room”.
She also pointed out her external camera attached on top of her computer monitor. She noted the importance of propping up the monitor at an appropriate height so the students don’t just get a view of the teacher’s neck or half her head, which can also take its toll on the teacher’s shoulders and back.
A curious constant beside Benjamin’s computer is her haplas (liniment), used during back-breaking long meetings. She explained that conducting five meetings on video conference everyday has taught her the value of wellness.
When asked if the teachers need to use ‘ring lights’ to look good on video, Benjamin disregarded its “benefits” of lessening shadows or diffusing light evenly, and reiterated why workspace location with natural light is crucial. (Irma Faith Pal)