Day Two: Flexible

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US increased from 4,661 yesterday, to 5,853 today. At least 100 people have died from the virus in the US, with nearly 8,000 deaths reported globally. The Virginia Department of Health reports 67 confirmed cases today – up from 51 yesterday, and 45 on Monday.

Virginia COVID-19 Cases 3/17/20
Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 rise to 67 (3/17/20): http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/

It’s been a quiet day here. Nairo went to daycare — partly to get him out of the house and keep him entertained (so glad dogs don’t get this particular virus), and partly to support a local business that depends (as do so many) on the regular work schedules of the university and its employees.

Even without the pup it’s been hard to concentrate, though. My mom’s care facility called to say they were cutting back on having outside companion care workers come in. I’m sure she’s fine and getting lots of attention, but the call reminded me — again — how vulnerable and isolated some populations are.

So, teaching….

I’ve been doing asynchronous and hybrid work for several years, so making this adjustment shouldn’t be that difficult. I design all of my courses around content students create on their blogs or collaborative activities we do on Google Docs. The logistics of jettisoning IRL F2F meetings and setting up spaces where we can all still have some interaction with each other aren’t that hard: Slack (for topical discussions, email control, and a back channel for all of us); Zoom (for short updates from me and small group collaboration / discussions); Update course website and flag changes on the LMS – check.

But my difficulties concentrating today made me realize that my students and I will probably need these communication tools for more than learning about Soviet History.  On a conference call with a student-led climate justice group this afternoon, you could really hear how disconcerting and anxiety-inducing COVID-19 is AND how hard and important it is to keep community ties strong in the days/weeks/months of self-isolation. While the easiest way to “put courses on line” involves minimizing peer-to-peer interaction, I am committed to keeping as much of it as I can — not just because humans are social learners (they are), but because the class had a solid sense of community before we parted for Spring Break, and I think we’ll all benefit from cultivating that community going forward. Even if we can’t physically be in the same space, we’re all going through something difficult and unknown.  The disruption of shifting one’s college experience into pandemic mode will be traumatic for many people.  I want our course to be a refuge from the flux and a creative space where we can still learn with and from each other.

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