In the middle of a busy semester in early 2020, the typically buzzing campus became unusually silent. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the University’s more than 40,000 students and over 12,000 staff to stay at home.
Many had to quickly adapt to a new environment: the virtual classroom. Lecturers had to fathom how to capture the attention of hundreds of students from tiny laptop screens. Students went from having lively in-person tutorial sessions to seeing their schoolmates as sometimes static, pixelated faces online.
Inevitably, problems arose. Teaching staff experienced technical difficulties such as forgetting to unmute themselves during lessons, and the isolated nature of video lectures also lowered students’ attention spans.
Engaging the students became a priority. “The simplest is making sure that the students are paying attention during the lesson, (but) this is difficult to do in a virtual world because we cannot see their body language,” said Associate Professor Soo Yuen Jien, Deputy Head at the Department of Computer Science at the NUS School of Computing.
Assoc Prof Soo Yuen Jien (right) of NUS Computing shared his take on the challenges of the virtual classroom in a fireside chat with Professor Jayasankar Variyar (left) of Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management.
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