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Letter to the Editor: In response to “Are asynchronous lectures laziness on the part of profs?”

In an Op-Ed on asynchronous lectures published in the Gauntlet, the article argues that asynchronous lectures are ineffective for a variety of reasons which are identified based on interviews with different students. The title for the article, however, unapologetically insinuates that a professor opting to provide asynchronous lectures is lazy. While well intended, the article’s arguments might be dangerously misinterpreted to the detriment of the students and the disillusionment of the professors.

My wife and I are both academics at the University of Alberta and alumni of the University of Calgary. We, admittedly, belong to the professors that the article views as, ostensibly, lazy. I have been creating asynchronous videos to augment my in-person lectures for more than a decade while my wife started the same practice when the pandemic hit. In order for us to create these resources, while tending to our teaching and research duties, my wife and I have hardly been able to spend a single weekend together since last May. Each weekend, one of us has to take care of our two preschoolers, while the other arduously and tirelessly creates course resources to ensure a vibrant and wholesome experience for the students. Our students have called us many things but lazy.

There are a few opinions that I share with the article. We both believe that professors should naturally be accountable for their level of engagement, that we should consider students in different time zones and that completely asynchronous lectures are a bad idea. The article and I ultimately care deeply about the quality of the education all students are getting. However, I am afraid that the article provides a one-sided opinion that could alienate some hard working professors.

The article, unfortunately, conflates fully asynchronous with asynchronous components; the former I utterly oppose and strongly discourage, the latter I fully support and often encourage. The article poses two equally important and timely questions: “Are asynchronous lectures laziness on the part of profs?” for which my answer would be: “absolutely not”, and “how effective are asynchronous lectures and are they even necessary?” for which my answer would depend on the lecturer, the lecture material and the size of the class. I wish not to debate the merits of augmenting one’s style of teaching with asynchronous lectures; the literature is rife with studies articulating the benefits and the disadvantages. Rather, I invite readers to read on the topic before concluding with hasty generalizations.

I wish to provide a counterargument for the claim that an instructor posting “everything for the entire semester” precipitates the students losing the “sense of time.” I have always posted all the content of my courses including lectures and assignments, categorized by topics and organized by lectures ahead of every semester. Curiosity leads some students to browse through future content creating some neurological pathways to be solidified later in the course. Others are able to advance at their own pace with the ability to re-watch or re-study older topics. I do believe, however, which is in-line with the intention of the article, that an instructor posting disorganized content invariably leads to the students getting lost in the sea of “moodle posts.” 

I wish to acknowledge the article’s statement: “The majority of students I spoke to believed that asynchronous lectures can be effective if done right”. Listing some of the “effective” examples would have provided a much needed balanced opinion. However, the article chooses examples from disenchanted students that support the a-priori set conclusion that asynchronous lectures amount to laziness.

The article is intended to supporting students’ learning. I am afraid, however, that it may be counterproductive. The generalized criticism deals another blow to the recently strained relationship between -the instructors and their students. It also dissuades new instructors who are cautiously navigating the sea of opinions on remote teaching from exploring new teaching methods that could potentially enhance the students’ experience. Additionally, if cursorily reviewed by one of our administrators, the generalization can lead to discrediting the assiduous work of many of our instructors.

Pandemic or not, our professors’ highest priority is the student. We are perpetually exploring new techniques and methods to transform our curricula, enhance our students’ experience, and assuage their concerns. At the end of every term, most of us fervently and diligently scour through our student evaluation forms to pinpoint our own weaknesses and identify our own strengths. Students, on the other hand, should use their forums to provide a balanced and carefully crafted opinion, otherwise they risk not being taken seriously.

-Samer Adeeb

Letters to the Editor published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board. The Gauntlet retains the right to edit submissions for brevity and clarity.

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