Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Combating Zoom Fatigue

Most face to face meetings, administrative or educational, are a waste of time, so replacing them with pointless video conferences is not an improvement. Most of these meetings can be replaced with asynchronous decision making, development and learning techniques. As well as saving you time, that will produce a better outcome.

There are ways you can reduce meeting fatigue: real and virtual. First decide what the meeting is for and if this could be accomplished another way. If the intention is to make a decision, then first poll the invitees: if they agree, then there is no need for a meeting.

It is possible to get even academics to agree. The approach I have used for deciding who gets an award, is to separately have each participant rank the candidates in order. Usually there is a large majority in favor of the same candidate, and the minority and willing to go along with this, if it means avoiding a meeting.

If you need to produce a large complex document, such as a policy, or working paper, then have an initial meeting so everyone can get to know each other. After that use an online tool which tracks the contributions from each person, and records comments. Shortly before the deadline, have a meeting to agree the final draft (the deadline provides pressure for agreement).

You don't need to replace every hour of face to face classes with an hour of video conferencing. Traditional distance education had no real time interaction at all: the student is sent a brick of readings, writes an assignment, and the tutor sends comments back later. In the age of paper mail, this process took weeks, or months. With the Internet this can be a little more interactive, but remember, it is your job as a teacher to get the students to work, not do the work for them. Provide readings, supplemented by recorded videos, supplemented by some real time events.

Don't use the precious face to face (or online) time giving a "lecture": ask questions, or get the students to ask each other questions. Use the marking scheme to force students do the required study before the live events. It only takes 1% for some study activity to get most students to do it. But don't award marks for attending or just reading something, have a test of the knowledge or skill. These small tests can be automated, or peer assessed, reducing your workload.

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