Teaching between Pre- and Post-Corona. An Essay (2)

This is part 2 of the essay about the exceptional demands on university teaching in the digital-distant semester at the German-speaking universities forced by the corona crisis. The two authors argue here that some lessons can be learned from this externally forced special situation for better university teaching in the future, and that a simple complete return to a former normality of university teaching may not be desirable. To this end, they supplement the Hattie reception from part 1 with perspectives from learning psychology, which they take primarily from Dehaene (2020) and Halldén (1994/97). Thereupon they develop in a pragmatic approach alphabetically sorted discussions of typical problem situations of digital-distant university teaching. These discussions are connected with an invitation to collaborative work of many colleagues on the way to a vade mecum of university didactics, which has been digitally opened up and expanded finally.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2020-16838.
Language: English, German

You can find part 1 of the essay here / Hier geht es zum ersten Teil des Aufsatzes

“Presence” has become the shibboleth for successful teaching and learning in the current spring, i.e. summer semester 2020 and will likely also be next autumn. As argued in Part 1, we do well to distinguish the conventional presence of learning from its visibility. We claim that the visibility of learning matters, rather than primarily being physically present in shared material spaces.


Quite presumably, the current extraordinary circumstances at universities are not a brief, transient episode. Nor is the recently elevated tone of the essentialism of the analog world suited to productively tackling a situation likely to still be exercising us in the autumn, i.e. winter semester, if not longer. We believe that nothing less than a productive, independent approach to the challenges of digital teaching is essential. Psychologists like Klaus Fiedler[1] stress the fact that those who see themselves as victims of circumstance, even if they are victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, will tend to present the digital transformation of teaching as a depressing state of emergency. They will, moreover, highlight the concomitants, rather than focus teaching on what matters.

In contrast, those who experiment with ideas and solutions, to further develop teaching under changed conditions, will make themselves and their practice as academic teachers more visible; a visibility that will translate to students. Those who assign students in this process so-called “agency,” i.e. asks them for advice and suggestions, and thus to participate in course design, enables feedback to productively and jointly advance teaching, turns the enforced crisis into a shared exploratory enterprise. The more self-determined we tackle the pandemic, the more likely we will employ new approaches long-term in academic teaching. We believe the odds are in favour of turning digital teaching consciously, i.e. metacognitively, into a positive challenge among many of our colleagues.

Humanities faculties (and the subjects taught there) frequently invoke the essentialism of the analog world. And yet, working from home is the rule at these faculties in particular, and attendance on campus is too often the exception, unlike in experimental disciplines. If academic teaching in the humanities (i.e. philosophical disciplines) depended solely on physical presence at higher education institutions, it would be insignificant. In fact, academic teaching is more diverse, especially in the humanities, and expectations about students preparing for and following up seminars of their own accord are justifiably high.

Successful teaching therefore hinges largely on how well we manage to motivate students to study independently. Thus, in our experience, it is important to master digital tools so confidently that they do not deflect attention from the subject matter. Anyone who dismisses the technical side of teaching as burdensome will quickly fail to come to grips with such teaching-learning situations. They will instead transfer their own frustration in grappling with technology to their students, thus making distraction from the subject matter seriously increase. Confidently mastering technology therefore tells our students how seriously we take teaching even at a distance. This signal is crucial.

As with teaching in a seminar room or lecture hall, it is not always easy to integrate students’ situatedness across digital distance. Larger courses become small tiles on a screen, each showing a face, whose individual expressions are not readily interpretable. The often unconscious micro-episodes, with which we adjust to each other in face-to-face encounters, regulate turn-taking and attune adapted behaviour [2], must and therefore can be translated into digital means, just as suitable tools can be selected for this purpose. Visible, reciprocal learning (Hattie) requires lecturers to view learning processes from the student perspective and to balance their own expectations and those of students. Distance learning enables translating micro-episodes into very conscious teaching techniques, however elaborate this may prove.

In order to somewhat systematise our experiences, we report along four principles of learning, ones recently described by Stanislas Dehaene in Apprendre! Les talents du cerveau, le défi des machines (published in English as How We Learn).[3] Dehaene’s research provides genuine psychological justification for successful teaching and learning. His approach forms a counterpart to John Hattie’s educational-statistical evaluations and interpretations, on which we relied in Part 1. Dehaene’s four principles apply to teaching in the seminar room or via Zoom.com.

Dehaenes’ How we learn

Attention: Digital tools are suited to creating shared attention, even across spatial distance. Zoom, Teams and similar tools support a whole series of operations: convening in a virtual waiting room, starting a lesson, looking at a split screen together and listening to comments and explanations, dividing into virtual work groups and collaborating on a document or object, for example, annotating it and then feeding the results back into the main session. Thus, it is not about commenting on a long lecture delivered via Powerpoint, Keynote or Zoom using an audio or video file. Instead, using and appreciating the change in teaching and learning formats helps overcome the passivity of filmed teaching. Filming and broadcasting hours of lectures is didactically unproductive.

We very quickly noticed that jointly focusing on a particular subject matter online tends to be more intensive, perhaps even more rigorous, than in the classroom. Breaks were therefore necessary, because virtualised teaching requires significantly different attention management than teaching in a seminar room or lecture hall. Expressing disagreement and conflict is initially more difficult and needs to be practised. There is much talk about “Zoom fatigue,” and rightly so. In our experience, after the first seminar sessions, we need(ed) to more frequently switch between larger groups, breakout sessions and breaks. This applies especially to us as lecturers, because we involve ourselves in individual groups, follow their discussions and must then move on to the next virtual workspace. This requires much concentration and mental presence. And yet, it is precisely this concentration that we wish to highlight, quite consciously, as it also serves as a model of students’ attention, which is paramount to the learning process.

Active engagement: Creating shared attention greatly involves a second principle of learning, i.e. the almost demonstrative engagement in teaching. We also first had to master using digital tools as confidently as course materials, as well as clearly establish that integrating Google Docs into Slack and using a Zotero bibliography requires reciprocal learning and teaching. Students, for their part, repeatedly voice their difficulties via open channels, which we address in order to involve them in designing learning and teaching. In many cases, however, it was not the lecturer, but various tools (e.g. EduPad, Etherpad, Cryptpad, Google Sheets or Dropbox Paper) that enabled student collaboration. This, too, reveals how challenging visibility is when two or three students collaborate via digital tools, for example, to chart networks of people and places from historical documents onto geographical maps and timelines and to draw initial conclusions about the significance of a historical source. Our second finding, therefore, is that while distance learning and teaching is more strenuous, this effort should not be taxed as an annoying burden. It ought instead be used to actively involve all sides in the teaching and learning process, which is so important for teaching. The increased commitment to digital teaching is paying off — and the additional effort also marks a new effectiveness of shared practice.

Error feedback: Contrary to the rhetoric that learning requires proximity, distance learning can be both: very targeted and personalised to learning progress. Tools like Loom facilitate not only written feedback, but also discussing a document in-depth as a video and presenting improvements for students’ benefit. Learning environments such as Moodle or Iliad enable not only assigning tasks but offering students individual comments. This is more time-consuming than in the classroom, as it needs to be done reliably week after week to emphasise joint learning. The personal approach, however, is what counts most. A weekly circular alone falls short. Voting tools such as EduVote or EvaSys enable anonymous voting with a large number of students at the same time. Offering consultations via Whereby completes the digital-didactic package. Distance and personal feedback go together, yet are time-consuming. Once again, we find that good teaching is not about physical proximity and distance.

Consolidation: Learning from mistakes, rather than seeing them as failure, repeating course contents and applying them with variations to slightly different questions is a basic consolidation technique (i.e. practising). Repetition and varying application support and strengthens digital teaching methods more than ever. In our seminar on diaries as historical sources, we introduced various tools needed to qualitatively and quantitatively evaluate war diaries, practised using these tools and made them available — as self-study and group tasks, yet also as preparation for subsequent sessions. Flipping the classroom and discussing the problems encountered by students while working on their assignments is one way of consolidating learning. Further, temporal rhythm is especially important in digitally supported learning. Leaving time for experimentation and approaching time in a new way proves even more important than usual for successful teaching. Finally, let us not forget how important rest periods are for consolidating learnings. Aware of this, we slowed down our teaching rhythm precisely because individual sessions were so intensive and hence time-consuming for all of us.

A small vade mecum

Swedish psychologist Ola Halldén has reviewed so-called “learning paradoxes”[4], especially with regard to history-related learning processes. How to achieve learning, i.e. to qualitatively develop simple, often unfounded, yet tried and tested everyday theories vis-à-vis scientific theories, if learners only possess everyday theories to acquire complex, conflicting and dynamic scientific theories? Halldén’s answer did not involve varying conceptual change, i.e. idle attempts to replace everyday theories with scientific ones as if by magic. Instead, he appealed to reflected coexistence, which subversively undermines everyday theories, because the idea of a more adequate world of explanation always remains alive. This elegant and dialectical dissolution of the learning paradox applies to content (e.g. the Peloponnesian War) and, on the meta-level, also to the media framing the teaching-learning process.

It also applies to confronting the university didactics acquired through everyday theory, and thus within the limits of what can be proven, with a new situation. In this situation, which can be mastered only with difficulty with everyday theory, alternative theories of action, which are only marginally compatible with everyday theory, become apparent and claim scientific justifiability. The dissolution of the learning paradox therefore also applies to the topic of this essay. The coronavirus crisis, rather than being about proverbially throwing overboard every teaching habit and habitus, involves consciously and confidently seizing the opportunity to test and observe alternative frameworks of action.

Below, we attempt to list, and briefly discuss, some typical problems of contemporary didactic practice. This small vade mecum must remain incomplete, or otherwise would become a book. It is meant to stimulate and encourage reflection and, over time, to supplement further discussion. What follows is work in progress, and should be, because the various problems arising from the enforced digital-distant semester elude even two digitally experienced lecturers. In any case, it seems much more interesting to initiate an open forum for as many colleagues as possible, to enable gathering individual insights over the coming weeks. We are therefore opening an Etherpad and welcome comments and reflections until 31 July 2020. The results will be presented on a website and published as a joint achievement of all contributors.

Click here to visit the Etherpad: https://yopad.eu/p/Digital-distanter_Hochschulunterricht_-365days

We hope this venture will have greater and hopefully enduring benefit for the community of humanities scholars. Sharing our practical experiences might very well help us wrest something important from the pandemic.

The problems below serve as examples and are listed in alphabetical order (following the original German version). The Etherpad offers space for comments, etc. Following our series of examples, we list possible other typical problems that would also deserve a lemma.

Asynchron (asynchronous)

Teaching webinars live and synchronously has an almost exclusive advantage if lectures are recorded in advance and listened to asynchronously. The exciting examples on Tutory (https://www.tutory.de/w/55ec2934) are highly recommendable. Importantly, asynchronous offerings ought to be combined with digital presence offerings. Students who are left alone for weeks with their Moodle assignments and remote materials lose the social context of their learning efforts and thus also a significant part of their motivation. Even if it is relatively convenient for lecturers to upload their audio or video recordings more or less professionally and more or less tech-savvy to recording devices at a congenial hour sat at their home desk, in essence tertiary-level learning nevertheless involves interaction rather than mere reception. If a balanced combination of various video conference formats can be ensured, asynchronously provided materials, tasks, forums and learning rooms are, however, a highly effective and proven means of tertiary humanities didactics.

Bewegung (movement)

No matter how old, we all need physical exercise. It is no coincidence that height-adjustable desks are more than merely a status symbol and that “Zoom fatigue” has become one of several new words in our daily vocabulary. Breaks or switching from large to small groups are as much a part of successful teaching as repeating learning materials after a break.

Beziehungsarbeit (relationship work)

Digital-distant teaching enables much that otherwise proves impossible in conventional classrooms. Some things work similarly well, others objectively worsen, while some habitual practices cannot be continued in the digital classroom. What students and lecturers surely miss are the many small interpersonal encounters in everyday university life, especially outside the classroom — these interactions are of course only “missed” if they are characterised by trust and friendliness. This is even truer for students, who are in a phase of life in which daily informal peer exchanges are an essential element of everyday university life. Moreover, however, the many informal encounters between students and lecturers outside office hours and courses are also eliminated. One literally loses sight of each other — especially if coursework is only or predominantly (–> asynchronous). Awareness of this deficit is important to counteract it even in digital-distant teaching or even during a strict lockdown.

The principle of the “academy” requires forms of human encounter, even if these need not be physical. Against this background, chiefly or exclusively asynchronous approaches to digital-distant teaching must be viewed with some scepticism. The social demands on video conferencing, representing a form of presence, increase in turn. They can be met, for example, by giving course members a brief opportunity at the beginning of the session to address the group, to say how they are doing and which questions they feel might become important during the seminar. It is equally crucial to create break-out sessions, where groups are smaller, yet need to be well prepared. Lecturers can systematically join these break-out sessions, take their time and meet students in small groups. Another important element is maintaining regular, even spontaneously arranged office hours in certain time corridors, which Zoom’s waiting room easily helps ensure. As lecturers, finally, we also need to closely heed which signals we send digital groups, i.e. which model of communication we establish. Digital presence creates higher visibility than conventional presence, and as lecturers we nolens volens set an example of how to live and work.

Blended Learning

Both our universities have long been discussing what might be the best format for blended learning courses, which are implemented almost routinely. What attracts permanent interest is the right mixture between home-based, independent study, controlled by digitally provided tasks, material and feedback channels, and conventional, campus-based classroom teaching. The upshot of these debates is that everything depends on lecturer personality, the subject and its culture, the subject matter and its requirements as well as students’ academic age. How well have they been introduced to independent scientific work? How well are they able to grasp the course requirements and level? How well accustomed are they to freely organised peer collaboration? One way of assuring the quality of blended learning is to create appealing digital learning spaces in good time. These spaces need to be comprehensively equipped, clearly arranged and outwardly appealing. They also need to be fully available from day one. They must invite discovery and encourage developing various strategies for their observation. Playful elements in these course formats are always welcome. Incentives should be provided regularly and reliably by detailed and individual lecturer feedback and, above all, from fellow students. Digital and attentively administered forums are pivotal to this communicative working culture (→ asynchronous). When employed, conventional face-to-face teaching should be understood by all participants as necessary and specific, as much as its objectives in relation to decentralised and asynchronous learning should be transparent.


Even in an academic context, communication is both information sharing and phatic engagement. Since digitally supported teaching tends to convey only information as appropriately as possible, much depends on also cultivating phatic communication, i.e. asking students how they are coping with assignments, whether they still have questions, even if they are obviously coping well. There is always more going on in virtual space.


Doodle.com has meanwhile become an old digital companion for scheduling appointments in self-managed universities, for coordinating cross-location projects or even for planning family parties. Everyone knows this tool, everyone uses it — more or less voluntarily. The fact that Doodles can be created more or less expertly presumably also goes without saying. For example: Accepting or not accepting times options always follows psychologically understandable conditionalities of human existence. We shy away from making appointments if we are already office-shy, and hence will only choose options enabling optimal arrangements. This understandable group behaviour either means appointment requests fail, due to too few matches, or options abound, leaving potential participants either overwhelmed or reluctant to try again. After all, Doodle means keeping free every selected slot until the moderator sets a date. Thus, eventually, participants will again be missing from the meeting. Hence, we suggest providing as few options as far removed from the current date as possible; decide quickly; and, what is psychologically important, use a third, if-need-be option instead of only the binary yes/no menu, as this considerably increases the probability of successful scheduling.

This semester acquainted us with another application of Doodle that has proven extremely helpful for certain course formats: i.e. distributing assignments (e.g. presentations) across the semester based on an open, first-come-first-serve system. It simply requires adding task names to the 14 days shown in the top line. Students should receive a publication notice a few days in advance, i.e. after the complete seminar programme and corresponding materials have been dispatched. Once you have established deadlines, times and e-mail clearance —tasks can be assigned swiftly, transparently and fairly, without wasting half a seminar session (as in the conventional classroom).

Ermüdung (fatigue)

How tired do many lecturers feel in the digital-distant semester? Perhaps all of them! [5] Someone once called this “Zoomliness.” Anyone pushed daily from one Webex, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi or Google session to the next (by their calendar and its agenda) is literally exhausted in the evening. They would, however, also be after a normal working day on campus — filled with four to five demanding appointments (proseminar, exam, committee meeting, project meeting, collegial “small talk” and after yet another lecture). Not to mention that they would also have had to commute to work, either by public transport, by car and, far too seldom, by bike or on foot. Who was not exhausted after such “normal” working days? The fact that feeling exhausted from so much complicated and responsible interaction is widely considered particularly great when using digital media formats still seems to require explanation. After all, one did not have to go to the institute, a hothouse of demanding individualities, whose everyday life repeatedly leave us oscillating between love and hate. Instead, we were able to do what humanities scholars in particular have regularly claimed is their ideal workspace, the home office, previously referred to affectionately as the writing room (or, in England, as the “study”). Possibly, if viewed from the outside, we are genuinely disappointed, because the corona crisis has demystified the writing room. Formerly a refuge from the institute’s much scolded everyday life, the writing room has become the site of its digital epistrophe. This marks nothing less than an intrusion of what is ordinarily confined to campus into the private idyll of free-wheeling creativity, the paradoxical residue of academic utopia, whose social manifestation were private PhD colloquia and office hours or a colleague’s semi-private or official visit. Just as the latter was no longer possible during the crisis, externalised operation came into its own, reversing all precautions — and proving nothing but “exhausting.”

This side of such deep-seated disappointment, much could be done better or worse, just as we combine practical mistakes with proven routines and rare life hacks in physically present academic everyday life (only to fret over those mistakes in the evening, in private, and to be chuffed by what went well).

  • In digital-distant teaching, it is good to resist the greater temptation (opportunity makes thieves) of eyeing our e-mail inboxes, Twitter messages or chats on a second screen. Seemingly more boring situations occur time and again, so stay focused.
  • It is good to take less functional physical exercise, which was otherwise routine and casual, yet imperceptibly balanced phases of high concentration, also when working from home, and to do so well-planned, consciously, and systematically, to walk around the block, to weed the garden, to go shopping, to do the dishes. In other words, not to waste yet another 15–20 minute break in front of the screen.
  • It is good to feel comfortable and appropriate in one’s clothes, posture, hairstyle and in front of one’s private background (–> netiquette). Many people (paradoxically) experience permanent physical presence on remote screens as stressful, so be sure you reduce possible or imagined points of attack.
  • It is a good idea to take special care of one’s working environment, to turn one’s writing room only to a limited extent into an “office” and thus allow it to become alienating, especially one’s desk at home, which is creaking under the unaccustomed piles of administrative documents.
  • Finally, it is good to constantly share and compare one’s experiences with trusted colleagues, i.e. which literally happens at the coffee machine. Informal intervision helps to contextualise one’s own concerns and needs. A well-chosen Twitter timeline, a Messenger group or meeting in the nearest park (obviously maintaining social distancing) also suffices: playing badminton or frisbee might add something to these meetings previously nonexistent.  In this respect, Philippe Wampfler’s neat graphic representation is worth looking at [6].


In Part 1, we tried to show that learning and teaching in front of the screen also concern presence. Such presence, as social practice, places the same ethical (and also moral) demands on maxims also applicable in normal, i.e. physical presence (among others, that one dresses in a manner appropriate to one’s role and the situation, that one treats one another in a friendly and befitting manner, that one uses each other’s name, that one ensures professional presentation, i.e. neutral or topic-related backgrounds, that one avoids looking down on students in the image axis, as it were, but ensures that the camera is set at eye level, etc.). All this applies not only in the lecture hall, but also at home, in spatial proximity to one’s family and without a ritual commute to one’s institute’s completely different environment. Hence, students should (emphatically!) expect that lecturers teaching online will also reliably ensure professional didactic standards in bilateral or group communication. This is challenging enough! In our experience, however, it also helps stabilise one’s role as a lecturer if, by way of compensation, one consciously reinvents or cultivates the many imperceptible initiation rituals over a long period of time, even during enforced or voluntary digital-distant teaching.

Beyond that, however, digital technology also has the attributes of a separate moral sphere, in which practices are judged to be appropriate by those involved, and which would less likely be recognised in a familiar academic environment. In Zurich, for example, Jörg Scheller has quite successfully introduced an “Uncasual Thursday” with his students, i.e. they have arranged to dress very formally on Thursdays in front of the camera. In a normal context, this would certainly not have been well received. Digital distance, however, makes this a welcome group experience [7].

Another example is proverbially throwing woollen balls at the beginning of class. This would be seriously disconcerting at the start of a philosophy seminar. If performed at the beginning of a video conference, to structure the necessary (–> relationship work), the same ritual immediately enables lecturers to retreat from the otherwise seemingly inevitable centring of the video conference on them as “hosts.” These alternative screen dynamics follow the principle of self-control, technically making students once again the subjects of the event. Why read out lists of participants to check attendance if playing a digital social game serves the purpose?


Technically, this is very simple: record an audio file, which any smartphone can do in good quality today, mark this audio file (with metadata) and at the same time post it on a common podcast hosting platform (which requires registering, possibly also settling a provider invoice). Or what is equally straightforward: post the file on any website (standard blog platforms make this very easy) — and there is your “podcast.” Hence: There are as many possibilities of producing a podcast better or worse than a book, not only in terms of content, but also technically. We leave issues of quality to the reader’s imagination. For many lecturers, this option has recently become attractive because podcasts have enjoyed enormous popularity for several years anyway while listeners have formed expectations of good podcasting practice based on their own experience. Podcasts, moreover, save the time and effort, at least temporarily, of conducting video conferences and help mitigate the increasing → fatigue they involve; they are as such a classical remote tool for higher education teaching. Everything worth saying for or against remote tools also applies here. Clearly, delivering a “just for a change” monologue sitting at one’s desk and with no counterpart is too easy for lecturers — and hardly makes for effective learning. Good podcasts require much effort. Students will only learn anything from well-produced podcasts or even podcast series. It’s as simple as that.

Überlastung (overload)

Quite a few colleagues teaching at German universities experienced that — despite several weeks to prepare — transferring to remote teaching, either partly or completely, overwhelmed their institutions’ logistics and administration. The German higher education system was forced to organise hundreds of lecturers, software access, password allocation, etc. from one moment to the other (as Daniel-Pascal Zorn put it). These conditions are only to a very limited extent within the individual lecturer’s sphere of influence. At the latest in this crisis, however, institutes and faculties can now urge university managers to make massive investments in basic technical and administrative infrastructure during the coming recess. This must begin as soon as possible, and systematic pressure should be mounted. Prioritising investments in digital technology and digital administration ought to have become self-evident as a result of the crisis. Lecturers should organise and clearly present their respective interests.

Further keywords potentially expanding and amplifying the debate on the typical problems of digital-distant teaching might include:

agency, starting, stopping, participation, blended learning, BYOD, data, data security, e-mails, feedback, errors, assistance, intervision, intervention, jitsi, communication (in digital), learning psychology (in digital), moocs, OER, open science, open access, quality, resources, social media, scaling, technique, tools, practice, virtuality, visibility, repetition, arXive.org, YouTube, goals

“It’s all about scale”

“It is all about scale” is one of Google’s principles. Flexibly scaling applications is indeed one of the strengths of the digital economy. Services can be ramped up or down in a short time, adapted to demand almost in real time or extended to new markets, something the industrial economy is unable to do equally well. Distance learning is also scalable, i.e. can be extended to different teaching dimensions or limited to certain teaching techniques. It can address students collectively, as groups or individually, and also bring digital materials and tools into the virtual classroom to an extent barely conceivable not that long ago. Scaling, therefore, is one of the useful properties of digital teaching, one of its “features.”

However, it does not necessarily make lessons more visible. The criteria of shared attention, actively committing to learning, targeted error feedback and the need to consolidate learnings through practice remain valid, without being able to easily scale matters. They only work, however, if digital tools are as well mastered as the blackboard, as the knowledgeably selected exemplary passage or as the methodically complex technique. Enjoying the possibilities of computer-supported teaching and its matter-of-course handling are prerequisite for successful digital teaching. For only then does learning become visible.

Back to normal?

We are afraid of habits returning. Their defenders, such as the cultural philosopher Giorgio Agamben [8], have already sounded the requiem for universities, teaching and students in the face of digitalised academic teaching. They have of course long known that the coronavirus is merely but another occasion for Silicon Valley’s elite to sell more digital tools and create new dependencies. We need not give much room to such soaring historical-philosophical claims, and may justifiably suggest just how useful habits and routines are in many areas of life. Nevertheless: Universities are required to innovate and break the mould — and will nevertheless possess enough habits, inherited habitus and routine practices. Our assessment is that faculties are too keen to view the spring or summer semester as merely an irritating interruption of established teaching. Too many consider boosting server capacity and purchasing Zoom licenses anything but emergency measures. The state of emergency is annoying, yet will pass. From the autumn and winter semester 2020, everything will return to normal.

We wish to challenge the essentialism of the analog reality of university teaching. The corona crisis is doubtless disturbing, yet also an involuntary invitation to experiment with the benefits and disadvantages of digital teaching and other teaching and learning formats. The hectic, fast-paced transition to digital teaching is of course not a good adviser and obviously not perceived as particularly suited to inspiring new ways of teaching. However, positively experiencing one’s own ideas and efforts prevents returning willy-nilly to routines, and drives home the realisation that another way of teaching is possible. The next semester can therefore be simultaneously analog and digital, close and distant, as much as the resulting conflicts will already be history.


Further Reading

Web Resources


[1] Schulz, Sandra. 2020. “Klaus Fiedler im Interview.” Der Spiegel 19 May. Last accessed 27.5.2020. https://www.spiegel.de/psychologie/man-muss-die-leute-zu-komplizen-machen-a-8d2a1301-9e34-4a2f-b672-ca52690e6d12.
Murphy, Kate. 2020. “Why Zoom is Terrible.” New York Times 29 May. Last accessed 27.5.2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/sunday-review/zoom-video-conference.html.
[3] Dehaene, Stanislas. 2020. How we learn. Why brains learn better than any machine … for now. New York: Viking.
[4] Halldén, Ola. 1994. “On the Paradox of Understanding History in an Educational Setting.” In Teaching and Learning in History, 27–46. New York: Routledge; Halldén, Ola. 1997. “Conceptual Change and the Learning of History.” International Journal for Educational Research 17: 201–210.
[5] Blum, Susan. 2020. “Why We’re Exhausted by Zoom.” Inside Higher Education 22 April. Last accessed 27.5.2020. https://insidehighered.com/advice/2020/04/22/professor-explores-why-zoom-classes-deplete-her-energy-opinion#.XsQehWFKeW0.link.
[6] Wampfler, Philippe. 2020. Warum machen Videokonferenzen so müde? Tweet/YouTube. Last accessed 27.5.2020. https://twitter.com/phwampfler/status/1253203215400779777.
[7] Scheller, Jörg. 2020. “Tweet an Oliver Weber.” https://twitter.com/joergscheller1/status/1252922058490744834?s=20.
[8] Agamben, Giorgio. 2020. “Requiem for the Students.” Medium, 23 May. Translated by Alan Dean. Last accessed 27.5.2020. https://medium.com/@ddean3000/requiem-for-the-students-giorgio-agamben-866670c11642.


Image Credits

Corona salute on March 11, 2020 © M. Demantowsky via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Recommended Citation

Demantowsky, Mark0 / Lauer, Gerhard: Teaching between Pre- and Post-Corona. An Essay (2). In: Public History Weekly 8 (2020) 4, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2020-16838.

Translated by Mark Kyburz (http://www.englishprojects.ch/about)

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Moritz Hoffmann / Jan Hodel

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Categories: 8 (2020) 4
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2020-16838

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