Lessons in teaching remotely

When he agreed to teach a course on social movements at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in fall 2020, Luc Chicoine had a feeling he would be doing it from home.

“When I teach, I try to be close to my students, to create a conversation. My biggest fear was ending up just talking to myself.”

The lecturer and PSAC member had to adapt to make sure both he and his students enjoyed the experience. He decided to film his lessons in a classroom at the university. “It gave me a routine and technological support. It took a lot of pressure off.”

But even remotely, he could see his students were struggling. 

They faced challenges like balancing work, family and school, dealing with dependence on technology and following instructions. As a young father and PhD student in sociology, Luc understood their reality all too well. 

He had to learn to let go. Sometimes, only a handful of students had their cameras on during his classes. “You have to learn to let go. I learned how to build the best possible connection with those who actually participated.”

Remote classes deprived students of the social dimension of learning. “I don’t think someone sitting at home watching a video is a student. That’s only part of what being a student is about.” He tried to make space for discussion, which wasn’t always easy to do through a computer screen.

He also gave them space for difficult conversations, for instance when Quebec was swept by a wave of sexual assault and misconduct reports. “I would turn off my audio and leave to let the students talk among themselves. They were thankful for that.”

Despite the hurdles, Luc thinks his remote classes went well, largely thanks to the hard work of the lecturers and teaching assistants. Now, he’s looking toward the future as UQAM prepares for a possible return to
in-person teaching in the coming months.

From the start of the pandemic, PSAC has made sure that university sector members’ employment contracts were upheld and that the transition to remote teaching was carried out smoothly.

Contributor: Rosane Doré Lefebvre

May 21, 2021