- By Dario Brooks
- BBC News World
Juan Francisco Baldeon is no novice in teaching: he taught law for 17 years.
He is also no stranger to online education. He has been giving lectures on digital platforms similar to Zoom for three years.
But in October, Baldeon surprised his students at the Federal University Federico Villarreal (UNFV) in Peru by telling them he was quitting his job.
A bombshell the professor dropped about Zoom after his frustration at the perceived lack of student engagement became unbearable.
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“I don’t want to teach you anymore, that’s all. I’m really fed up,” he tells the students via Zoom.
“You’ll say I didn’t teach you anything. But it’s not like that… you’re the one who doesn’t read.”
I’m considering the possibility of resigning and I’m leaving,” he said.
Episodes like Baldeon’s show the difficulties educators are having with the online courses that academic institutions have turned to in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Video of Baldeon’s eruption circulated on social media, and dozens of Latin American media outlets reported the “live resignation.”
“The situation pushed my limits and made me say enough is enough,” the professor told the BBC.
But after meeting Baldeon, the university management announced that the professor would continue to lecture on mining law.
Baldeon tells the BBC four challenges teachers face – which can lead to frustrating situations like the one he experienced last month.
1. Separate yourself from the students
Peru is one of the countries in South America hardest hit by the pandemic. It is quarantined between April and October, which has led to schools and universities offering their courses on online platforms.
Mr. Baldeon explains that during the UNFV class he held via Zoom on October 26, he found that students had not done the readings required for the day.
One of them recorded the moment when the professor complained about the lack of attendance. The video was posted on Facebook.
Mr Baldeon says he had no intention of dropping all of his classes, just the one the students showed no interest in.
“The students seem to be in some kind of lockdown because of the pandemic. And they don’t read,” he says.
The teacher explains that the main problem that teachers face when offering online courses is breaking the bond between teacher and student, which is crucial in the teaching and learning process.
2. The students’ non-verbal response is missing.
Online courses at UNFV do not require students to activate their devices’ cameras, which Mr Baldeon sees as another major problem.
It deprives the teacher of the students’ non-verbal responses.
For him “the feelings and emotions of the students are visible in their faces when explaining a topic”. “We see the smile, the anger or the worry.”
But when you’re faced with a screen divided into rectangles that only have a name and, in some cases, a photo, you lose that feeling.
“By the end of my course, I no longer interact with my students. Why? The screen went black,” laments Mr. Baldeon, referring to the fact that in virtual classrooms, students no longer have the opportunity to voice their doubts outside of the classroom like they do in traditional classrooms.
3. There is no group motivation
Mr. Baldeon admits that the students’ lack of interest in educational reading also manifests itself in face-to-face classes.
But the collective motivation that occurs in schools is difficult to replicate in online classrooms.
“The learning process is collective,” explains the professor.
Young people today are used to reading the news on the Internet: “But reading at university is something completely different.
According to university administrator Jesús Alberto García, those who sent him the October 26 class video told him that the professor had disrespected some students in the past, which also limited the reaction.
The professor says he understood her point of view but defended his actions.
4. Lack of study space
Mr. Baldeon noted that the lack of university places is another problem.
“While they are in their virtual classroom, I hear a ‘market’ in the background,” explains the professor.
The teacher justifies that “they are unlikely to be in a specific learning location, room or learning environment. It seems that they are on the street. And there the teacher can do almost nothing”.
Faced with these challenges, Mr. Baldeon recognizes that having a comprehensive online course is not just the student’s responsibility. Teachers also need to find strategies to maintain attention levels and motivate them to learn.
The Peruvian says teachers need to be “a lot more fatherly” and find communication channels that students like to encourage learning, like virtual rooms or even WhatsApp groups.