The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Earlier today, I wrote a lengthy post about the difficulties of teaching a "hybrid" class. In any given session, half the students will be "in person" and half the students will be "online," watching from home. This staggered approach will ensure students are able to space themselves out in the classroom. But hybrid classes present serious problems.
I explained that classrooms are not set up for hybrid instruction. I proposed that additional monitors should be added to the podium to ensure that the professor can easily see the Zoom grid, the Zoom chat, as well as powerpoint slides and other visuals. Of course, I recognized that this technological overload may overwhelm professors.
After I wrote the post, a colleague from another school called and proposed an ingenious solution. It is foolhardy to try to teach professors to manage so many displays. Trust me. It's not going to work in two months. Also, it is not feasible to tax IT departments to supervise every class. IT professional across the country have performed heroic work in the last few months. But they cannot do everything.
My colleague suggested a far more simple solution: allow teaching assistants to assist with teaching! I prefer to call them "Zoom Producers." In short, students would handle all of the technical elements of the class, and the professors can do what they do best: teach.
How would this work? The Zoom Producer would sit at, or near the podium. She would monitor Zoom throughout the class. She would (1) check if anyone raises a "blue" hand, (2) poses a question on the chat, (3) disconnects from the class (an absence), (4) reminds a student he is muted, or not muted. Moreover, if a student types a question in the chat, the Zoom Producer can read the question aloud to the professor. That way, the professor does not waste time squinting at a small display. The teaching assistant can also exercise some discretion: not all comments deserve to be read aloud. Trust me, they don't. Students put far less thought into a "chat" question then they would into a "live" question.
The student could also manage the Professor's powerpoint slides or other visuals. This task may involve toggling between a screen share and the grid. Professors will no longer have to struggle with Zoom.
Moreover, the student can also run assessments (quizzes and polls), and display the results for the class. Finally, if there are technical problems, the Zoom Producer can call IT, and quickly get help. The professor can keep teaching without disruption.
This idea is so ingenuous and affordable. And I think a student would gain immeasurable experience by working so closely with a professor.