Friday, February 28, 2020

COVID-19 is affecting everyone and everything now

I got let off from work at 2 p.m. at the discretion of our boss, who received word from on high that our company, which is as much a school as it is a publishing house, was letting all of its students and teachers enjoy an indefinite break while this COVID-19 scare burns its way across the land. Something like this is happening all over South Korea.

We had initially heard that non-teaching employees had the choice of either coming to the office for normal pay or staying at home and receiving 70% of normal pay. I and my coworker both elected to just come in and work. We're greedy that way. That news—the news about partial pay—came earlier this week. Today, we got the news re: being allowed to go home early, and our boss suggested that we simply leave.

I'm not sure how next week is going to play out, but my understanding, from reading ROK Drop and other sources, is that most places of learning are reparadigming to a distance-learning model, i.e., teaching and learning from home via video (synchronous or asynchronous learning), via bulletin-board service, etc. Hillary Clinton bitchily told coal miners to "learn to code" once they lost their coal-mining jobs thanks to a wave of green legislation passed by a (now-unimaginable) Clinton administration; I guess teachers who are used to teaching the old-fashioned way are going to have to "learn to vlog" or something. This might be a good time to get on Skillshare and pick up some useful filmmaking techniques.

As an introvert, I can only grin evilly because I know how hard it must be for a collectivist-minded, group-first society to retreat into pockets of isolation instead of being its usual sheeplike, mindlessly gregarious self. Then again, PC-bang culture has been preparing Koreans for just this eventuality: if you're already used to remote multiplayer gaming, then you're already used to functioning as a group while physically separate. As for us introverts: all of this social change is such an utter non-problem that it's almost funny.

Ta-ta, weak and needy extroverts! A little alone time will do you good!


Charles said...

This isn't really a matter of introversion versus extroversion. I have more introverted tendencies than extroverted tendencies, but the idea of teaching "remotely" fills me with dread. If it were just a matter of standing in front of a camera and "vlogging" for an hour, that would be one thing (I actually once recorded a series of "cyber lectures" that were just that). But recreating a participatory class environment requires a particular technological set-up. I suppose one way to do it would be to mimic game streaming, where the streamer is on screen and there is a "chat log" to the side where participants (that is, students) can ask questions and make comments, etc. But if you've ever actually seen a gamer stream, you'll know that this would be utter chaos as a virtual classroom. To have a full video set-up where everyone is virtually "present" would require tech beyond what is available to the school and most students, I think. I honestly have no idea how remote learning would actually work if they did decide to implement it.

Thankfully, while there has been some mention of such remote learning at SNU, so far it does seem that we will still be teaching classes in person. Still, the semester has already had a huge monkey wrench thrown into it. It's just a mess.

Kevin Kim said...

I get where you're coming from, but I don't think my perspective is wrong. Korean culture is group-oriented and extroverted by nature, and that's the fact that I was focusing on as COVID-19 takes over everyone's minds. I do sympathize with you re: the potential inconvenience of having to teach via a distance-learning approach, but I imagine there's some method, e.g. conferencing software (such as what I used when I worked at my tutoring clinic in Virginia), that can make such a thing happen. Assuming synchronous learning, of course; it might be easier to go the asynchronous route, i.e., record a lecture and have students react and interact via some sort of BBS-ish thing (whatever the modern form of a BBS is; my buddy Steve does asynchronous learning with such a system), with the caveat that all activity must be completed by midnight of the day the video lecture appears. I don't know... it all seems like a pain in the ass, but I know that it's doable. In any event, it sounds as if this may be a moot point for you if your school is sticking with in-person teaching.

Are your cyber-lectures still online? I have a sudden urge to watch them. Heh.

Charles said...

Fair enough on the group-oriented, I suppose. Everyone in my circle of acquaintances seem to be handling it well enough, so far.

And I'm sure there is technology available that would make online classes doable, but we haven't gotten anything in the way of guidance on that, so I am skeptical. We haven't gotten a lot of guidance at all in the past week, at least in terms of nitty-gritty specifics, so I'm assuming the semester will go as planned. I have seen that a lot of US universities have cancelled their study abroad programs to Korea, though, so I do wonder how that is going to affect my one class that is made up mostly of exchange students.

I have no idea of the cyber-lectures are still online. Maybe? But I did them so long ago that I wouldn't even know where to look for them. You wouldn't want to watch them, anyway. If my memory is at all reliable, they will probably be incredibly dull.