Becoming a Digital Teaching Nomad?

Contrary to many people in the current Corona situation I can regard myself to be lucky: I did not lose my teaching job, nor was my working time reduced. I think for teaching this would have been a big surprise, especially for Computer Science (CS) because in this subject it is probably easier than for many others to switch to online teaching.

This is what my university did: within 3 days everything was switched into online mode organised through MS Teams (which I really enjoy). At first we thought that it’s gonna be a catastrophe and terrible but we realised that it actually worked out much better than we originally expected. After nearly 1 full year of online teaching I have to say that I got pretty much used to it. Despite the terrible circumstances, I actually enjoy it. Why?

  1. It is much easier to get into deep-focus phases for preparing my lectures. Given the fact that it is my 2nd year I still have to prepare a substantial amount of content for my remaining lectures and the distract-free space in my home office allows me to do that very effectively.
  2. It saves me about 45 minutes one way getting to the uni - that is 1.5 hrs a day which I can invest into preparations, longer walks in the nature or a short power nap during lunch break so I feel fresh in the afternoon.
  3. It is actually possible to be even more approachable through MS Teams and communication can be actually more effective through a short call with students instead of formulating a long E-Mail / appointments.

However, a few questions bug me: How will the online teaching situation affect my job situation and the job profile in the long run? Will teachers become obsolete in the way we knew them before online teaching?

I think we can safely assume that getting back to normal in-classroom teaching any time soon is pretty unrealistic also given the (understandably) conservative behaviour of the universities and the politics. Yes, we are rolling out vaccinations all around the world but it is happening slowly and there is a lot of suspicion, therefore we cannot expect that the vaccinations are going to simply “turn off” corona - the virus is here to stay for many years and it is very likely that working from home will stick (not just because of Corona).

Therefore I am serious contemplating the switch to a Digital Teaching Nomad. If I am not really bound to be teaching in-classroom then I can do so from wherever I have internet access. Of course this raises a few questions:

  • Is this legally possible? Then again, is it legally possible for a university to switch everything into online only for many years even if we could get back?
  • How to deal with time-zones?

Of course it does not have to be an all-out Nomad but only a light version where I am escaping every few weeks for a few days/weeks to another country I always wanted to see (for example I always wanted to see the northern lights).

I do not believe that teachers will become obsolete and be replaced by online videos and automated courses because true learning and understanding can only happen through a guide, who is able to step into the shoes of the students and explain in a way that is needed for each student. Whether our society thinks that and acts accordingly is another thing which will be revealed over the next decades…

One fundamental question remains: Do you believe in online teaching?

No, I clearly do not believe in online teaching. It may work better than originally expected but besides being substantially more demanding of students attention span, I think learning, teaching and studying on a university is inherently a fundamentally social activity and the switch to online teaching immediately kills that aspect. However, what I believe is not important, Corona creates hard facts and we (I) have to adopt to them to avoid getting left behind, therefore I am contemplating the move towards a (semi) Digial Teaching Nomad.