Teaching this semester is 80% back to pre-pandemic teaching. I think students and staff appreciate this. It is certainly good to be back in the computing lab, teaching computational modelling to second years. Each student is doing a little research project, with results from a code they write. This is supervised by an academic, with help from a PhD-student demonstrator. COVID-19 has not gone away – the class demonstrator was off for a couple of weeks with COVID – but for healthy young adults, COVID-19 is usually mild.
For this class, in person teaching has two big advantages over online. Most students are pretty social, and programming and problem solving with your friends, is more fun than programming and problem solving on your own. If a student gets a cool result, or just gets their program to work, they can share their success with their friend sitting next to them. That is just lovely to see. It helps everyone’s morale and motivation. And friends can commiserate if a code is not working.
The second advantage is that is easiest to help a student with a program, if you and they are in front of the same computer. You can both see the same code, can point at lines, chat easily, run the code together. This works very well. Over Zoom, a student can share their screen, and show the code. This works but the experience is not the same. And helping a student over email can be frustrating, unless the problem is simple.