How to Stay Focused (and Have Fun) During Online LecturesAugust 10, 2021

Your coursemate called you, and from the tone of his voice, he might scream his neighbour down. He was gutted at the Boomers losing to the US men's basketball team in Tokyo (the other day). It surprised you, as you never expected him to be invested in basketball that much. Looks could be deceiving. (He likes skateboarding.) He was about to scold you for your lack of patriotism when you realized that he was disengaged from your professor's (recorded) lecture. Again. You wondered if your professor should be creative in his next lecture, a virtual recreation of "Fantastic Mr Fox" to engage you and your coursemates. (Roald Dahl might be amused at your attempts to change the tone of your voices every few pages.) It prompted you to think about the relevance of lectures during this strange year. How did you cope?

You recalled the month before you started your first year in the university. You were excited, nervous, idealistic, all of which didn't daunt you from what older students told you (during O-week). The other students would feel the same way, and your tutor assured you that the faculty would be supportive of the next generation. But what a year. Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, where you felt like you (and your coursemates) have been through a baptism of fire. You might not have to look like a pack-horse, lugging books around the university, but virtual teaching, group bubbles, and strict rules for hygiene tested your patience. There was once instance when you felt isolated in your own class bubble until your coursemate told you about the turnaround in the semifinals match between the US and Australia. (You wondered if he set foot in Gallipoli.) There's no doubt about the importance of lectures, as there's much to gain from social interactions between you and your coursemates. You also found out about how the pandemic would change how courses are being taught; one of your professors foresee a not-so-distant future where not all universities have to teach literature (or science). In other words, one university would specialise in Victorian literature while the other offers various courses relating to Dystopian fiction (and another in African literature and so on). It excited you, as you were unsatisfied with what you learned in American literature. (You still don't have a clue on Mark Twain's jovial tone in "Huckleberry Finn". Your professor liked how you expressed it through queries, though.) You're pretty focused during virtual lectures, but it doesn't make you a role model to your coursemates. You can show the way, as you learned that more students become more disengaged during the pandemic.

What Makes You Smile: 3 Ways to Engage (During a Lecture)

Cards and thank-you letters. It would be nice to show your appreciation to your coursemates and professors at the end of the term, but it should be right to send cards and thank-you letters sooner. It can make a difference (after you find out that one might be missing you a lot). If you have a BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) coursemate, then a card (or thank-you letter) would make him (or her) feel welcome. But don't spoil the occasion by giving your two cents on Herge's racist illustrations of Tintin's adventure in the heart of Africa.

Talk to the kids. Conversations would enable teachers to get disengaged students on one side and then see them achieve the goals that they set for a week. It would remind you of your coursemate, who cannot get over his disappointment on Boomers coach Brian Goorjian. (Why was Matisse Thybulle not included in the starting lineup?) You might want to share your recent chat with your professor in Gothic fiction, where you suggested an essay on "The Saga of Darren Shan"; you compared "The Lake of Souls", the tenth book in the series, to "Terminator", a comparison that didn't impress your professor at all. Your disappointment might make your coursemate disengage from the Olympics, as you and your coursemate belong to the same bubble. And you can't do it all by yourself. (Tell it to your other coursemate, who misses a crowded Bondi.)

Take on the persona of different characters. Your professor might have thought of "Fantastic Mr Fox", but you have other ideas. It could be Doctor Who's sinister depiction of fairy tales, where Cinderella's Prince Charming turns out to be a vampire. (But Hugh Jackman did it.) You could recount your first (and only) visit to the British Museum, as you vividly describe a chess set that has been made during the Middle Age. If these medieval figures would come to life, then it could be more terrifying than the chess-set figures that Harry Potter, Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger played against. But your coursemates choose armchair travelling. (Your roommate wants to party with other backpackers on a riverside in Vang Vieng, Laos. And try water tubing afterward.)

It All Melts Away For an Hour

Lectures could be rewarding and exciting. It could be repetitively dull as well. The above suggestions should help you cope with future negative possibilities. It will also prompt you to appreciate what your professors have been doing. They might label teaching as a vocation, but it's really a job. The experience must be the best and happiest, so make an effort. (And remind your coursemate that the 2032 Summer Olympics will be held in Brisbane. The homecourt advantage might help the Boomers win the gold medal.)

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