It's always a weird feeling when I reach the last class in a semester. Last evening I held my final class on the "Programming for Big Data" module which is part of our on-line Higher Diploma in Data Analytics course. This course was delivered on-line from the beginning, so it is not one of our courses that had to switch from the classroom to on-line.
Finishing up a module is always tinged with a little sadness for me, especially at the end of the academic year. In most cases it means that I will not see students again, I do like to get to know them throughout the semester. Finishing a semester in April also usually means for academics that their next class is in September - five months away! The next 6-8 weeks are really busy ones with grading and Exam Boards - so no slacking allowed yet.
This semester was my 36th at the National College of Ireland, and perhaps with the Covid-19 crisis to deal with, it was a semester like no other. For the last five weeks of the semester, I and my students have not set foot in the College - all our dealings have been on-line. Traditional barriers like 9 to 5 availability are broken and gone - hopefully forever. Working from home has meant that I have started work some mornings before 07:00, done work on Saturdays and Sundays, finished early or late, and taken lunch breaks longer that an hour. Never before have I had my work email open at all times (I use Outlook for this, and Gmail for private mail) - usually I used to try my best to keep the distinction between the workplace and home. There's no such distinction any more.
We can only speculate if next September will see a return to what we had before. Will we be able to pack students into a classroom or computer laboratory if social distancing is still recommended? Many lessons will have been learned over the past few weeks about Learning and Teaching in third-level. I can only hope that we learn from these lessons.
Semester II is dead, long live Semester I.