It has happened! Academic year 2021/2022 has started. It was of a lot of work to get ready for it, but when it started moving, the worst was over. And it went okay!
Last year we were teaching almost exclusively online. And this year things are improving. Anything that involves more than 100 students will still be online, but I do not have many sessions like that. That is basically only my dissertation module.
In most of my modules, I don't have anything near that number of students, so I can see them in person. What I do is I ask them to watch my pre-recorded lectures, and then I discussed these live. There is a bit of a catch; there might be students who are self-isolating, and can't be there for no fault of their own. We need to cater for them too. So when I have a live session with most of the students, I need to make sure I am also in an online session at the same time. The students who are online can hear what I say, and they might be able to see me as well, but that depends on the technology in the lecture room. They can ask questions in the chat of the online session if they want. So once in a while I have a small look at whether anything has appeared in the chat. And then I can just answer verbally.
So how did it go? To my surprise, it went rather well! Most students are there, and then sometimes there is a message in the chat. The system isn't flawless, of course; I had a student, for instance, who said they couldn't hear me. I couldn't help that; the other online students could, so the problem was not on my side. And I once accidentally was in a session in last year's module. If you go to the website where all your modules are listed, you by default see the ones from the previous academic year. I have no idea why! So it was easy to accidentally go to the wrong version of a website module. But I realised what the problem was after not too long.
It is absolutely lovely to be able to teach to actual people again! Teaching to a screen is just not the same. It is quicker, of course; I don't have to bike to my screen. But so far (and that's a week) I quite like how this year is going!