UMCP will have all classes on campus this Fall. There is a Mask Mandate. All students and faculty have to get vaccinated unless they have a health or religious exception. 92% are vaccinated, which I interpret as people are NOT abusing the exceptions (though I still wish it was higher, and it may go higher). (ADED LATER- right after I posted this I got an email saying that UMCP is now up to 97%). Those NOT vaccinated have to get tested - I think twice a week.
Now that we are back in the live-classroom, here are some thoughts about teaching on zoom.
I taught on zoom:
Spring 2020: The last half of both Ramsey Theory and Automata Theory(Reg, CFG,P,NP,Dec,Undec)
Fall 2021: Cryptography
Spring 2021: Honors Discrete Math and Automata theory
a) I taught in the usual time slot but I recorded the lecture so those who could not make it (more common during the pandemic) could still see it. Attendance was low, verbal interaction was low, but chat-interaction was very good. Looking into if we can do a chat in an in-person class. I was recording lectures before the pandemic and will keep doing so.
b) My exams were open-notes, open-book, open-web. That cuts down on ways they can cheat, though they can still phone-a-friend. Or ask their cat. Unusual-but-correct answers can happen, as I discussed in this blog.
c) I gave my muffin talk a few times on zoom. In person it goes very well as my enthusiasm is contagious. On Zoom that affect is dampened so the audience was more sedate. I gave it as a special lecture to High School students and to my REU students. Note that it was NOT part of a class so the usual motivation to learn it to do the HW is gone. Hence its more important they be excited about it.
d) In person I carefully make sure that I wear a funny T-shirt every day, and its a diff one, and usually a math one to (if possible) match the topic. On Zoom I did not bother, though I sometimes used wallpaper to match the topic.
e) I had to make up slides for Aut theory and for some of Discrete Math. For Crypto I already had slides. I like the slides I made up and will use them in the future. But see next point.
f) In Discrete Math I went faster than usual- perhaps because its on slides, perhaps because there were less questions since it was on zoom, perhaps because Emily my TA was so awesome that they had less questions. (She is very interested in education and did a guest post about the pandemic and education here.) As a result I actually learned and presented the proofs that (1) the e is irrational (my slides are here) and that Liouville numbers are transcendental (my slides are here). While I enjoyed learning those theorems and I think the students understood them on some level, I will slow down next time.
g) Ramsey Theory: It is impossible to teach the Poly VDW theorem on slides, so I had to omit that part of the course.
h) Bottom Line: Did the students learn more? less? the same? My impression is that the students learned about the same, but really really didn't like it. And thats legit- that is NOT just students complaining.