COVID-19 Classes

In the fall, I’ll be teaching one class in-person (civil procedure) and one class online (patent law).

30 thoughts on “COVID-19 Classes

  1. 11

    I believe that the lengths that universities are pursuing to enable in-person attendance are really, really unreasonable. Cleaning every lecture room between classes; vastly cutting classrooms to 1/4 or even 1/9 of capacity; mandatory masks and hand sanitizer all around…

    Also, in-person classes present an *unavoidable* health risk, because (a) compliance will never be 100% (due to willfullness, neglect, or accidental misuse), and (b) *even if it were*, anything short of full N95 facemasks has only limited protection during prolonged group exposure in an enclosed, inadequately-ventilated space.

    I believe that those two factors – resource costs and health risks – do not warrant in-person classes for *nearly all* undergrad/grad classes. Sure, you can’t teach swimming via Zoom. Anything that doesn’t *unavoidably require* physical presence should be online.

    Look – online higher education is the future. It’s way cheaper, it gives students much more selection (cresting healthy competition that rewards well-organized and effective universities and penalizes bad implementations), it’s easier on the environment, *and* it prepares students for future careers that may also be online or remote.

    Also, compared with in-person lectures, online learning is much more accessible to employed students (who have day jobs and unusual schedules) and special-needs students (LD students can rewatch recorded lectures as many times as they need; hearing-impaired students can use speech-to-text; etc.)

    So I believe that the Herculean efforts to manufacture in-person teaching during COVID-19 are a major distraction and resource diversion from developing strong online offerings *that are badly needed anyway.* And I think that universities and students who go all-in on online learning will benefit from their choices and adaptivity long after COVID-19 is finally contained.

    1. 11.1


      No matter how wise your plea, you ignore the real world business driven necessities of most all universities. There is no way the current business model of those universities survive in an ‘on line’ world. There is just no way to pass along the incredible costs to the student in that model.

      1. 11.1.1

        Anon, I agree completely – this is a transformative challenge, but The pressure for change was on the horizon long before COVID-19.

        There’s the problem of out-of-control spiraling tuition increases, especially for majors that don’t lead to well-compensated careers.

        There’s the depletion of public funding for universities.

        There’s the growing challenge from MOOCs, which started out rocky but have grown more sophisticated, and trade-school alternatives, like coding boot camps vs. four-year computer science degrees. The credentials are certainly not equivalent, but the value proposition is a hard question for universities.

        There’s the erosion of the tenure track as the traditional incentive for hard-working and low-paid junior faculty.

        All of these pressures long predate COVID-19, and yet are exacerbated by COVID-19 (students demanding tuition breaks and shifting from on-campus residents to commuters; higher attrition rates; forced competition with existing online alternatives; work-from-home instructors; funding cuts from financially strapped local governments; and, as noted, the extreme and predictably ineffective measures required to prop up the classroom model during a global pandemic).

        So, yes, I agree that the existing business model of universities is threatened. How much rain must fall before you start building an ark?

    2. 11.2

      On the flip side, from what I have seen across a spectrum of teaching (from university including law schools down through grade school), the ‘experiment’ of (forced) remote learning had abysmal results from the end of the last school year.

      We really have a massive problem on top of an already creaky academic set-up, and society may be better off by simply ‘canceling’ an entire year of the education process, and mass-repeating ALL students across the entire spectrum.

      1. 11.2.1

        anon, Spring ‘20 was a trainwreck by all accounts, but it was the absolute worst circumstance: a mid-semester forced curriculum change. Zero preplanning, zero resource preallocation, inadequate existing infrastructure (including developed online educational services), and the distractions of panic and public backlash – all severely impacted the results of a forced first-time experiment!

        Imagine judging the quality of classroom education by, let’s say, the scholastic achievement of a makeshift school hastily established in an active war zone. I guarantee that those kids’ PSAT scores wouldn’t be encouraging for a classroom education model, but it’s not a very informative data point.


          From teachers that I have talked to (including one friend of the family, and one family member), Fall ’20 is shaping up to be every bit as much a trainwreck.

          This is not about a situation of merely one date point.

  2. 10

    Well, Dennis . . . after seeing a number of sports teams utilizing such . . . could having photo-placards of each of your students in their respective seats be at least part of the solution? :-)

    p.s. Some creative ideas below.

  3. 8

    I suggest

    – attendees certify they are well and no-contact;
    – an agreement with shared email addresses that each student agree to report 1 week later as to their health status (healthy, suspect symptoms, or test positive) to be shared all students so they can self-quarantine if necessary;
    – a room with good cross-ventilation;
    – recommend minimum momentary distance of 3ft without masks
    – talkers spaced from others by 4-6ft, depending on ventilation and group consensus
    – listening with masks during lecture portion

  4. 7

    I have come up with an in-person classroom design that completely eliminates the risk of COVID-19 while ensuring a great classroom experience. It’s an amazing new method of organizing human activities that seems obvious in hindsight, but wouldn’t have been expected to succeed at the time I came up with it. I really want to tell you about it, but need a patent first because I’m worried big companies and universities would steal my idea if I shared it in a public forum without protection. Do you think the patent office will approve my application in time for the fall semester?

    1. 7.1

      Your message is probably sarcasm. Nevertheless, if your method uses tangible objects in a non-conventional way, and the application requests Track One… maybe.

  5. 6

    My personal opinion is that the Socratic method style is ineffective, so I’d recommend switching to a traditional style lecture. Normal social distancing rules + disinfectant wipes at each station.

    But, if you must be Socratic, pre-select students to be on-call and then have them sit up-front, behind a barrier like the one you’re likely using.

    1. 6.1

      I thrived on the Socratic method and found it optimal, even allowing me to grill the Professor on more than one occasion.

      I found that those who know their stuff have zero problem with the method, while conversely, those that struggle to comprehend find it a ‘nail in the coffin’ and the method unsettlingly ‘confrontational.’

      1. 6.1.1

        You “grilled” Professors because you thrived on the Socratic method in your imaginary law school? How wonderful and how credible!

        Reminds me of the time I was heavyweight champion of the world and auditing a law class. I grilled the Professor and then punched him in the face until he knew he was grilled. But then his spaceship sent down a beam and took him away.


            Well, Snowflake, if you’re ever able to go to a top tier law school in the US, the Prof wrote the casebook you’re studying. There will be no”grilling.”


              If you think that there would be no grilling, you are doing it wrong.

              Wait, this is my pal Shifty — of course he is doing it wrong.

              Beep beep.


                Why don’t you tell us what it is you think you’re trying to say, Snowflake?

                1. As with your own “tells,” eh Shifty?

                  Or is it memes when you want them to be memes?

                  (you still are not very good at this – that ACME reading is just not helping you)

                2. As already stated: Why don’t you just try reading (and reading something other than those ACME manuals)?

                  If you are going to ask questions, it would be a good idea for you to read (gasp) the answers.

                  Beep beep.

  6. 5

    I had just finished taking a class on-line (not a law school class). The professor recorded all his lectures to be viewed by the students before class. The classes were then dedicated to answering questions and working through specific topics with the students. This was done at the beginning of the pandemic so it was all handled on-line but it seemed to work pretty well. The lectures were a bridge between the text and the on-line classes.

    I wonder if you could take a similar approach. During class time, a few students could be present in a class room, everyone else logging on to a webcast. The local students could then present their case briefs, answer your questions and so forth (depending on how Socratic you are), which would be broadcast. The remote students could ask or respond to questions, of course, but there would be a manageable number of faces on the webcast (just the local students), rather than the gallery view of 30+ people.

    Good luck!

  7. 4

    I am not sure that “classes” alone are enough of a focus.

    At large universities, you are incurring logistics way beyond just the time in class.

  8. 3

    Assuming arguendo that in-person classes are going to happen, outdoor classes seem like a solid idea where viable. Students could sit on the ground or bring a towel or yoga mat. Laptops should be fine for an hour. Just use a microphone and speaker/amplifier if noise is an issue.

    1. 3.2

      Sitting on un-sprayed grass [even in rare weather not to hot or cold] in that area of the country is an invitation to an attack of “chiggers. ” If you have not experienced these miniscule spiders burrowing into your itching skin you cannot fully appreciate them.

  9. 2

    With college sports programs closed you can spread your law students out 6′ apart on the gym bleachers.

  10. 1

    I am teaching both my courses online this Fall. I plan on offering the students the ability to attend 1-2 sessions in-person. I teach in a room that handles about 40 students. Normally the course is limited to 25, but this semester it is 20. Students interact and present, which requires them to be in close proximity. Because of COVID, we are looking at trimming the interaction, but I am also making the in-person sessions not mandatory, and available via video and podcast. I have a feeling that students will yearn for on-campus interaction, and I will couple the classes with extended office hours.

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