‘Forced to think differently’

07 May 2020
Every year in April, Christopher Bailey teaches Magneto- (MEG) and Electroencephalography (EEG) at the Neuroscience and Neuroimaging program at UCAS in Beijing. Usually, he and his colleague Liu Zuxiang teach in a lecture room and supervise lab exercises where students put electrodes on each other’s heads and measure electrical activity in the brain. However, this year the teaching is different due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The lab exercises require that we are all gathered in the same room. But because of the conditions we naturally cannot do that now. Instead, we work with data recorded in previous years, so the students still get the opportunity to relate theoretical concepts to real measured data,’ Christopher Bailey says.

The Corona situation has forced Christopher Bailey to re-think his methods and find new teaching platforms, such as the video conference app called Zoom:

Using Zoom has been fine, but in a physical room I can get a vibe from the students that tells me whether we are aligned or not, and that response is not possible with Zoom. More explicit communication is required from me and from the students.’

To get feedback and interact with the students, Christopher Bailey has been using an app called Mentimeter, which allows students to pose questions anonymously. In fact, he also uses that app when he teaches under normal circumstances in order to engage the students without having to raise their hand in class.

I make simple questions in Mentimeter that the students respond to on their devices anonymously, and I get live feedback on what is unclear. When I make the very simple questions, it also requires that I am clear and specific on what I want the essence of my lecture to be,’ Christopher Bailey explains.
The Corona Situation Boosts Creativity and Development
Besides live lectures on Zoom, Christopher Bailey also produces video for his lectures. Before the Corona circumstances challenged his teaching, he was already interested in digital teaching methods and a few years back he began producing video as preparation to his lectures before he arrived in Beijing.

Now Christopher Bailey is forced to re-think his teaching and therefore, he sees the situation as an obvious opportunity to produce some good material and go all in trying out new methods:

I have happily made the video materials during this Corona-time! However, you should not underestimate how long it takes to produce them. There is also a lot of learning in it for me, and by ensuring the materials are of high quality, I am making an investment that I believe will benefit both my current and future students.
I find it rewarding to be forced to think differently and it is moving the course in the right direction,’ Christopher Bailey says, but emphasizes that he is looking forward to leaving online teaching behind and going to Beijing to teach face-to-face:

'Besides planning the lecture and being prepared for any and all questions, I am also a producer on the video material and an IT-supporter for Zoom when I teach. So I do feel some extra strain and pressure that I could live without. But I have to say that the students have handled the circumstances really well. They have also had to re-think their learning and get the best out of a bad situation,’ Christopher Bailey says.