Reflections From An Online Class Room

Ever since the lockdown has started in wake of the global pandemic (caused by COVID 19), schools and colleges have shifted to virtual and online class rooms to continue the teaching – learning process.

While there have been countless debates about the education now being accessible only to the internet-equipped students, or how education has now become a privilege, let me take this moment to express my gratitude to the educators who have initiated the efforts to continue disseminating knowledge.

Gaining knowledge and spreading has been one of my personal values. Amidst this lockdown, I have been fortunate enough to conduct virtual sessions, webinars, and even conduct classes for BBA and MBA students in Nepal. Here are some of my reflections, that I’ve drawn after more than 2 months of online education:


The online class – despite all its challenges – has had one positive impact for me. For me, this impact stands out from the rest. Online classrooms have allowed improved participation from all students.

Even those bunch of students with immensely creative thoughts going on their head but resist speaking in the classroom – they participate as well. They might not actively talk or send messages in the group, but Zoom’s personal messaging has allowed them a space to put their thoughts with the facilitator without having to hold back as they used to in the physical classrooms.

This simple and well thought of feature in the platform is a very handy tool – especially for linking up with introverts – who absolutely hate the group works.

“Group Work”: Extroverts do the “group” part, introverts do the “work” part.
As seen on a YouTube comment, on Susan Cain’s TED Talk Video “The Power of Introverts”

I could really relate to this comment; partly, because I am an introvert myself and largely, because I used to be the one “doing the work” in the group settings.

Also read: Will we lose physical touch post COVID-19?


The same teacher who demands silence in the physical classroom, now – ironically – feels awkward with the silence in ‘zoom’ classrooms where everyone else is on mute except the teacher.

I personally love discussions, positive arguments, logical debates, and productive chaos. So often, in the physical classroom, I ask my students a question and none of them answer. The virtual classroom is no different in this case. However, in the physical classroom, I could see someone thinking and debating within themselves and trying to speak up. This is something I miss in my online classroom. Even the students cannot see each other, discuss quickly and come up with an answer in virtual classrooms.

However, I’ve learnt to give them time. I’ve slowly learnt to embrace the silence – which felt awkward at the initial days. Generally, I would ask a question and give them time for about 10 seconds to think. Now, I ask them a question, and give them 20 seconds (or more, at times) to think. Sometimes, I rephrase the question, or tone-it-down – and then again give them time to think.

I miss the “discussion noise” inside the physical classroom, but I’m learning to embrace the silence by being open towards any answers that can come up from the students.


In the initial days, the online classrooms felt like hosting a radio show where I am the RJ, and occasional conversations with students felt like program listeners calling in my show.

As I said before, I admire and look for more of “productive” chaos. This is something I found myself struggling in the initial days. However, there were many online tools – some free and some freemium – to begin with to engage students. I have heavily been using Google Jamboard and tools. Apart from that, other online tools – Mentimeter, Kahoot, Wheel of Names – have kept up the excitement and fun that I can bring in the classroom.

Of course these online tools might be a little difficult to adjust in the initial days, but hey – they’re very friendly to your physical space and pocket. I don’t find myself spending largely on chart papers, markers and sticky notes. I don’t find myself wondering where to store all the used chart papers. And I definitely don’t find myself picking up all the fallen sticky notes on the ground just because it’s glue dried. Phew!


Having multiple gadgets along with me has helped me big time in multiple ways. I’ve so far used my laptop, a secondary display monitor, iPad, and my smartphone – all to better prepare and equip myself for unforeseen circumstances during online classes.

Foremost, with 3 different devices, I was able to join as a host, co-host and a participant at the same time. That allowed me to understand how things look different from others’ (especially the students and participants) end.

Online Class

Second, having an extended screen not only solved my problem of mouse cursor disappearing while screen sharing the full-screen keynote presentation, it also helped me to get back (my beloved) presenter’s view, better manage participants, and involve in the chat box more.

Finally, having a secondary device alongside has allowed me to be ready whenever my internet connection dropped. At one instance when my internet connection was lost, I quickly enabled data access from my phone and informed everyone about my internet issue. I was able to ask students to take their breaks, stretch their body, gaze into the surroundings and come back after 5 minutes. Thankfully, the internet connection got restored and I was able to continue.


Hands down, breaks are important. But breakers are “importanter” in the online classes.

As Liz and Mollie say in their HBR article, “Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.” It’s easy to get tired in the online class – especially by staring at the screen for too long. I generally have a two-hour class – in which I deliberately have at least one break. I now realize there should be more than one.

Sometimes, I intentionally tell my students to close their eyes and be on a listening and speaking only mode. Sometimes, I tell students to get up and stretch for a bit. Even turning your video off in every 10 minutes can do wonders for your strained eyes!

Also, I used to struggle at times when people would be typing something on the chat box regarding a previous topic and I would just go on with my session. Some people prefer typing short and multiple sentences, while some people prefer to type long paragraphs before hitting the send button. To solve this dilemma of “who is still typing?“, I have resorted to using codes. I now ask my students to use the code “IAT” (I Am Typing) – when they begin typing their responses or queries. Once any student or participant sends “IAT”, I can be aware that s/he is about to send her/his response, and thus, i would wait more before hopping on to the next topic.

So these were my reflections and learnings from my online sessions and virtual classroom. Let me know if you have got any more!

Stay safe!

Will We Be Able To Trust People The Same Way?

The COVID-19 global pandemic caused by novel coronavirus has already impacted the world in a much adverse way. From causing global lockdowns to changes in human behavior, the virus has managed to make us rethink the way we act, work, and overall live our life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended social distancing as one of the most effective ways to decelerate the spread rate. This has already imperiled one of the primary needs of human beings – physical touch and intimacy. One of other major concerns revolves around the question, “Will we be able to trust people the same way?”

Let’s dissect.

It is completely normal for humans to question a new environment, situation, event, object, or another human being. This is because the new environment comes with uncertainty, which jeopardizes our needs for control and sense of security. And not only new people, the skepticism grows towards known people, who have come in contact with unknown environments, too. With this scenario in mind, the surficial answer to the question reaches to “NO!”, but there is more to this picture.


Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write about the 3 elements of trust – positive relationships, good judgement/expertise, and consistency. Positive relationships are about balancing results with concern for others, generating cooperation between others, resolving conflicts, and giving honest feedback in a helpful way. Good judgement and expertise is about anticipating and responding quickly to problems, using knowledge and expertise to achieve results, and even others seeking after their opinions. Finally, consistency is about walking the talk, honoring commitments, keeping promises, and willing to go above and beyond the regular call of duty.

Frances Frei’s TED Talk also gives a similar three elements of trust, viz. the trust triangle – authenticity (I experience the real you), empathy (I believe you care about me and my success), and logic (I know you can do it; your reasoning and judgement are sound).

Professor Dan Ariely in his paper, The Trust Factory, explains about five different trust generators – i) The long game: established relationships, ii) The glass door: transparency, iii) The why factor: intentionality, iv) The counterpunch: revenge, and finally v) The common goal: aligned incentives.

In simple words, he explains these five trust generators as:

i) With consistent partners, people are more trusting.
ii) We are more comfortable when we can see what’s going on behind the scenes.
iii) We are judged less harshly if we suffer as we struggle with moral dilemmas.
iv) The possibility of punishment helps us avoid relationships in which one side is more vulnerable than the other.
v) Sacrificing some income for the benefit of the other party can be an incredibly powerful act.


Simply put, a lot of factors affect whether we trust or do not trust another person, organization, object, or a situation. Summarizing these different literatures, I firmly believe trust comes from consistent acts demonstrating genuine concern for others, keeping others’ best interests at heart, and logical actions with transparent intentions.

Trust Framework


In the worst case, we will see everyone with the same lens – “Could s/he be the carrier of the virus?” We might be skeptical towards the family member who has been in three different meetings throughout the day. We will certainly raise an eyebrow on that customer who looks ill and is continuously coughing without covering their mouth. We might even hesitate to shake hands with a new colleague who just joined the work today.

But the point is that all these do not necessarily stop us from trusting people ever again. Yes, we will be cautious and aware. We will change our behaviors in pursuit to co-exist with the virus. But we will not stop trusting people altogether. The key lies in how we communicate with people. The messages we are sending across needs to mention that we are genuinely concerned for them, have their best interest at heart, and act logically with transparent intentions. We need to recognize the other person’s dilemma, and also need to explain ours.

This might sound absurd at the beginning but certain changes are bound to happen, and happen for the overall good.

Physical Touch: Will we lose it post COVID-19?

Touchwood, let’s hope the pandemic fades quick.

While Noor Tasnim from Duke Global Health Institute was expected to stay in Guatemala for eight weeks, she worried if she would ever fit in. Her advisor, Dr. David Boyd, recommended her to greet every stranger she walked by. Noor goes on to write in her news article that by acknowledging others in the community and having that acknowledgement reciprocated, she felt connected to the locals. Little did she know that such a common greeting could be so powerful.

This makes us wonder, “how do we generally greet our friends, family, or loved ones?” It has mostly been a hug, handshake, fist bump, shoulder bump, or a kiss. Sometimes, just a smile from distance works too. Mostly, the physical touch is important.


Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. – the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley – writes that everyday incidental gestures such as pat on the back, or caress of the arm are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion. In his article published in September 2010, he explains that “to touch is to give life”.

Furthermore, in this journal article published by French physiologist Nicolas Guéguen, he instructed the professor of a 120-person statistics class to give the same verbal encouragement to any student who volunteered to solve a problem at the front of his classroom. But to a randomly selected group of students within the class, the professor also gave a slight tap on the upper arm when speaking to them. Guéguen compared the volunteer rate of those who were touched to those who were not, and found that students who were touched were significantly more likely to volunteer again. In fact, roughly 28 percent of those who were touched volunteered again, compared with about nine percent of those who were not. This demonstrates the positive effect of touch in schools, and how important touch is in communicating positive emotions.

Even in business meetings, handshakes are considered an important part. In a working paper published by Harvard Business School, Juliana Schroeder and Jane Risen of University of Chicago, and Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton of Harvard University conducted four different studies. These four different studies revealed that handshakes made people feel comfortable initiating negotiations, led to increased cooperative behaviors, obtained higher joint outcomes, crafted more agreements, and in together promoted the adoption of cooperative strategies and influenced negotiation outcomes.


While personal touch and intimacy itself is one of the basic human needs, coronavirus hits hard at this very basic human need. Preventing the spread of coronavirus requires hand washing and social distancing. Those are the basics – wash your hands with soap water for at least 20 seconds regularly, and maintaining social distance. As Harvard Medical School elaborates the term social distancing it goes like, “For an individual, it refers to maintaining enough distance (6 feet or more) between yourself and another person to avoid getting infected or infecting someone else.”

This could be the biggest behavioral shift and a major problem for humans, in general.

MIT Technology Review’s editor in chief, Gideon Lichfield, advocates in his article that we are not going back to normal, and social distancing could itself be the new normal – upending our way of life, in some ways forever. Peter Hall – the Professor of School of Public Health and Health Systems at University of Waterloo – advocates in his article published in World Economic Forum that the vaccine will eventually arrive, but in the meantime, epidemics like COVID-19 can be prevented by increasing the prevalence of precautionary behaviors in the general population that impede its spread.

In similar lines, the BBC Future also predicts that we – humans – will be less touchy-feely and far more wary, and the transition will feel strange. It also goes on to say that we may find ourselves more comfortable with keeping people at a distance from us when we greet them.


The Independent newspaper published an article back in 2015 stating that handshakes during business negotiations work even when one of the parties involved is a robot.

A scientific study found that when two people who may be located thousands of miles apart communicate through a robot, shaking hands with the machine and communicating the physical act still encouraged co-operation and mutual understanding.

As per the research team, even though the handshake was virtual, it created a sense of connectedness between both people as they experienced the sensation of grasping a hand with a vibration generated through a controller. They further go on to mention that the findings could provoke a revolution in the art of conducting a video conference or Skype interview.

Also Read: Will we be able to trust people the same way?

Robin Dunbar, emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, goes on to say that physical contact is a part of the mechanism we use to set up our relationships, friendships, and family memberships. As published in this BBC Future article, Dunbar has some words of hope. “Touch is not the only mechanism used for physical bonding,” he says. Evolution from our primate progenitors has given us new ways to feel a connection with others that also trigger endorphins. “They’re things like laughter, singing, dancing, telling stories, religious rituals and so on,” he says – “the things we use in our everyday social interactions.”

While we might remain more cautious about physical contact for the time being, physical – or – social distance doesn’t really mean we can’t feel close.

COVID-19 Pandemic & Human Behavior

This lockdown has given me ample time to reflect back not just on my own thoughts, feelings and behaviors, but also understand the general human behavior as a whole. While most of the stated behavior looks obvious and nothing new, that is where the point in writing this article lies. Humans tend to overlook “obvious”, as defined by the psychology of willful ignorance or blindness.

In her book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, Margaret Heffernan explains the concept of willful blindness in context of legal system as:

It refers to a situation where — if an individual could have and should have known something, then the law treats it as if he knew it. The claim of not knowing isn’t a sufficient defense. Heffernan notes: “The law doesn’t care why you remain ignorant, only that you do.”

Also Read: Why are we so confused?

This basic and obvious understanding of human behavior is crucial to understand other people better, and therefore, manage personal and professional relationships better.

For ease of understanding and segregation, the general behaviors are divided according to fundamental human needs. A small, but important disclaimer is required here, because these common human behaviors are generalized (and definitely NOT stereotyped) on my limited viewpoint and assumptions only.

On Subsistence:

This is the need for survival, safety, security, and control. Humans are seeking to be more financially secure by postponing big-purchase decisions. They have this economic pressure of paying rent, day-to-day groceries, medications, and also have to keep aside a contingent reserve for future uncertainties. People are focusing largely on health and sanitation. Job security has become a large concern, especially with the lockdown crippling the economy. People have the fear of losing their job, or receiving a pay-cut, or furlough.

Given that humans generally want certainty and prefer to take control over situations, some people have stocked (or even hoarded) resources needed for survival. This need for control and certainty has triggered a horrific and disgusting face of humans – they want to eliminate outside threats. In pursuit to eliminate the threats, some people have taken extreme irrational measures – taking down bridges connecting two districts, blocking road access, or even xenophobic remarks and death threats to the coronavirus positive patient.

On Self Care & Recreation:

For self-care, people have not been able to go to gym work-outs or even their regular futsal games. People have opted to perform home-based exercises even with limited resources. Some people have started self-care in form of yoga and meditations, which is definitely one of many positive takeaways from the lockdown. People’s leisure and recreational needs in terms of traveling and exploring new places is hampered the most. To overcome this, people have resorted to cooking new recipes, Netflix and other on-demand video streams, and even playing online and offline games with friends and family.

On Understanding & Growth:

Humans have this need for acquiring knowledge, comprehending the knowledge, and applying the understood knowledge for greater wisdom. People have learnt new recipes, read new books, explored themselves, and gathered new facts and information about various subject matters. People also have taken this lockdown time for enrolling in various online free courses and participating in webinars. These would – hopefully – expedite their mastery and growth over the subject matter of their interest.

For the working population, few of their works are now being done from home. This has triggered the need to teach themselves with technology usage. Use of internet, web-based software, video-conferencing, and online collaboration are probably at all time high. The late majority and laggards (as defined in the Diffusion of Innovation Curve) are now finally adopting the remote and virtual way of working.

However, on the flip side of consuming information comes misleading and fake news that quickly spreads around the social networks. The lack of people verifying the authenticity and credibility of such misleading and fake information seems to be a major threat for the community as a whole. To combat these, fact-checking sites such as Nepal Fact Check have also evolved rapidly during the lockdown.

On Connection & Love:

Humans crave for connection, love, belongingness, care, acceptance, and even touch and physical contact. The lockdown period has definitely brought some people close to their family as a result of being at home all the time. On the flipside, some people (especially migrant workers) are stuck in foreign countries and are dying to come back home. Some people have swam across the Mahakali river to get back to their motherland. Some people have adventured numerous days’ journey on foot to go back home, be it in hope or despair.

To keep up with peers, friends, and colleagues, people have started various “challenges” in social media apart from regular video calls. From posting pictures clad in beautiful sarees, to reminiscing when they first met together, people have craved for connection. Dalgona coffee, Instagram Bingos are just other examples which state the obvious – people do crave for connection.

With the nature of the coronavirus itself, the touch and physical contact are at the threat. Being forced to isolate and maintain a distance, some people will have a hard time keeping their hands off their loved ones. I’m assuming the hug to your loved one(s) after lockdown ends (and hopefully the pandemic ends too) is going to be a very special one.

People are working from home to keep up with their work, but this has also impacted the need for love and connection from their family members. For some people working from home, they have found themselves working for more hours, stressing more, and eventually exhausting themselves more. This culture is making some people’s life hard in terms of managing their work, family, and self.

On Creation & Contribution:

While humans crave for love and care, they also have this need for creating something, contributing to others, serving people and community, and making the world around us better.

People are using all local resources available for keeping things on-going. There have been wonderful examples of COVID testing booths being made in Nepal with locally available resources, the Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) being stitched locally and distributed without any charges, and so on. Brands have collaborated together to make daily groceries and necessary equipment available to their doorsteps at this time of crisis. Businesses are being creative with alternate services and products and thus, generating sources for sustaining.

People are fulfilling this need to give and do for others (contribution) by helping the daily wage earners, collecting funds, assisting them with relief items, and so on. This demonstrates the empathy humans have within ourselves. However, the question still remains at large about empathy when it comes to treating COVID affected people as criminals.

On Identity & Purpose:

During this time of crisis, people’s need for recognition, status, identity, significance, and purpose have largely been secondary. This could primarily be because of human beings’ need for survival is larger than identity and purpose in this time of crisis. However, I have seen some circumstances where some people have been reinforcing their identity via social networks, as well as some people realizing new found identity as well as purpose of life, during this time of crisis.

These were the basic human behaviors that I managed to identify with my own set of observations. I’m sure I have missed out a lot. Help me complete it by making me aware of it.