Shift to online classes leaves Japan’s university teachers exhausted

Teachers at universities and colleges are being exhausted by the sudden switch to online classes caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reiko Ishii, professor of piano and music education at the University of Niigata Prefecture, had to divide her roughly 40-strong chorus class into groups of four to five. She now coaches them using a videoconferencing app and fields their questions by email.

Online classes “have made me understand individual interests better than normal classes,” Ishii said. But “it sometimes takes until 3 a.m.” to prepare for class at home while taking care of three children, she said.

A 35-year-old Nagoya man who works part-time at multiple colleges teaches eight classes a week, all online.

“I can’t have small talks with students, and my classes lack humor,” he said. He divided a video for one of his classes into three parts so his students wouldn’t get bored.

Although it sometimes takes seven to 10 hours to film and edit one video, he earns about ¥10,000 per class.

“Preparation can be completed in two hours for a face-to-face class,” he said. “My salaries didn’t change but my working hours became longer.”

A 20-year-old sophomore at Meiji University in Tokyo said she has become busy with homework assignments from online classes.

Such assignments include writing reports and her thoughts about the classes.

“Doing these assignments makes me feel they are meaningless. The quality of classes has obviously dropped,” she said.

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“One teacher only distributes materials online and provides no lectures,” said a 21-year-old senior in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture. “It’s not fair we pay tuition fees as in usual years although the amounts we can learn at classes has clearly fallen.”

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