No Zoom Window into the Soul: Notes on Teaching in the Time of COVID

I lack the showmanship of America’s famous talk-radio hosts, but even Rush Limbaugh didn’t try to teach Maimonides and al-Farabi on the radio.

April 7, 2021 | Yehuda Halper
About the author: Yehuda Halper is author of Jewish Socratic Problems in an Age without Plato (Brill, 2021) and an associate professor in the department of Jewish philosophy at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

Leon Neal/Getty Images.

The most surprising thing about this year of teaching on Zoom is that student exams got better. I don’t mean that student exams are better now than they were earlier in the year. I mean that they are better than they were before we moved to Zoom. Also, our classes have more students now than they did before the pandemic forced us into digital exile. My seminars and lectures in Jewish thought at Bar-Ilan University are full—indeed, all of the basic Judaism classes here are full—and our department of eight full-time faculty members has over 200 graduate students. Freed from social obligations, commutes, and the need to leave our home workstations, the eight of us are publishing more and better articles and books. We can also apply for more grants and attend more online conferences. By these external measures, then, the department of Jewish philosophy at Bar-Ilan is thriving.

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