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Virtual learning highlights diversity, enthusiasm of student body: Mark Lautens in the Globe and Mail

(photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)

The move to virtual learning has highlighted the truly global nature of the University of Toronto’s student body as well as students’ passion for learning, writes Mark Lautens in a Globe and Mail op-ed that reflects on his early experiences with remote teaching.

Lautens, a University Professor in the department of chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science, recalls one incident when a student requested a Zoom meeting, which he scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT: “Only during our call did I learn he was based in Asia, so this meeting was in the middle of his night," Lautens writes. “I did not see a sleepy-eyed 18- or 19-year-old, but an eager and active participant. I offered to hold our next session at 8 a.m. so it would be a decent hour, but I got no complaint about our originally organized meeting time.”

Connecting with students located in places as far apart as Botswana, Dubai and Malaysia, Lautens says that he's "travelling the world from my home office,” and notes that online learning may make it easier to serve students in communities around the world that have been traditionally under-represented in higher education. While remote learning is a necessity fostered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lautens says the enthusiasm on display in his virtual classrooms has left him optimistic.

“These students have chosen to be deeply engaged, despite the inconvenience this presents,” he writes. “Our future may be brighter than we often imagine.”

Read the op-ed in the Globe and Mail