5.19.20: Virtual learning, virtual teaching, virtual legislating, virtual everything

Plus some commentary on the media's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

May 19, 2020.

Good Tuesday Morning. You all hated yesterday’s media question. You took issue with the term “media” not differentiating between outlets, you didn’t think not over-hyping or under-selling the risks of the virus necessarily implied “fair and accurate”, you wanted a “none of the above” or “other” option. I mean, you absolutely hated it.

And this, my friends, is why I love you all.

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As we do in times like these, any comments related to the media question — plus a late, but thoughtful, entrant to the hot dog debate — are below.

Hopefully today’s questions won’t rile you all up as much as yesterday’s, but maybe they will. Click on the Let’s Talk button to find out.

Let's Talk

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Results from May 18, 2020

Question 1: Are you a teacher, student, parent of a student or spouse/partner of a teacher or student?

We asked students, teachers, parents of students and spouses / partners of students a few questions about their experiences with virtual learning.

Question 2: On a scale of 1 (the worst) to 5 (the best), how would you rate your experience with remote instruction and virtual learning?

For students, teachers, parents and spouses, virtual learning has been okay, but everyone seems ready for it to be over. (Average: 2.6)

Virtual learning is ok for content alone if thats the aim of the education, educational intent varies from soft skill development to pure content / theory.

I rated my satisfaction with remote learning "3," relative to "5" for in-person. Relative to my expectations for remote learning, however, I'd rate the semester a "5." Zoom really is fabulous.

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It will take schools time to adapt to effective online and at home learning. There is a big expectation put n the parents for this to be effective right now (especially for younger kids). The situation presents opportunities and challenges moving ahead. The use of online meetings, email, chat, and collaborative tools is something that kids will know how to use at a very young age, which exciting. We just need the school curriculum to evolve to use these communication channels and tools.

Question 3: Do you anticipate that your school (or the school of your child, spouse or partner) will re-open fully in person in the fall?

Closer than I expected.

I’ve been in the no camp for some time now, but just yesterday, my undergraduate alma mater (Notre Dame) announced that it will resume on-campus instruction this fall.

From one of our younger users:

I’m making the transition from high school to college this fall and my biggest fear is that I’ll have to start college from my bedroom at home. With the risk of sounding like a selfish Gen-Zer, I already had my last semester of high school taken away and I really just want a normal college experience.

First of all, congratulations on graduating from high school!

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Second, that’s not selfish at all. I made some of my very best friends in college, and I’ve been lucky to make even more in graduate school. When you do get your day on campus, whether this fall or next spring or whenever, just make sure to not be the anti-social loner I sometimes was! ;)

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Question 4: Which of these best describes how you feel about the media's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak?

Again, you all hated this question, but that led to some really great comments.

When I hand you lemons, you all make lemonade.

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Question 5: On Friday evening, the US House of Representatives voted to allow remote voting and virtual hearings for the first time in its 231 year history. Do you support or oppose the House of Representatives' decision to institute virtual hearings and voting?

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One user wanted to know:

Can you be more specific in the comments tomorrow as to what the arguments against virtual hearings are?

There were no specific user comments *against* the virtual voting and hearings, but…

For the House vote for remote voting and virtual hearings, I believe it sends a positive message. They should be modeling the behavior we want to see others taking. Since it is possible to conduct business from home and this will keep people safer by keeping them apart, this is a smart decision that other businesses should (and some have) try to replicate.

Also, the argument that congress met during the Civil War and so we should now as well is absurd. Our circumstances are completely different now; we have the internet, phones, means of virtual communication. We don't have to act as if we live in the 1800s, let's utilize the technology we have to keep people safe.


I feel like comparing this current pandemic to the civil war is like comparing apples to a medieval mace. Continuing to convene the congress during a war is substantially less dangerous than doing so during a pandemic.


We have the technology! Arguably, Congress should ALWAYS convene remotely so that members can actually spend time in their districts instead of traveling so much and paying for DC apartments (at the taxpayers’ expense, no less).


The Civil War was not an invisible virus that could spread through congress and harm our representatives (most of them are older anyway), so, that is a silly comparison. The world is changing, it is about time our government changes with it. Besides, some of them couldn't be bothered to show up for votes before the pandemic, maybe they'll actually vote now.

But, some opponents have elsewhere argued that: it can be unfair to the minority party, who could be “muted” by the majority, that it prevents much of the in-person legislating processes and negotiations that help turn bills into law and that there may be unintended and unanticipated consequences down the road.

The Senate, it’s worth noting, has not adopted remote voting.

Make it all the way through but forget to answer today’s questions?

Click on the Let’s Talk button below to get started.

Let's Talk

Some media commentary:

  • In regards to the media coverage, I'm not sure I would call if fair and accurate. I think both sides are biased and over / under report, so at the end of the day, it all balances out.

  • The media is a broad range. I think there has been high quality coverage in the middle (The Atlantic has had some excellent pieces) with the typical deviations for media tilting to either side (CNN, Fox)

  • The media question is too broad because the coverage of the virus varies wildly based on which source you are using (as we saw with the question last week, there's a wide variety in trustworthiness). right-leaning outlets are talking about reopening as a matter of personal freedom and continuing to equate covid-19 to the flu (it is not the same) while some left-leaning outlets are using long lens shots of NYC parks and CA beaches that look much more crowded than they actually are to push for more restrictive social distancing measures..

  • In terms of media coverage, I think they need to do more to be nuanced (ha!) regarding the “reopen” vs. “stay safe” arguments. The way it’s been covered makes people pick a side, basically, (what’s worse - economic or health devastation) and gets everyone entrenched in their confirmation bias. It’s annoying. I think we can all agree that the way media works in this country is not super great.

  • The media question options were off, for one, all media is not the same, for two, not over or underhyping the risk does not necessarily mean they're covering it fairly and accurately. Tough call I know but I would throw out those stats because I think the majority of folks would have probably chosen D-none of the above.

  • I do think the media has overhyped the risks associated with this outbreak. They have almost no incentive to do anything otherwise and alternatively they have every incentive to increase fear. The media has always had this problem/challenge, but I believe with technology today it is approaching a dangerous point of having too much undue influence over the populace.

  • I think for the media question, it's tough to answer, not least because 'the media' is not a uniform bloc except in the fevered minds of some politicians. I think many news outlets failed to take it seriously at first, perpetuating the 'it's just a flu' narrative, then did a better job of taking it seriously from March on. That said, much coverage quickly devolved into covering the horse race and the latest Trump gaffe / outrage rather than giving people good overviews of what's happening and the evolving scientific consensus.

  • I feel some of the choices need to include a 4th choice such as “there is an argument for both sides “ or “too complex for a yes or no response”

  • As far as the media coverage of the pandemic, I wish there was a 'none of the above' option. It depends on which media outlet you're referring to! There are some sources that are greatly downplaying the risks and reporting on the safety precautions in a disparaging manner, while other sources are inciting a panic instead of calmly stating facts about new information. It's a hot mess and can be tough to get the information distilled down to the truth. 

  • The media has covered a lot of the pandemic fairly and accurately, but the 24-hour news cycle has created a race for content that outlets like CNN are struggling to fill, so they've completely inundated us with coverage that has little to no bearing on any individual person apart from making sure they know that this continues to be a big deal. Apart from Cuomo's daily briefing, I basically avoid the news now. There's little to nothing I haven't heard before, and it's really bumming me out.

  • The question about the media is complicated. It depends on what media outlet you're talking about. I chose that the media is covering the pandemic accurately and fairly because if you take the information coming from all different sources, and put it together, you probably get the most accurate picture of what is really happening. However, not many people will do that, they'll just listen to their one "trusted" source.

  • Question #4 was hard. My own feeling is that media have both underplayed and hyped the news, depending on what plays with their audiences. Ignorance rules the day, but leaders can't say that, and media can't report it.

Some more hot dog commentary:

  • I missed the hot dog debate yesterday and would like to weigh in... I think the primary argument lies at which classification the term "sandwich" lands. Classification would be the way that an animal is classified by 7 levels of classification (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) with each level providing additional levels of description and specificity. A hot dog would most likely fall into the "genus" level as their are other "species" of hot dogs (beef, pork, veggie, etc.). If a sandwich is also a "genus" level specification of food, then a hot dog could not be a sandwich as they both could be in the "family" of "bread-structured food combinations" or something like that. However, if it is a "family", "order", or anything higher, there could be an argument made that a hot dog is a genus of sandwich. Food for thought I guess...