UI logo
Summer Teaching
Workshop 2021

Primates in Zoomworld
Margaret Fleck


Who am I?

  • Artificial Intelligence (320 students)
  • Discrete Structures (759 students)
  • Three kids in high school and college

I conquered putting both courses online.

  • Full set of pre-recorded lectures
  • Latex --> moodle translation scripts
  • Nearly 3000 discrete math problems in moodle

AI is still online this coming fall

Teething pains

Yale conic sections rebellion (1825)

University of London "People's University" (1858)

Good features of online technology

Will improve with time

This past year

Information flow worked well.

Social bonding was poor.

But lockdown is almost over!

In the beginning

Jane Goodall Institute
(start at 2:30)
  • Personal tutor
  • Shared space
  • Shared food

Portal into someone else's space

Portal from Vilnius, Lithuania
to Lublin, Poland
(built by Vilnius Tech)

Narrow portal

How much goes through portal?

What kinds of things can go through the portal?

Orange County Register

Lost context

Most of their life is a mystery



Whose work was this?

Who is speaking? Who's asking the question?

  • No 3D location (mono audio)
  • No video
  • No name, mystery name
  • Buried in participant list


Do they care about you?

Julia Child & Company 1978

Obama Weekly Address 2016

Sunrise Semester (1976) from Smithsonian Magazine
(click around 16:30)


In real live, people move when they speak (hands, face, and/or body).

Gilbert Strang MIT OpenCourseWare

(click around 9:44)

HMM clip

Are they listening to you?

(click around 2:30)


  • Uh-huh
  • Facial expressions
  • Nodding
  • Taking notes
  • Real-time questions
  • (Negative) shuffling papers

In Zoomworld, watching their reactions means
looking away from them.

Learning by watching peers

New Scientist

Peers ask questions you didn't think to ask.

  • In or after lecture
  • In office hours
  • Other teams in labs/discussions

Zoomworld makes it hard to observe peers.

  • Their video is off.
  • Zoom didn't select them as interesting.
  • You're not watching display (e.g. exam).
  • They're in a different breakout room.

Social cues from watching peers

from the movie Real Genius

Is the meeting over?

Have I run past the end of the lecture period?

Is this an open-book exam?

Do I need to finish up because someone's waiting?

Is there an assignment I should be starting on?

When you go in blind ...

from a post on the UIUC subreddit

Shared food is primal

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?
(Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti)