Online Teaching at Thai University

The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:

I removed all info except for one student who worked too hard on their name for it to go unappreciated. Please note the green article of clothing is not a vest, which I will have to ask about in a future session..

I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.

There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.

One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).

Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.

The flight controller is useful for navigating never-ending online meetings.

On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!

Bull

Somebody brought their bull to graze on Nam’s mom’s property. This is a fairly normal occurrence in rural Thailand.

And this is as close as I dared get to it.

I was wearing a shirt and tie because I’d just come back on the way home from teaching a training course at the Maha Sarakham Provincial Office of the Comptroller General, by far the longest name of anywhere I’ve ever worked (and even a long name by Thai standards). The first thing I had the trainees do was memorize their place of work in English.

Anyway, this bull was just normal. Not angry, not scared, but not indifferent to our presence, either. So that was cool.

Mosquito eating banana toast

It seems I forgot to upload this but it was taken a bit more than a year ago, during the first lockdown, when fears were high, but there was only a single case of coronavirus in Maha Sarakham province, imported from Buri Ram. We are now on our third self-imposed lockdown and this third wave was the largest for our town (over a hundred infected), and Thailand as a whole. The kids were spreading it in between lockdowns at bars and outdoor pubs.

Things were all back to normal for maybe a month or so, then one superspreading student brought it back from Bangkok partying. I’ll be teaching classes online again next term, even if it’s not mandated, because less than 1% of the population of Thailand is vaccinated at this point. My fam is waiting for the Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J jab, because the free Chinese vaccine is only ~50% effective against the new strain in Brazil, it seems.

Mosquito eating banana toast, y’all.

Thai Funeral with Royal Sponsorship

This is a video from last week. The whole funeral lasted seven days.

I have read online about soil or water being provided from the royal institution for these affairs; in this case it was a candle with a bundle of flowers (made from corn husks and fragrant tree bark) that was eventually lit by a representative from Bangkok. I need to find out more about this, though.

This was my second time at a funeral with these honors, and I learned a lot more this time. It was a fitting and touching sendoff for Nam’s grandmother.