The T-method for teaching online technical material
(T for Teacher)

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn
Xun Kuang 3rd century bce.

The problem: Teachers and Professors teaching technical subjects such as mathematics or physics usually find it very difficult to be successful in their mission. The reason is that first you can not just talk (as in say, humanities) but you need to write symbols. People have recently discovered a tool called "document camera". Indeed, this is the simplest way to teach, say mathematics, but it is simple for the teacher. This equation does not involve the student. It is a way to "send" your data to the other side but in practice this data does not get "received". To attend a lecture on the screen for the student is not the same as attending a University talk once or twice a week. The students have to attend courses many hours a week. The result is that they get sleepy or quit your screen or record it hoping they will be able to hear it sometime later and understand.

These online methods have actually many more defects. A few of them follow:
  1. BBB software has a limit of about 100 participants, in practice it is less.
  2. Students have trouble connecting with Zoom especially if their internet is not so good. Connections drop frequently.
  3. The institutions pay a large amount of money to Zoom for getting the right to have a few concurrent sessions.
  4. Laptops of teachers and students suffer a lot (especially the fans of the systems) since such platforms as above consume a lot of resources. Actually students with old laptops can't reliably connect. Your laptop's fan will go screaming after a few months of online courses. If professors do not care about their machines, students do.
  5. To manage all the needed links in Zoom for a University Department is not trivial. You need a lot of human resources for this to work.

There are more problems but let me stop here.

The T-method deals with all this issues, but especially it solves the problem on the student side that they get bored and sleepy watching online courses. It does this because it removes (more or less) the screen from the equation.

If this sounds interesting to you, keep reading.

The teacher prepares his lecture in handwritten form and scans it in color pdf.

Important: These notes must NOT be complete. They must have several missing parts. Not many but several. Not many words, mostly formulas and sketches and every line must be numbered. To get an idea check:

It is in Greek but you will get the idea.

You give this file to the students (through a webpage, email, whatever suits you) some days before the course, and you ask the students to have them printed.

The students and the teacher get connected to a sound-only server of your institution. I recommend mumble (mumble is the client, murmur is the server). Mumble is a low latency communication system (a few milliseconds, i.e. practically instant) with great sound quality and very low resource consumption. The students hear the teacher talk on his/her notes and they add the comments they think are good for their understanding and fill in the missing parts on the notes. So the student has to be concentrated on the teachers notes. S/he does not only "attend" as in other systems. S/he participates!

Every course has its own sound channel on the mumble server. Of course people will immediately ask why mumble and not say, discord. The reason is simple. I will not take my students to a place that they will be watched by the server host and leek all their personal information and online behavior to Facebook or other such companies.

Visual exception

A student may ask something and the teacher may now need to right something s/he did not think beforehand or need to make a sketch. Switch to BBB or Zoom or WebEx? No no no no. This is too simple and low-resource need that we do not want to return to those huge programs. But I find it very strange that there seems to be only one such service online and it is actually free in any possible sense. Check It gives you the ability to have an online whiteboard, actually right inside your webpage
(eg which you edit by mouse or (wacom-type) pen and students watch it from your webpage! This is indeed awesome. Congratulations to the people behind it.
By the way has the "correct" terms of service, not the miserable restrictions of Zoom (I can not talk to a Cuban or Iranian even if he lives for years in, say Germany? Zoom you are just not serious enough for me to consider your services).

For me, the T-method is game-over for the online courses in Science. Anything else is a waste of resources and time without good educational results.


Antonis Tsolomitis