Education, among other businesses struggling during the pandemic  is also under threat. It is unfortunate to see how young generations of students are restrained at home and the education what they are [currently] getting is limited or in many cases even just non-existent. Schools deserted, universities deserted, campus grounds empty. This is today's reality. Apocalyptic. 

Each society puts its faith in these young generations to create something better, something new, something different. However, the education of these new pillars is vital. We have to educate them so that they can educate us later. This is the cycle. It always was. And now the cycle is broken. 

You can see the how politicians, education experts, school districts presidents, education secretaries, university presidents worldwide are changing their statements on daily basis according to the new developments of the virus, but students and parents they just care when they can be back on track and kids can resume school again. In all honesty, it is sad to see how chaotic the whole system is and due to complete lack of leadership at every level you just feel that nobody cares and nobody knows the answers.  Everybody is just concerned about the position and liability. Nothing else matters.  

In Europe some countries decided to shut the whole operation down for this academic year. No more school at this point, while other countries they mimic some type of education via online tools, but the quality is questionable at best. Universities usually they provide some type of online education, but changing the whole f2f system to online over the weekend is taking a heavy toll on quality, on educators and on students alike.  

THE question is: what about Fall? Summer break is our ally, --it will give us some time to think, but September is approaching fast and soon universities they have to decide: to be or not to be [open]. Financially speaking going online it would be a death warrant for many institutions as housing, dining and other campus activities can bring considerable amount of money  beside the tuition, but if they prefer to focus more on students, educators and staff's wellbeing and safety the revenue will diminish. Considerably. People will loose their jobs. This is the cruel reality but at least to some extent we can guarantee certain level of safety and protection.

The other option preferable  for thousands of reasons by the decision makers is to wide open the doors and welcome back the students in Fall 2020. Perfect! Students would be happy as they will get back the student life for what they were craving so hard for so many years. Parents would be happy as they can see that their kids education is going back to normal. Educators will be happy as they will get back to the same old same old f2f education and get heir full salary. Decision makers will be happy as they can keep their comfortable seats, bonuses and they can eventually hope for another reelection. Happy ending.

However, let us paint a darker scenario. Somebody on a university campus will be infected, -and the chances are rather high for such thing to happen. It can be a student, it can be a professor and it can be a staff. Everybody. Who is going to be responsible? [...] What will happen if such type of lawsuits will hit the universities? Who is going to pay the bill? Money is one issue, but who is going to take the moral blame for somebody's life? Are you? [...]

Who is going to convince the students and parents that the university environment is safe? Same thing with a professors and staff. Usually classes are happening with 30-50 students plus the instructor. Social distancing is just impracticable in such locations. Would that be safe? Really?

Can you imagine how many students a secretary or a professor can see in a single day? Who is going to guarantee their personal safety? Students roam around campus all the time  and can be asymptomatic virus carriers. Looking the data the virus is more deadly on older population. Professors, staff and other university personnel belong to this rather endangered age groups. Are they safe? Can we force them to go back and pretend that everything is all right? I highly doubt it.
What is going to happen if a professor, a secretary, an adviser is refusing to have direct contact with a student because they fear for their lives? Is anybody thinking about these aspects?

I understand the narrative to try to calm people and send a hopeful message to students, parents and university personnel, but let's not confuse the myth with reality.     

Zoom is nowadays THE software. Everybody can claim otherwise, but the facts are just simply facts.

None of the other solutions (Teams, Skype [for Business], Hangouts, Blackboard Ultra, WebEx, Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.) provided as possible alternatives by other companies can level up with Zoom. Professional companies, school districts, governments, state agencies, universities, individuals they used it on daily basis and it is working. No complaints, -except the zoom bombing which is solved by now by the usage of a password and the waiting room, and if the bandwidth is holding up is and you posses a desktop, laptop, smart phone or a tablet you are good to go.

I imagine after this pandemic is over(?) there will be a new entry in the English dictionary: to zoom (inf. zooming). A few years back the verb to google was introduced, so I do not see an impediment to let a new word be among the most used one beside googling. The language evolves either we like it or not.

We have the pandemic (see COVID-19), and we have the tool to educate students. What is the problem? -some could ask. There are many problems but nobody wants to acknowledge them because everybody is in survival mode and admitting any kind of fault can be fatal. So you see and hear this message over all the channels that "online education is so cool, good and awesome". No it is not, but everybody is afraid to admit it. 

I am talking to educators in different countries all over the world and the same problems, concerns emerge from each of them but nobody is listening. Everybody is  praising the "heroic work" of educators who had to switch from one day to another to a completely new style of teaching, but these are just meaningless empty words. The more they say it the more they become empty. I feel petty when I am hearing this kind of discourse over and over from statesmen, politicians, education secretaries, etc. 

It is obvious that educators can not change in such a short period of time and deliver the same content using a device with a camera and mic. It is just not possible. And let's not forget that many of these educators they are completely against this type of education and they have a good reason. Once we will return to the normal f2f style lectures we will see the huge gaps in the students knowledge because of this highly praised education style. 

This online education might be good for a very narrow niche of students who i) can not afford structured education, ii) they work and they do not have the time for it, and iii) they are interested in one particular topic without considering the bigger picture. Everybody else like i) students who want a comprehensive education, ii) students who value the social interaction of the education and iii) students who can afford education they do not want this type of online education. [I do not agree with iii) but I am sure you will call me communist and/or socialist if I would state that education and healthcare should be a fundamental human right and it belongs to everybody without distinguishing among people based on race, gender and social-economic background. Unfortunately, it sounds as utopia in these money driven societies, however there are some working models in the world such as Germany, France and many other EU countries just to name a few.]

However, for some reason nobody is asking the students what they want. They are considered as bystanders in the process and some higher authorities they just force them to be part of this new way of delivering knowledge like it or not. Of course, we can not do a referendum to see what everybody wants now and to adapt to everybody's need, but somehow we should find a common ground to be able to deliver the knowledge to this young generation but also making sure that the path is the right one or at least the most efficient one.

There are many technical difficulties. People they do not have the right devices, they do not have broadband Internet access (this is happening in 2020!), or they are just not educated to operate these devices and technologies. However, we spend money to go to the moon or create stelar armies, etc.  Hmm ...., interesting and weird to see how a so-called "modern society" focus its interest in building a better future, a better world. 

Let's be optimistic! Suppose that we have the technical support to deliver and to receive those lectures. Beside the technical mambo-jambo we have two key players in this same equation: the student(s) and the educator.  As we "do not care about the students" let us leave them at the end of the food chain "where they belong". 

How about the educator? She/he might be not familiar with the technology which means that they will struggle just to start a Zoom meeting or some other meeting. The lecture might not be in a format which can be delivered just by telling nice stories about it and it can not be brought to the students on a slide or another. Let's think for a minute how you explain a chemistry student how to synthesize a compound  without showing it in the lab. Good luck with that! Cool, huh? 

You have to have interactions with the students but they hide behind their cameras because they feel uncomfortable so the lecture might become a monologue and can bring a lot of frustrations on both sides. The key element of education: the interaction is missing completely or minimized to an extent which will have considerable side effects in the future. Instead of concentrating on the lectures the educator right now has to concentrate on the technology (software, Internet), the mic, the camera, the cameras of others, the chat, the waiting room, the shared screen and the lack of interaction. And let us imagine that on top of this we are teaching our students how a convolusional neural network is converging and why. [...] Good luck professor! You have 50 minutes to do so! But we educators are "heroes"! We do not care, we just want to deliver all the lectures as it would be in a f2f setup no matter  if this is just not possible due to the nature of the situation. 

I almost forgot! Some educators they do not even have interactions with the students! They just send them dry material copied from a book and eventually they might respond to some questions via e-mail. This "delivery method" might(?) function at universities but definitely it is useless at K-12 level education. 

How about the students? They are the focus here because the whole education process is happening for their benefit but as mentioned previously, nobody cares about them. They are treated as soldiers whom should follow orders. Come to lecture, Zoom in, follow the uninteresting slides of the professors (if they have some), read all the material which are passed so easy by the educators to them and the huge burden which they carry as they have to understand all the material mainly on their own. Can you image to learn computer programming in a language such as C/C++/Java by yourself, do Gauss elimination just by reading a formal definition in a Math book, prove that a given problem is NP complete or how to transform it into one?

Cruel thing! And for many students it is just frustrating and very difficult. Do we care? No, we don't! We just send them even more materials via an e-mail attachment which costs us one minute but it might cost a week or more the student to go trough that material.

Result? Angry, frustrated students who will give up eventually because beside their completely chaotic daily routine driven by the pandemic they do not manage to see all the connections, tricks etc. among the multitude of topics which we educators are throwing on them. Are we helping them trough these difficulties? Some of us might care and do whatever is necessary to help, but many of us we just simply do not. 

Is this the recipe of the successful education? [...]

Marquez put his characters in the time of the cholera, right now we are living in the time of COVID-19.  The virus is one thing, but the fear, the uncertainty, the unknown, the rising number of fatalities all around the world is creating panic everywhere. It is scary but still, life is going on.  Even  though some of us would like to freeze the time this is just not possible. As the horrors from WWII engraved in our parents and grand parents memory, we'll have to live with this pandemic the rest of our lives. Sad.

Education.  While people are infected and dying and we just acknowledge the numbers, we have to make sure that the next generation of intellectuals are educated properly no matter what. We can not have f2f meetings, schools are closed and restrictions are in place everywhere all over the world, however, we educators are trying our best. Not all of us, but at least some of us. And students need us more than ever. Not just really to teach them how to add two numbers, but also to keep them busy and assure them that their intellectual skills will be at the highest level once they go look for a job on a market which most probably will considerably shrink in the upcoming months. 

Zoom. Most of us never heard this name before and over the night it became a new entry in our vocabulary. Zoom good, zoom bad, zoom amazing, zoom free, zoom bombing, etc. A video chat tool which was used by 10 million people just became the toy and daily working tool of some 200 million users worldwide. Impressive. Teams or Skype just simply suck. Sorry Microsoft. Same with Google Hangouts. I am not blaming them, their business focus is somewhere else but "we the people" just voted: Zoom.

Like any other tool, Zoom is a video chat application which can host hundreds of people and compared to other solutions it is just working. Yes, it does. Actually it is flawless compared to other solutions which companies or educational institutions are offering nowadays. I've heard and seen many halfway integrations lately but things done in a hurry lead to unstable, not reliable often crashing and useless solutions. [Remark: Open a software engineering book and you will see the reasons.]

For students it is very important to have an intuitive, easy to use tool which can give them access to classes, to professors, to fellow students and in general they need some way to interact. Interaction is the soul of education though some administrators/educators think differently. Unfortunately, each faculty is using a different tool which can create confusion among the students. However, you can not force the hand of the faculty either. Some of us we barely manage to use a computer not to mention some sophisticated tool with authentication, settings on some obscure pages, etc. We are just not there yet. Sorry, we are old school.

Online education. Yet another enigma. It is surrounding us for years but we all know the quality is ... Of course there is a niche for such type of education, but my opinion is that online is just not how you  can transfer good quality knowledge. If it would be, there would be no more universities and schools. However, they are still there. Are they not?

Online educators. Hmm. Wow. Can you imagine that somebody is teaching/educating all her/his career in a classroom f2f with the students and now over the weekend it should change to online. The Hungarian PM switched the whole education in a weekend to online stating "we solved the education problem". No. He didn't! Not at all. Same with universities. You can not ask somebody to make such a huge paradigm shift over the night. And please do not come with "good tips for online education" type of links. A teacher is learning trough the whole career to be a good educator, so some links and videos are not helping. No, they do not help! Those who are sending those links they usually do not have a clue what education means and what is to have interaction with students. The more links they send the more is showing their complete lack of knowledge, but usually it is the only thing they can do.

Online interaction. Very hard to get to the students via a chat software. First, students they do not want to show themselves over the camera and they switch off their mic too, so it is pretty much radio silence over all the courses and the interaction is minimalistic. How somebody should judge if a concept was perceived or not if there is no eye contact, no body language to observe, etc. Even if you can see your students trough the cameras no way to pay attention to the lecture and to each camera separately. Impossible. And of course your speech, the slides if any, the cameras, the voices and the chat discussions. It is just too much. 

Quality. I am seeing educators all over the world talking about the quality, more precisely about the lack of quality in this teaching scenario. Some classes can be taught online, no doubt about that, but some classes are just not meant to be taught that way. On top of that many of us we re just not prepared for such type of classes, many of us do not even believe in the efficiency of such classes, so the verdict is obvious.

Students. We talk about everything but nobody asked the students what they want, how they handle the situation and if they consider this "online education" appropriate. They are pretty much spectators in this game, without much to say and nobody is listening to them. Are they happy when some professor is just sending them some slides with some dry concepts on it? No, they are not but nobody cares. Educational officials they give sound speeches, write articles how great they did, but nobody is mentioning that in US 20+% of students do not have broadband Internet access. How those poor souls are they going to access those "great materials". They do not have computers, they do not have software, etc. Nobody is thinking about those students. Are they not important? Unfortunately it does not look like that they do matter. So, instead of all these empty speeches those in charge should think  more about those students and give them equal opportunities. 

At the end of the day, we have to realize that online education is just not the solution, but currently is the only possibility to reach out to students and to try to some extent to transfer some knowledge. We were not prepared for such a switch and the negative reverberations will be seen soon. As a transitionary solution it can be accepted, but a lot of time and effort is needed from students and educators to find that solution which works for both parties. Nobody is wining here! The students will not receive the education they need and the educators will be frustrated. 

I hope soon all educators and students can return to the classrooms to restart the real education, but till then we are just innocent bystanders in a show for which we did not paid a ticket.