Migrated from Mathoverflow.net
This is a questions about teaching/research in math academia.
During the pandemic, many things have been moved online: courses, seminars, informal gatherings, etc. As a student, I've had a positive experience with online courses: they allowed me to work at my own schedule (because lectures were recorded), and I was not tied down to a geographic location.
There seems to be a strong argument to be made in favor of continuing this post-pandemic which may bring a host of benefits to all levels of math academia. (I've mentioned some of the benefits on the student side.)
On the teaching side, I could see how remote teaching can eliminate many of the inefficiencies that were present pre-pandemic. For instance, why do we need to give three identical lectures on Calculus I, three times a week, every year (many of which are taught very poorly or unenthusiastically)? I think everybody would benefit if one records a set of lectures taught by a very good teacher, once every few years. (Imagine how much time this would free up for everyone.)
I could see how remote work can be beneficial for math academics outside of teaching. For instance, I hear about a lot of people leaving math academia because they cannot get an academic position in a city they want to live in (or, similar problems tied to geographic location). Can we not resolve this remote work? Of course, there are benefits to interacting with people face-to-face, but I still don't see why all academic positions have to be in-person.
My Question. Is there any movement within math academia (either in the U.S. or elsewhere) to make the following changes:
- permanently move some (or all) teaching online (either undergraduate or graduate level)?
- Have "remote" academic positions? (i.e. be
affiliated with a research institution, but not be required to be
physically present at a certain location)
Subquestion. What are arguments against implementing either of the above (if any)? (So far, I haven't heard any convincing arguments about the above issues from anyone. My conclusion is that things are the way they are largely because of inertia. If people have strong arguments in favor of doing in-person work all the time, I would be interested in hearing about them.)
Note: I considered posting this on academia.stackexchange, but I realized a lot of the question was math-specific. (For instance, the content of Freshman Calculus or Linear Algebra will not change 20 years from now, whereas in some other field of natural science, there might be a groundbreaking discovery that forces people to reevaluate the fundamentals of the field.)
Note 2: On MathOverflow, the question faced many oppositions. (In short, people thought a.) most people preferred in person instruction to remote, and b.) there is enough variation in presentation that warrants the in person instruction. Someone also implied that in person instruction was the justification for their salary. Please see the link above for details and for the exact phrasing.) I still am not convinced with the above arguments. Is there a definitive argument in favor of in person instructions?