Educators are only human. We all make mistakes—and this year gave us a lot of opportunities to slip-up in front of students.
But blunders are part of the learning process. And the best ones, as painful as they were in the moment, make us laugh when looking back.
Seven brave educators share their funniest mishaps teaching online so we can all learn from them—and laugh together:
*Submissions were edited for length.
Lesson learned 1: Close the video chat window
I use Zoom for all of my class meetings and office hours. I had a student who wanted to meet with me one on one. We went through her paper, talked for about 30 minutes and then she left the meeting.
Although she left the meeting, my Zoom window was minimized, and my camera was still on.
About an hour later, I was rocking out to music, probably Sia, and answering emails when I heard a, “Hello?” from my computer speakers. I jumped out of my skin. Apparently, the student’s FATHER saw the link on their family computer and joined my meeting.
That day I learned: 1) put a waiting room on your Zoom meeting, 2) always end the meeting for all or leave your own meeting and 3) when in doubt, turn OFF your camera!
Months later, I was on another Zoom with the student. Her dad walks by the computer and says, “Is that Dancing Queen?”
Lesson learned 2: Do research before class
While teaching literature, I needed a picture of poet Emily Dickinson. I went to Google to search for images live in class. BIG MISTAKE!
I had no idea that Emily Dickinson was also the name of an adult film star.
Lesson learned 3: Follow your own advice
I wrote a blog about “dressing the part” when presenting to students this fall, yet I did not heed my own advice and wore shorts one day. While presenting, I had to get up to close the door when all my smoke detectors started beeping at once.
So, besides the constant beeping blaring in the background, my students saw me in my shorts as I got up to close the door.
I got several comments in chat saying, “Nice outfit, Professor!”
Lesson learned 4: Turn the mic off
During an online lecture for my Business Statistics class, a parent entered the kitchen of a student who had left their mic on. While I was in the middle of answering a question, the parent asked how the class was going. The student answered: “OMG, he is talking all the time, but I don’t understand a single word he is saying.”
The Zoom chat burst into laughter. I got dozens of emails right away telling me how the student is super wrong and how this is a great class.
And I never saw the student in class again.
Lesson learned 5: Students will always surprise you
I set the wrong time limit for my digital midterm in one class—a hasty eight minutes! I actually had one student email me saying; “Well, challenge accepted! I raced through the midterm and got a 90.”
That student really knew her stuff and I was proud! But I did correct my mistake for everyone else.
Lesson learned 6: Wag the dog
During a class test over Zoom, I had a student forget to turn off his mic. His dog kept barking and then he kept shooing the dog away.
I didn’t know how to mute a participant yet, so every student in the class started chatting to tell him to mute. They were mad.
When he finally pushed the dog out of his room and closed the door, he noticed all the messages for him in the chat and apologized.
Lesson learned 7: They’re in the wrong place
I had a student who was not finding the assignment in the online course management system. She followed my directions and just did not see it!
We went back and forth via emails and I even had her send me a picture of her computer screen. The image showed a blank page where I knew the assignment should be. I know other students were already working on the assignment, so it wasn’t on my end, but these things happen with a first assignment. I had the student try different browsers, run a technology check, and finally used a video meeting tool so I could actively take control of her screen only to discover that she had her professor and courses mismatched.
She was looking for my assignment in a different professor’s course.
Teaching online doesn’t have to be painful! To boost your own online-teaching confidence and ensure you’ve got a solid virtual course, check out these how-to videos led by two instructors with over 30 years combined experience developing and designing online courses. They’ll explore all the free templates, guides and rubrics they developed for Cengage to help faculty create their own effective online courses.