Aaron Ansuini had a question for the professor teaching his online course at Concordia University, in Montreal, so he decided to shoot him an email.
He had been enjoying the video lectures by the professor, François-Marc Gagnon, and Ansuini searched online for his email address. What he found instead was an obituary for the professor, who passed away almost two years ago.
“I thought at first that just coincidentally there was some other prof who had passed away with the same name—like, oh, that’s very odd,” he remembers. Then it sunk in that the professor he thought was teaching him was no longer around.
So he shared the situation on social media, in a Tweet that soon went viral.
“HI EXCUSE ME, I just found out that the prof for this online course, I’m taking *died in 2019* and he’s technically still giving classes since he’s literally the prof for this course. And I’m learning from lectures recorded before his passing….. it’s a great class, but WHAT”
Aaron Ansuini, a student at Concordia U., was surprised to find out that the professor listed on his syllabus and featured in his video lectures passed away in 2019.
The attention led to coverage in national publications including Slate and The Chronicle of Higher Education, which ran the headline: “Dead Man Teaching.”
What does this unusual moment say about teaching? On this week’s episode of the EdSurge Podcast, we talk with this student, and hear from the professor (a living one) who is coordinating the class. Also joining us is Joshua Eyler, director of faculty development at the University of Mississippi. He has spent a long time thinking about and researching the art and science of teaching as author of the book, “How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching.”
“I’ve heard this joke before in meetings,” says Eyler. “Like, ‘If I die, are you still going to use these videos?’ And so I guess we're seeing what happens when you take that to the extreme.”
The course was produced as part of eConcordia, which offers fully online classes that are jointly created by Concordia University and a Montreal-based company called KnowledgeOne. The university said in a statement that the now-deceased professor's videos are simply a teaching tool, akin to a textbook: “We of course regret that a student felt they had not been clearly informed and have updated Dr. Gagnon’s biography in the course information provided to registered students.”
Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or use the player on this page.
Music in this episode is “Crystals,” by Xylo-Ziko.