“Oh, hi,” says Juliet played by Kiera Knightly.
This time, however, it’s not Mark (Andrew Lincoln) on her doorstep, silently proclaiming his love for her through a series of signs.
Instead it’s Brock University genetics Prof. Lori MacNeil, decked out in a Santa hat and cat-themed Christmas sweater, sharing her hopes for a brighter 2021 and reminding her students they still have a lot of studying to do.
The mashup video went viral this week, with 76,000 views on Twitter, and is one of MacNeil’s “increasingly elaborate” lecture introductions intended to boost her students’ spirits as they navigate online classes devoid of social interactions and fun.
“This pandemic has been so hard on everyone and I think it’s been especially hard on our students. These young adults are missing out on such a key, pivotal time in their lives. They’re feeling isolated and they’re missing their friends,” MacNeil told HuffPost Canada.
“As educators, I think it’s important to try to make that connection and have a bit of that personal feel when you can.”
When teaching in person at the St. Catharines, Ont. university, MacNeil said she’s always trying to engage with her students, learning their names, walking around the classroom and using memes, gifs and jokes in lessons.
With classes now online, MacNeil said she misses that immediate connection and feedback. Sometimes recording and posting online lectures in an empty room feels like she’s “talking to a wall.”
The Love Actually video is one of many she’s created this semester to make her teaching more personal and lighthearted. In one, she shows an Arrested Development magic show. In another, MacNeil holds a mock press conference in front of a background of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
The surge of interest in her work has been entirely unexpected and wonderful, she said, resonating with other educators teaching online, as well as students.
“The emails from my students have meant the most to me,” MacNeil said. “There’s been a few students who say, ‘it’s so funny, it made me laugh.’ This idea of them seeing their weekly lecture video and wanting to share it with their family really made me feel great.”
Noah James, a third year medical sciences student, gave MacNeil’s videos a positive review in a Brock University press release. Every week, they put a smile on his face, he said.
“Not only are the introductions creative, but she has hit on so many contemporary pop culture references just adding to the overall quality,” said James. “She has done an incredible job at keeping learning fun this semester while taking full advantage of digital lessons.”