How does COVID-19 challenge entrenched ways of thinking about the purposes and content of education? What literacies does COVID-19 call for?


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Duygu Kasdogan's picture
May 7, 2020

When I read the commentary on COVID-19 and Higher Education, it reminded me an article published in the early days of the transition to online teaching. In this article entitled "The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning," the authors emphasize the importance of naming (what we regularly refer as) online teaching as "emergency remote teaching": 

"Online learning carries a stigma of being lower quality than face-to-face learning, despite research showing otherwise. These hurried moves online by so many institutions at once could seal the perception of online learning as a weak option, when in truth nobody making the transition to online teaching under these circumstances will truly be designing to take full advantage of the affordances and possibilities of the online format."

"Researchers in educational technology, specifically in the subdiscipline of online and distance learning, have carefully defined terms over the years to distinguish between the highly variable design solutions that have been developed and implemented: distance learning, distributed learning, blended learning, online learning, mobile learning, and others. Yet an understanding of the important differences has mostly not diffused beyond the insular world of educational technology and instructional design researchers and professionals. Here, we want to offer an important discussion around the terminology and formally propose a specific term for the type of instruction being delivered in these pressing circumstances: emergency remote teaching."

Let's re-read a quote in the commentary by Robert Pose in the light of above notes: 

"The sudden brutal switch to online learning is the most obvious consequence for higher education of the pandemic. Everyone now accepts online teaching because everyone regards it as necessary to reduce serious health hazards. But after the pandemic recedes, it is likely economic forces will seek to keep online learning in place, because it is far cheaper than education before the pandemic."

I think we need much more nuanced and careful approach to the possibility of continuing online teaching in the aftermath of COVID-19 without reducing the discussion to the terms of economics. Since many universities have shifted to emergency remote teaching without necesarily having the required experience and infrastructure in online teaching, there appear many concerns beyond economics, at least in my university, e.g., the lack of regular communication between students and educators appear as a concern of the authorities beyond of teachers.  

Amanda Windle's picture
May 7, 2020

After reading the essays attached to this question, I was left overwhelmed. I had to walk away before finishing them as it was just way too much...  Returning to any sense of a  “normal” state of affairs is undesirable. And, to remain in the present, I would convey that there is a greater need for mentorship and encouragement of independent thinking/doing.

There are further challenges more specifically related to appropriate ways of guiding and enabling kinaesthetic learning. Those teaching practical subjects usually taught out of a studio will face tactile challenges and many more.

In relation to the online educational spaces, it's really hard to read the micro-expressions of either solidarity or dissent in online interactions. It’s more than just exploring the literacy of online asynchronous online pedagogy, it’s about understanding the limitations of the tools, be that Zoom or Skype or another tool like Slack, Micro, Trello, etc.