This past week this project released a special report entitled Understanding Pandemic Pedagogy: Differences Between Emergency Remote, Remote, and Online Teaching. Over the past couple of days, we noticed this item in Stephen’s Web ~ OLDaily – December 25, 2020.
The three challenges are: being authentic, authentic assessment, and support. I can’t deny that these are challenges and that they are enduring. With respect to the first, Jason Openo writes, “nothing happens naturally online.” True, but let’s note that we invest billions in salaries and infrastructure to facilitate that which happens ‘naturally’ offline. What are ‘office hours’ without an office? With respect to assessment, while little has changed in the past, perhaps the pandemic has forced professors to finally rethink the practice. And finally, support for everybody has long been an issue. “The continuum of care from the learning environment to the support infrastructure often breaks down.” Good short article (13 page PDF). Image: WEForum.
While this author of the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology conflates emergency remote teaching, remote teaching, and online teaching, he does underscore the general perception in the media and with the parents and children that have been exposed to it for the past ten month (i.e., that there are all the same). However, that doesn’t negate the important message that is contained in the article.
online education, interactivity, authentic assessment, professional development, student supports, COVID-19 pandemic
Closed campuses, working remotely, and physical distancing have changed the way we work, teach, learn, shop, attend conferences, and interact with family and friends. But the Covid-19 pandemic has not changed what we know about creating high-end online education. Two decades of research has shown that online education often fails to fulfill its promise, and the emergency shift to remote instruction has, for many, justified their distrust and dislike of online learning. Low interactivity remains a widely recognized short-coming of current online offerings. Low interactivity results, in part, from many faculty not feeling comfortable being themselves online. The long-advocated for era of authentic assessments is needed now more than ever. Finally, greater support is needed for both underrepresented students and for faculty to move beyond basic online instruction to create a strong continuum of care between the teaching and learning environment and the student support infrastructure. For those who have been long-term champions of online education, it has never been more important to confront the three biggest challenges that continue to haunt online education – interactivity, authenticity, and support. Only by confronting these challenges squarely can instructors, educational developers, and their institutions take huge steps towards better online instruction in the midst of a pandemic and make widespread, high-quality online education permanently part of the “new normal.”
These three challenges have been historic challenges of online learning. If you add digital equity issues to the list, these three challenges are also the main challenges facing emergency remote teaching and remote teaching. In a fairly nuanced way, Openo concludes the article by writing:
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unpredicted and unprecedented spike in online learning activity, now being called emergency remote instruction. These are not normal circumstances, and they are not the ideal circumstances in which to grow online education. Right now, online education is the safest and most responsible approach, but it is important not to confuse low-end emergency online instruction with high-end online education. For the past two decades, these three big challenges of interactivity, authenticity, and support have prevented online education from reaching its full potential and achieving its promise. The current backlash is not against online education, but against low-end online education. Only by confronting these challenges squarely can instructors, educational developers, and their institutions take huge steps towards better online instruction in the midst of a pandemic and make it permanently part of the “new normal.” (Openo, 2020, p. 8)
And even though the article is written about a higher education context, it should be required reading for everyone in the K-12 environment before they return to school in 2021.