by Danny Wu
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, educational technology departments across the world, including our own, have been required to switch our services online. Of course, in the beginning there was much difficulty for staff and faculty to adjust to the new normal and there are still hardships. Some faculty resonate with one-on-one support more than others, and remote work has definitely required staff to be extra attentive and diligent to get points and services across without diminishing quality. However, while not ideal in the beginning, this change has offered us a glimpse into different ways higher education institutions can continue to function and provide for staff and students.
Support through phone services has mostly been the same. If faculty or students need support, they can always reach us. One of the difficulties that arises is when faculty or students prefer physical support to guide them. A solution to this has been screen sharing via programs such as Blackboard Collaborate or WebEx in order to replicate the on-site support as much as possible. The more difficult challenges come from services such as workshops. Everyone learns at different speeds and different methods. To coordinate a workshop via multiple participants remotely can lead to confusion and offset the presenter’s direction of the workshop. Remedies to this have been to have assistants in the chat as well to address questions so the presenter can continue with the workshop. Another major issue is bringing faculty up to speed with Blackboard since
Many instructors haven’t used the LMS before. While guides and workshops are provided, a majority of the learning will have to come from the faculty. It is best to learn from experience rather than from theory. To provide students with the best possible education, there should be a system in place for an institution to provide a standard of how online course design should be built and assess that professors who built those courses are also well prepared in teaching them as well.
The quick change to remote learning can be considered “Emergency Remote Teaching” (Bond et al.). This may cause a decrease in quality of instruction and courses; however, in times of crisis the primary objective in the beginning is to “provide temporary access to instruction and instructional supports in a manner that is quick to set up and is reliably available” (Bond et. al). Over time the quality of the courses can be improved with experience from faculty going up and feedback from students. When it comes to designing the best possible online course, there are many modalities to consider, such as pacing, instructor role online, student role online, source of feedback, pedagogy, student-instructor ratio, etc. It is best to consider what the learners require most when building this course (Bond et al.).
No one expected education would become the way it was months ago. However, this is also an opportunity for higher education to explore online learning in more ways than ever before. Forced to adapt, online learning will now be a new normal. With this in mind, we can all work diligently on creating what is best for our faculty and students in digitalized education.
Hodges, et al. “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning.” EDUCAUSE Review, 27 Mar. 2020, er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning.