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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning | EDUCAUSE

The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning | EDUCAUSE

The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning

Well-planned online learning experiences are meaningfully different from courses offered online in response to a crisis or disaster. Colleges and universities working to maintain instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic should understand those differences when evaluating this emergency remote teaching.

Due to the threat of COVID-19, colleges and universities are facing decisions about how to continue teaching and learning while keeping their faculty, staff, and students safe from a public health emergency that is moving fast and not well understood. Many institutions have opted to cancel all face-to-face classes, including labs and other learning experiences, and have mandated that faculty move their courses online to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The list of institutions of higher education making this decision has been growing each day. Institutions of all sizes and types—state colleges and universities, Ivy League institutions, community colleges, and others—are moving their classes online.1 Bryan Alexander has curated the status of hundreds of institutions.2
Moving instruction online can enable the flexibility of teaching and learning anywhere, anytime, but the speed with which this move to online instruction is expected to happen is unprecedented and staggering. Although campus support personnel and teams are usually available to help faculty members learn about and implement online learning, these teams typically support a small pool of faculty interested in teaching online. In the present situation, these individuals and teams will not be able to offer the same level of support to all faculty in such a narrow preparation window. Faculty might feel like instructional MacGyvers, having to improvise quick solutions in less-than-ideal circumstances. No matter how clever a solution might be—and some very clever solutions are emerging—many instructors will understandably find this process stressful.

The temptation to compare online learning to face-to-face instruction in these circumstances will be great. In fact, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education has already called for a "grand experiment" doing exactly that.3 This is a highly problematic suggestion, however. First and foremost, the politics of any such debate must be acknowledged. "Online learning" will become a politicized term that can take on any number of meanings depending on the argument someone wants to advance. In talking about lessons learned when institutions moved classes online during a shutdown in South Africa, Laura Czerniewicz starts with this very lesson and what happened around the construct of "blended learning" at the time.4 The idea of blended learning was drawn into political agendas without paying sufficient attention to the fact that institutions would make different decisions and invest differently, resulting in widely varying solutions and results from one institution to another. With some of that hindsight as wisdom, we seek to advance some careful distinctions that we hope can inform the evaluations and reflections that will surely result from this mass move by colleges and universities.
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 CONTINUE READING: The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning | EDUCAUSE