A rare digression into talking here about the day job.
Last week saw a rush to online teaching in universities across North America and Europe in response to the coronavirus pandemic, on an impossibly short timescale. I’ve been part of a masters programme focussed on digital education for well over a decade, teaching online that whole time, but situated in an education school dominated by face-to-face teaching of mainly international students, and recognise the impossibility of turning around on a dime one’s entire way of teaching in the way that’s being proposed or imposed on people. It’s going to have to be a stripped-down approach if it’s going to work at all, and won’t be the model of online delivery that would be ideal, but nothing about this situation is ideal and people will just be trying to do their best under straitened circumstances. Some are now calling this “remote teaching” to distinguish it from teaching designed to be delivered online, to reflect its compromised nature.
My own university has been taking Herculean steps to support remote teaching. Even with only a couple of weeks left of the entirely online course I’m running this semester, I’m concerned for students who will be trying to complete their final assignments during the peak of the outbreak in most of their countries. I’m also concerned that already being online teachers won’t do my colleagues and me much good if our school’s face-to-face international student numbers plummet in September. My alma mater in Australia is slashing courses from 514 to 120 in the wake of the impact of coronavirus.
Ever since the first signs appeared on Twitter early last week, I’ve been thinking that discussing this moment is going to take up at least a week of a course I run next semester, and possibly more. This is going to be a milestone in the story of online course delivery, in many ways a negative one, and our field is going to be talking about it for years.