Online Learning?

Over the last few months the rhetoric around returning to campus and teaching face to face has become clouded by the fear that student experience will suffer if we have “online learning”. This was a confusing message for many of us in higher education who have been supporting staff to use online tools and other technology to enhance and support the learning and teaching at our respective universities for years and not without some success. However, it has frequently been noted that since the emergency pivot to online, it was not, unsurprisingly, the experience that academic colleagues had hoped for and in some cases caused a lot of stress and anxiety for both the staff teaching and the students who were trying to learn in very difficult circumstances. But that was in an emergency.

Some clarity over online learning

It is not all or nothing, everything virtual and nothing in a physical environment. There is a spectrum of digital content based on the design of the course. Tony Bates calls this a ‘continuum’. The key is the design because with that comes a thoughtful approach which includes your rationale for use which should include the benefits for your students.

The QAA has produced guidance which can help manage expectations Taxonomy for Digital Learning which provides examples and gives a clarification of terms.

Obviously, the ongoing pandemic has had an impact on the perception of online learning which has been nicely captured in Has online learning gone backwards because of the Pandemic by Tony Bates. It include a link to the Leaders and Legends of Online Learning podcast and their interview with Diana Laurillard, who is always interesting to hear from.

There really is a lot of research about the effectiveness and affordances of online learning and I hope that we can all take some time to be reflexive learners ourselves and embrace the (online) changes that lie ahead.

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