The COVID-19 Online Dash: What Does This Mean For Online Teaching And Learning?
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The COVID-19 Online Dash: What Does This Mean For Online Teaching And Learning?

Like me, most of you reading this are in the midst of the dash/scramble/jump/shift or any number of rapid (and let’s face it anxiety-ridden) synonyms to move to online teaching and learning. We’re reacting to a crisis and doing the best we can to transition content, activities, and assessments to online tools and platforms. In some cases, it’s a smooth process; in other cases, it's a painful exercise; and in still others, there is a feeling of being in the Wild West. I applaud you all in the effort. Sincerely.

Let’s be clear and honest: this is not online learning in the broader sense of the term. Online learning is thoughtful, planned, explained, practiced—in a word, designed. This is not that. This is a stopgap reaction to the crisis. And that’s OK! Still, one has to wonder what this will mean for online education efforts in the long term. This is a potential space of opportunity as well as of detriment to even the best-laid plans.

Opportunity

For many, this will be the first time that they really have to dive fully into the online experience either as teachers or as learners. The hope is that as more folks have a decent experience of online spaces, they will also be more amenable and readier to consider full or partial adoption of online technologies in the future.

  • Hopefully, most instructors, teachers, and facilitators will have a pleasant experience teaching with the tools and platforms available. Or, at least they’ll get a good enough sense of the potential for engaging students using these tools.
  • Hopefully, most students will also have a good experience in the online space. Even if it isn’t perfect, they should come away with the real experience that they can learn anywhere.

Detriment

It’s also very possible that online teachers and learners will have a poor experience during this time. A poor experience may reinforce negative preconceptions of online teaching and drive them away from the potential of engaging in online education in the future.

  • If instructors, teachers, and facilitators encounter too many hurdles, difficulties, or frustrations with the tools and platforms, they may decide it's not worth it. This may also lead to long-term implications as they discuss their experiences with others.
  • If students have a negative or confusing experience, they too may be turned off to future online learning opportunities. They may also communicate these perceptions to others to the detriment of your brand.

So, this is a time of both opportunity and potential detriment and can be a critical time for the perception of online teaching and learning for your institution.

4 Tips To Consider During This "Online Dash"

In recognizing the importance of this period, consider these 4 tips to give yourself and others a good and realistic experience during this time.

1. Keep It Simple

Leave the more complex interactions and activities for when there’s more time. Even if you are an advanced teacher or online professional, remember that now is the time to raise everyone’s capacity, not to demonstrate advanced ability.

2. Keep Expectations Realistic

Everyone is working hard to make this transition happen. Keep your expectations and demands within the bounds of reality and give yourself and others grace and space to breathe.

3. Get Involved

Join the training events and support services that your institution is likely offering to you. Ask questions and provide support to others in whatever capacity you feel most appropriate to the joint effort of providing a coherent online experience.

4. Get Out Of The Way

It’s easy to want to jump in and contribute, and in times of crisis, we know that its often all hands-on deck. However, there are also times when too many hands can unintentionally create confusion. Remember to support without obstructing and help keep morale high!

Again, I sincerely applaud and support all the efforts that folks have been making in this time of rapid transition. Remember to extend grace and support to each other. This transition is not going to be easy or perfect but hopefully, it will give folks a sense of what’s possible.

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