Mindless online pedagogy: “It was the worst of times”

Nan Bahr, March 24, 2020

With the Universities working to respond to students in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, I’m hearing phrases like “pivot to online” and “flip to online” as though there is a switch to flick. Academics are recording full lectures and simply loading them up for their students. Near enough is good enough. It’s been a race to get “content” online with absolutely no consideration of how the concepts may now be learned and demonstrated. It’s a race to the bottom for effective pedagogy and I fear that the students will now lose a great degree of quality in their learning.

I’m not saying that technologies are not up to snuff for teaching and learning. Contemporary innovative educators have shown and embraced technology as an effective means to provide authentic engagement opportunities for their learners. Over many years now, the early adopters, and the not so early adopters, have found exciting ways to curate resources, design and present assessment, package instruction, and to connect learners with each other and the course staff. The effective use of technologies has involved a careful consideration of their affordances for the desired learning, and for the demonstration of learning outcomes.

Further, a huge body of research, design and development has supported the inclusion into pedagogy of such things as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, staged and interactive learning platforms. We have come to understand the importance of managing cognitive load, and of not burying the concepts to be learned under layers of impenetrable complexity. I could go on, but let’s just say, the affordances of technology for learning are established in a mature relationship for many contemporary educators. But that’s all gone. It is clear the leap to online in the face of COVID-19 has thrown this all away. I wonder if we have the heart to intervene.

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