How has COVID-19 impacted Higher Education? Questions over Online Learning

By Julian McDougall

Professor in Media and Education, Head of the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

I had been teaching on online or blended programmes for eight years and, when COVID-19 hit, in our centre we found ourselves in demand, to support colleagues with the ‘pivot’ to online or virtual. But there was a tension between the requests for ‘how to’ and our lived experience of the ‘why’ and all of the complexities that make such a big difference. Things like the socio-material context for every different student and the way that learning gets designed with more knowledge exchange between students and teachers, often, by necessity in the online space. And then all the mindset stuff – like moving away from a deficit model of online as a supplement or virtual version of the campus, towards thinking of the virtual space as a ‘de-situated’ campus, or going further to think about ‘we, the campus’ – the people, not the buildings. But also the politics – who owns the platforms, what about surveillance, what happens to diversity and inclusion?

Critical questions, for critical practice.

So, writing for this book series was perfect. I chose to start with the configuration of time, space, machines and people, so that from the outset the book would be talking about these elements ‘in play’. Then I wrote about people in relational practices, again not thinking about online relations as being a version of something ‘real’, but maybe as ‘more than human’. And then onto assessment, socio-cultural politics and decolonising the online curriculum. I was mainly curating research and practice by other people, trying to bring together the most important learning from pre-COVID and situating the pandemic experience in that, as well as projecting forward to the ‘new normal’ and various futuring discourses. For that purpose, I finished with a recorded panel in which I asked a group of key thinkers in the online learning world to think about their work in the frames of reference from Newman’s ‘The Idea of a University’. Maybe, and probably despite our instincts, the virtual learning environment can get us closer to that ethical, values-driven vision of what higher education can be?

So, I hope it all joins up and the reader is challenged by this book to think more critically about online learning but also enabled in their practice, and the series format makes that prominent, raising questions for practice. I started the book with a quote:

When distance once again becomes a choice, not a necessity, we will collectively be in a better and more informed position to understand it as a positive principle in many contexts.” (Bayne et al, 2020, pxix).

At the time of writing this post, in October 2021, in the UK, when we are not isolating for short periods, we are largely back to making decisions about where to be and how to teach, face to face, blended, asynchronous. Hopefully that will remain so. But I hope also that this book will contribute to this sense of greater confidence, this more secure, more informed relationship with online learning as a way of being in HE, a pedagogic design choice, rather than a force majeure.

Julian McDougall is the author of Critical Approaches to Online Learning.

Available now in Paperback, EPUB, and PDF for just £12.99!

ISBN: 9781914171017

Edition No : 1

Extent : 100 pgs

Publication : Oct 3, 2021


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By: thecriticalblog
Title: How has COVID-19 impacted Higher Education? Questions over Online Learning
Sourced From: thecriticalblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/07/how-has-covid-19-impacted-higher-education-questions-over-online-learning/
Published Date: Thu, 07 Oct 2021 09:00:00 +0000

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