With a close down of buildings and even complete lockdowns higher education suddenly shifted to online teaching. A forced experiment of enormous scale. What can we learn from it?
Higher education around Europe is racing to ensure that the coronavirus does not prevent final-year students from completing their degrees and keep all the students engaged. But experts say a sudden shift to online learning is a huge challenge for both staff and students.
Cancelled in-person lectures for the semester are everywhere. Higher education acknowledge that this might be extended to reflect changing advice from local governments. Some institutions are switching to online teaching and exams until the end of the academic year to give students and staff some certainty.
Without any real preparation time staff and students made a radical shift in teaching and learning. Higher education is wrestling with practical problems, including how to deal with workplacement, applied research projects and how to ensure that poorer students with no laptop aren’t shut out. Also the examination at the kitchen table is a big stretch for higher education.
different set of skills
Offcourse higher education already offered some teaching online. But not so many staff has the experience of teaching wholly online and it involves a different set of skills. While staff is doing great stuff to keep students engaged and we are all preparing to be able to move online at short notice we don’t want people to think this is what we mean by online education. This is an emergency response! Although students generally have good digital literacy a lot of students find the overnight switch to online learning a shock.
We are all in unknown territory and we don’t have a clear view of the future anymore. All of this involves a steep learning curve for most teachers and students. This shift will have an enormous impact on teachers and students who already have an intense workload and a lot of pressure. An other big question is if schools and companies are closed, placements can’t happen, so we are working through whether students would need to go back in the autumn, or whether they can be graduated based on the training they have done already? But placements at hospitals will be very different.