Opinion: Effect of COVID on Distance Education
At the start of 2020, we did not know what this year will hold for us. We didn’t know words #COVID, social distancing, or “speaking moistly”. Words such as pandemic, lock-down, quarantine existed only in the horror movies. COVID affected all aspects of our lives: work, schooling, health, dining, shopping, etc. Since it is a blog about #DistanceEducation and technology, I think it worth to talk about the effect pandemic took on the reputation of distance education.
When orders to work and study from home started to roll out in the middle of March 2020 there was hope that many distance universities around the world will show increase in enrollments. This hope was based on the fact that they have been in “business” for many years and they know how to teach students online. However, there also been worry that other “traditional” educational institutions will catch up with online delivery, making distance universities no longer unique in this regard; and that, in turn, will create tough competition. Now that we are closing door on year 2020, we can see that our hopes materialized, at least short term but the threat is coming not from other institutions delivering exceptional courses to learners or advancing fast in online delivery; in contrary, it is coming from providing a subpar educational experience, when “brick-and-mortar” institutions trying to translate their educational models to online delivery. The reputations of online education, that has been building for the last decades, suffered because of that.
While scrolling through the social media and news, I see many-many posts and articles when people are complaining about online delivery of their classes. They are referring to “Zoom fatigue”, faulty technology, lack of planning, etc. All of them are implying to “bad” quality of online education. However, in my opinion, the experiences are related to monumental unprepared shift from “classroom” teaching to teaching online. Lack of infrastructure, methodical planning, instructional design, and experience are main contributors to “bad-mouthing” the online education now. Online education is based on methodical planning and design of its programs and courses. To deliver quality online education you need appropriate technology and human resources infrastructure, and many hours of hard work to plan, design, develop, and deliver educational resources. It has been proven that neither “face-to-face” nor online education are superior of each other if they align learning outcomes with use of appropriate technologies/methods of delivery, and assessment. This is what is missing right now in many courses/classes that are being switched to online delivery.
Pandemic showed us that education could be sensitive to external factors, and how unprepared we are to react to these sudden changes. However, I want to ask you not to judge distance education by the experiences you, your children or your friends are having at schools that are not normally equipped, or plan to deliver their education online. They are struggling to stay on float and doing their best to do the teaching during this unprecedented time. Distance/online institutions are much better indicator of how things are done properly, so please, if you are interested come and experience the REAL ONLINE EDUCATION that is delivered by the experts in this filed.