Analogue becomes digital: An educationalists’ perspective on teaching and learning in times of the COVID-19 pandemic
In March 2020, I started working at FASoS as an educationalist. It seemed like a clear job, working at the educational policy department on a couple of ongoing projects. How little did I know about the changes that were about to come in March last year. This blog presents an educationalist’s perspective on teaching and learning in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the first lockdown, the world just paused, distraught by the new situation. Same for the academic world, where teaching and learning needed a new format because the analogue ways were suddenly no longer compatible with reality. Large lectures for groups of students were no longer allowed, direct contact between teachers and students in one room suddenly felt awkward, massive exams were forbidden. A phase of confusion and uncertainty started.
During that phase, my job at FASoS became unclear. What did I know about digitalisation, establishing a full online educational programme, transforming offline to online courses, using new technologies and innovative tools? In a short period, I needed to transform my ‘old’ knowledge of non-digital didactics, course design and teaching theories, into a fast-changing offer of online teaching and learning. Instead of working on ongoing educational projects with lots of time to dig into research material, we were immediately assigned to form a taskforce Online Teaching & Learning. Analogue became digital.
This transformation brought some interesting challenges to the job, as well as to teaching and learning in general. Besides that, it has brought stress, uncertainty, and a great demand for flexibility and resilience of teachers and support staff. Let me start with a couple of good things this transformation has delivered. Since there are some to highlight.
Firstly, it initiated changes in the way in which we perceive teaching and learning. In discussions with several colleagues, it quickly became clear that simply converting courses one-to-one to digital formats and doing things “the way we have always done it” but then online, was not the best option. The lockdown situation inspired new ideas and experiments, doing PBL in unconventional ways while still adhering to its core principles and achieving our intended learning outcomes. Maybe this changed perspective on more traditional ways of organising a PBL course has brought a slow switch to a more diverse educational format.
Moreover, it may have brought a switch to a broader perspective on digitalisation. Not only can you use digital tools to store learning material, but you can also use them for group discussions, online dialogues or collecting learning analytics. We have learnt a lot so far.
Secondly, two major gains of the lockdown situation are visible: unconventional collaboration between colleagues at different levels and lots of creative thinking and troubleshooting. We have, for instance, seen a growth of the number of webinars, stop-motion movies, knowledge clips, online drinks, break-out rooms, virtual tours and online etiquettes.
Colleagues experienced stress and uncertainty, especially caused by the sudden change of educational formats. The idea of hybrid education in which on- and offline teaching and learning are combined, a changing demand for logistics and educational organisation, concerns for student’s wellbeing and an increased workload, became “gamechangers”.
I have seen it all during many webinars and in the conversations that I have had with colleagues. How can you organise ZOOM tutorials with students abroad studying from home, and in a different time-zone? Can you still require students with a deficient WIFI connection to attend tutorials? How can you transform your MECC-exam to a digital version that complies with exam rules and privacy regulations? There were no made-to-measure answers to these questions.
On top of that, we have all experienced the rapid changes in government policy and lockdown regulations, which have had a great impact. Unavoidable, and sometimes unpredictable, government regulations made it very difficult to accommodate and to facilitate teaching and learning as we used to know it. Rules like ‘a maximum of 4 in a room of x square meters’ one moment, and two weeks later ‘total lockdown’, have drawn on everybody’s energy and resilience.
Luckily, up until now we have tackled all of these problems, one way or another. In the end, I am looking back at an unexpected year during which I have rapidly learnt to be flexible and to be an inventive digital educationalist.
Lokanath, M., Gupta, T., & Shree, A. (2020). Online teaching-learning in higher education during lockdown period of COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Educational Research Open, 1, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2020.100012
SYKES (2021). Survey report: Student perceptions of online learning in Higher Education during COVID-19. https://www.sykes.com/resources/reports/college-online-learning-experience-survey/
About the author
Diede is an educationalist in the faculty’s Educational Policy and Development team (EDaP). After graduating in two Bachelors and Masters of Science in Child Development Studies and Educational Sciences, Diede started working for Economics and Business at University of Amsterdam. After a couple of years, she moved to her birthplace Rotterdam, where she became part of the Learning and Innovation team of the Erasmus School of Economics. Diede joined FASoS in 2020.