Club Admiralty

v7.2 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Pondering what to learn next 🤔

Who moved my cheese?


I was reading Twitter the other daaayyy (just picture someone from Letterkenny saying this😜) and I came upon yet another discussion that basically boiled down to online (or remote) versus face-to-face. I made the mistake of reading the replies🙄.  

On the one hand, I was hoping that there would be a more nuanced discussion (and to be fair, I did get those types of replies from people I follow), but there were so many more about "online not being for everyone,"  about how people who teach face to face can "see if their points are landing and if learners are confused," or how "face to face is easier for building community" (maybe for you extroverts...🤨), or even "online works great if you love reading information off a screen and taking self-paced tests" (someone's learning like it's 1999...🤣) and other such (insert word/phrase of your choice). Obviously, the quotes are paraphrased.

I became upset and irritated reading such non-sense posts, so I took a step away and reflected on one of my MBA courses from a long long time ago: Change Management. I am not necessarily upset at individual faculty who are biased toward physically-proximal learning (although they do raise my blood pressure at times), I've dealt with similar biases over the past decade teaching INSDSG684 (but in class, I have a whole semester to work with learners on these perceptions, twitter's 280 characters aren't suited for this). These beliefs are what they've been enculturated in, and if their institutions didn't expect them to continue with their professional development into different pedagogies and modalities, they aren't necessarily to blame. They've remained in their bubble. However, I am also reminded that this is a perfect Who Moved My Cheese situation. This is a kid's book that we read and discussed as part of the Change Management course and it's a story about adapting to change (see Wikipedia for synopsis)

As I write this we are concluding our second full year of COVID, and all that this entails. The coming year, 2022, doesn't look to be any better, and I blame university administrators (broadly as an industry, not any particular institution) and complicit faculty who are stuck on a physically-proximal teaching modality for our collective burnout.  They keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change (That's the definition of insanity, according to Vaas😆).

Listen, I get it.  In March 2020, we didn't know the extent of this pandemic.  We were, in earnest, doing emergency remote teaching.  Everyone who had a class in a physically-proximal modality was moved so quickly online that they probably got virtual whiplash.  Many faculty were not prepared to teach in a virtual setting, yet there they were.  They did the best they could and should be applauded. The same with learners.  They were not prepared to be at a distance, but they did the best they could to wrap up the spring 2020 semester.

Summer 2020 came and we were all talk. Committees were formed at campuses across the nation (maybe even the world) with the mandate to have different plans for different contingencies, and their (administrator's) hearts were filled with hope that we'd once again be physically-proximal in the fall.  We know that this didn't happen.  Neither did it happen in Spring 2021, nor in Summer 2021.  At my institution, in Fall 2021 we brought back some classes, but we've also had to deal with masks, enforcing vaccination requirements, still getting sick, being away from class and quarantined, and being worried about getting sick.  This is not normal. 🙄. We keep pining for physically-proximal learning and the good ol' days (which weren't that good for all learners, but let's put that aside for the moment). It ain't gonna happen in 2022 (putting on my Nostradamus hat🎩). Stop doing the same stuff over and over again and hoping for a different result.  That's not how science works (we're in academia after all!)

As we are bracing for the third year of the pandemic, how about we collectively make a resolution to be realistic about the situations we're facing and not have faith of the heart that some miracle will happen and covid will just disappear? Barring some sort of mass vaccination success where everyone is vaccinated, I don't see that happening because we are, apparently, selfish as a species.  So what does this more realistic outlook look like?

First, let's accept that we should no longer be in emergency mode for most classes. Emergency was March 2020, and perhaps Summer & Fall 2020.  Anything beyond that is really us putting our heads in the sand by expecting to go back, and then having the Surprised Pikachu face when we're told that we're going to be remote.  It's not good for students, it's not good for faculty, and it's not good for staff.  How about we use our time constructively to prepare our faculty members to teach good online and blended courses for the duration of this pandemic?

Second, let's prepare faculty.  I mean really prep them.  A once-and-done BootCamp doesn't really do much good beyond emergency management.  For the spring semester give every faculty a courseload reduction (or reduce expectations for other types of service and publishing) and create faculty support communities to be better distance and blended educators.  Once the spring semester is over, pay faculty, especially adjuncts during the summer months to be learners themselves. To attend workshops and work on their fall and spring semester course materials. Be prepared, even if you're prepping to go back to a physically-proximal mode of teaching. Have a backup!

Third, let's help students become successful at any modality. In our physically-proximal teaching modalities, we let our learner's past experience do a lot of the heavy lifting in student preparation. If we're being honest with one another, it really is a sink-or-swim situation. We can do better, and we really should!  We should help learners navigate being a learner in higher education, both before they start their journey with us, and through our curricula. Part of this may actually involve campus space for learners to go have access to computing, internet, and quiet study space that is safe.

Finally, we need learner-friendly policies.  One awesome policy change, during the first year of the pandemic, was that learners were able to withdraw from a class on the last day of courses.  This way, if they had a chance of passing and wanted to get a course over and done with they could see where things stood on the last day of class and decide then if they wanted to stay or withdraw.  In this academic year that's gone, and we're back to the old system where learners need to decide 1 month before the semester ends if they are staying or going.  Seems unfriendly to learners if you ask me 🤷‍♂️. There are other learner-friendly policies that have cropped up over the last 2 years.  Why not learn from them and actually make them part of standard operations?

So...instead of resigning ourselves to be yoyos by opting for campus-first and then scurrying along back to "emergency remote" when it's not possible, how about we plan a little? How about we acknowledge that offering a good class experience takes time for faculty and staff, and it takes energy from students. That energy gets sapped when we're all working from an emergency position with no stable footing, not just for students, but also for faculty and staff.  There are few things worse in a work environment than dealing with an emergency that could have been prevented or even mitigated.  Not every course can be fully online, we get that. Labs can have components that are virtual, but at some point, you need hands-on time with beakers, test tubes, centrifuges, breadboards, accelerometers, and oscilloscopes (depending on your discipline).  Planning for a smart return to campus is better for all involved.

Just my 2c.  What do you think? 

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