This post came out of a brainstorming sketch I did while trying to think of ways to help us adapt our way through this crisis and emerge with stronger courses, programs, and institutions. This isn’t how institutions typically behave: typically they do everything they can to maintain the status quo even when it is no longer to their own or anyone else’s benefit (i.e. two party political systems). Survival of the institution can become more important than what the institution was meant to do in the first place. All of that is to say that even though I think we should change, it is often difficult to change in a way that benefits institutions for the long-term. But what could that look like?
Planning for managing online courses through a crisis means that, at the beginning, a lot of short cuts are taken. But as we make these shortcuts to address an emergency, we have an opportunity to plan an evolving elearning strategy that will allow us to develop courses and programs that are more flexible using existing models (i.e. hybrid courses, open pedagogy, etc.). The strategies and pedagogy implied in my chart are my own preferences. I am advocating here for a process not any particular solution: that will depend on the culture, resources, and vision of each institution.
What is a crisis can also be an opportunity for change that will help learning outcomes, costs, and access. For instance, if we use this as an opportunity to increase the use of OER and open source tools, we will be better able to meet the students needs without having to consider cost in the middle of a crisis. Commercial education tech businesses and corporate publishers rely on infrastructures that may not exist in a time of financial crisis. We should be building our own infrastructures as institutions or consortia. This is already happening elsewhere.
More importantly, we can’t rely on corporations who are willing to “help” by giving us temporary discounts or “free” temporary access. It is a gamble that the company will still be standing after a big shake-up in business and education. Even without a crisis, one of the problems with corporate ed tech is that the businesses get bought and sold easily and not always to the benefit of the consumers (i.e. Blackboard and Angel Learning). We should start working on long-term solutions while we manage short-term challenges.
Each stage of the recovery from the pandemic could allow us to do more. We have an opportunity to adapt our institutions into colleges and universities that are more flexible, responsive, and accessible (I include diversity, inclusion, equity as part of my definition of accessibility). My timeline below has everything neatly spaced out as if there are equal periods of time represented. Right now, we have no real idea when the crisis period will end or how long a recovery period we would need. Again, I put this together as a way to think about change.
We know that when a crisis ends, nothing really returns to normal, but we get to choose who we will be when the crisis wanes. A crisis only exacerbates already existing problems. In order for institutions to survive, they will have to learn to grow out of those problems.
I am interested in your ideas about how we can change as institutions to be more adaptable and accessible as we go through this crisis.
I made this in LucidChart. I have this as a pdf if you are interested, and the image below is a png.