The Chronicle just wrote a piece about Northern Virginia Community College and how the school has incorporated online teaching into its emergency plan (i.e. teach online when natural disaster strikes).
It’s great that this institution is setting a minimum level at which teachers are required to be trained in the use of some technologies, and even greater that training is being provided. However, if the motivation is to get courses online fast in case a disaster strikes sooner rather than later, it makes me wonder how thoroughly sound pedagogical principles are being considered. If they aren’t high on the agenda, then what we have here is an all too common scenario in which face-to-face courses are just being ‘transferred online’. Translation: weekly PowerPoint presentations, a few handouts, some links and maybe a room change announcement are all that students are going to get out of their virtual learning experience.
I’m just not grasping the logic here. Why do we have to have an emergency before we start considering the benefits of online learning? I suppose that one good thing to come out of this type of practice is that it’s getting people to rethink the way that they can deliver their courses, but who is to say that an Internet connection or even a power source will be accessible in a natural disaster?!
I suppose that sometimes…it takes the perception of necessity to get us to embrace change…or, at least to start thinking about how that embrace would look.