Welcome to a new issue of UPCEA UNBOUND. We are glad that you are here. One of the new strategies that we have employed with UNBOUND is to release smaller editions on a more frequent basis. We hope that you are finding that helpful. We welcome your feedback to see if this strategy is actually working.
In this issue, we have two very different articles around the topic of remote instruction and online learning. When the pandemic hit and all face-to-face classes were moved to a virtual format, we learned some valuable lessons and gained some important insights. Probably the most outstanding insight was that all virtual learning is not created equal. In fact, many institutions differentiated between remote virtual learning and online learning. The former often referred to classes that were once f2f but were now delivered via Zoom or WebEx or another synchronous desktop videoconferencing tool. Online learning was reserved as a term to describe those courses that traditionally had been called online learning – designed and built from the ground up to serve as, primarily, asynchronous courses that were highly interactive and had multiple components, even multiple technologies, built in. Online courses built in this fashion take time, planning and expertise to be properly executed.
While we moved quickly to keep students and faculty out of classrooms, we found myriad ways to continue to deliver coursework. Some of the delivery was intentionally short-term, with a full expectation to return to f2f. Other courses were formulated for immediate short term delivery but with the intention and expectation that they would go through a longer development cycle so as to be delivered online in the future, even post pandemic. In this issue we look at the technical challenges of online learning and we also address the thoughts and strategies of academic leaders concerning this shift in instruction. The pairing of these articles is intentional – the shift to a virtual environment was not just a technical problem to be solved, as significant as that was. Rather, there were fundamental questions about teaching and learning that had to be answered. In other words, our paradigm shifted dramatically and it wasn’t just the technology. In this issue, we consider what the implications may be for the future of teaching and learning.
As vaccinations get successfully deployed and our world begins to return to more of what passes for “normal”, we are left with a wide variety of issues to consider. How should/will our personal behavior change post-pandemic? What must we do to be better prepared for the next pandemic? And, in our area of professional and continuing and online learning, how will our practice be changed post-pandemic? What have we learned from our students and from faculty who suddenly had to teach in a virtual environment? What have we learned about the nature of teaching and learning that can translate to better practice and more effective learning? What new technology tools are worth keeping, even using more expansively, and which dogs won’t hunt?
Together let’s continue the conversation that addresses these questions and more. In the meantime, enjoy this issue. I hope that you will find at least two good ideas to inform your own professional practice. And I hope that you will let us know how we can make UNBOUND even better and more useful for you.
Here’s to better practice,
Dr. Richard J. Novak
Vice President for Continuing Studies and Distance Education
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey