Agile Learning Design: Post Covid.
Major change has been a constant throughout higher education in the last 50 years. The drivers of learning and teaching innovation and development are super-complex.
Hence a high level of resilience is needed to transform modes of learning and teaching, even with the best of wills, whilst maintaining purpose, reputation, and missions. During the first decade of the 21st Century, there was widespread investment in and adoption of learning platforms, such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs, sometimes called Learning Management Systems, LMSs).
By the second decade of the century, it was recognised that the digital revolution was impacting rather more slowly on education compared to other sectors…evolutionary rather than revolutionary. There was a passionate intent to improve quality and equity, to reach more learners at lower cost, as well as to education them better. There was a gradual move to recognising that embracing learning technology is fruitless on its own. It needs good learning design, strong evidence-based pedagogical input, and the sensitive handling of delivery by online tutors.
Then the 3rd decade arrived and brought with it the extraordinary challenge. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic injected a rocket into the careful, well-rehearsed, campus-focused, and historic ways of teaching.
Technology platform providers immediately made increased virtual space and affordances available. Academic staff stepped up to their computers on a massive and impressive scale. Everyone used all their energy and creativity to problem-solve. Super rapid training and development was offered and taken up.
However, as I write, 5 months after this began, the University sector (and many other education, development and training sectors) are regrouping in order to sustain remoteness where necessary and appropriate, but also to enable flexibility, quality and full learner engagement for the next steps. Most are recognising they cannot ‘reengineer the aircraft’ in flight.
So, they are looking to ‘jump over’ and carry with them the successes and failures that have gone before. Most are sensibly looking for clues from those who were able to work through this in slower times.
For me, learning design is one good way of jumping over and in. Clearly this needs to be done in collaborative co-design ways, for acceptability with speed. And ensure the models and frameworks in play are well rehearsed, offer opportunities for creative thinking and practice, and can be fully contextualised. At this early stage, it’s best in my view to use the existing VLE/LMS (safer, well supported platforms) and keep the focus on the pedagogical transformation to flexible, engaged student-centred learning.
Can it be done in time- for September 20; or for January 21? Of course, it can. Take a breath, then Jump In. The changes will meet maximum flexibility with quality education, and fast. It’s a good test tactic to inform your 2021 strategies. May even lead to desirable pathways to create your preferred futures.
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