The FLANZ panel discussion, held 6th November 2020, was a conversation about how the world of higher education has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and whether the future looks different as a result.
Duncan O’Hara, FLANZ Vice-President and Director, Learning and Teaching, at Massey, University led contributors, Australian-based Professor Neil Selwyn of Murdoch University, and New Zealand-based Professor Giselle Byrne of Massey University, and Dr Simon Paul Atkinson of the Open Polytechnic, through a series of questions.
All contributors agreed that the response of higher education institutions across the globe was nothing short of remarkable. A huge effort had been made, not least by technology-support and academic development units, alongside faculty, to serve students’ needs during pandemic restrictions.
There was a note of caution, however, that having moved so much learning online in haste, that management might perceive it as ‘job done’, a cheaper option or, indeed, a satisfactory learning experience for the majority of learners. The reality is that while some institutions may have seized the opportunity to build from solid foundations and provided an enriched digital experience for their learners, others may have supplied the bare minimal.
The panel largely agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all to learning. So, any decisions by institutions and policymakers need to be context-specific, putting the learner at the heart of any technology choice.
A healthy debate was had around the issue of digital equity, ranging from access to devices, the appropriateness of those devices for the nature of the learning, network access and the disparity in digital literacy that has been emphasised in the Remote Emergency Teaching context resulting from Covid-19.
The importance of design
The conversation turned to the Principles of the Design Justice Network (https://designjustice.org/) advocating that those impacted by design decisions need to be enabled to share their voices. This is as true for the technology tools and platforms in use as it is for the curricula that we curate.
A positive outlook
The struggle to ensure that the learner remains at the centre of institutional policy-making decisions was evident in the discourse. However, the openness of the dialogue, and the questions and comments shared by participants, show great promise for the Australasian region, with all of its heterogeneity, that positive solutions are at hand.
FLANZ thanks the presenters, facilitators and attendees for their involvement. FLANZ encourages you to share this discussion and continue the conversations that shift the sector to quality outcomes for learners, regardless of their situation.