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Covid-19 and the next great pedagogic transformation

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

DB Roberts

Because disease forced distance upon us, universities embraced the need to provide services remotely. It was transformative. For centuries, people came to university and almost out of the blue, universities had somehow to come to people. It isn't the first great change brought from without upon which universities have had to react. Another recent upheaval was digitization. But that one, from a pedagogic perspective, was squandered.

according to critics like Tom Schrand and AB Fraser. Back in the late 1990s, the new digital era led to new teaching platforms like PowerPoint that could have heralded a new pedagogic order because they are capable of so much more than we use them for. However, too often we turned it into ‘shovelware’, churning bulk text, documents and bullet points through those new digital platforms and creating 'Death by PowerPoint' scenarios our students - and we - do not deserve. It could have been a great pedagogic transformation.

A Second Great Transformation?

The current move online offers an opportunity to ensure digital curriculum delivery is not a second technological wave in which we simply 'repackage our pre-digital course materials and our traditional pedagogies of passive student learning’. Instead, digital delivery in the virtual realm provides an opportunity to bring pedagogy in line with two key matters: how the brain works, and how the world works. Our brains are multimedia. Our teaching should match that. We live in the most multimedia of all eras, and the world beyond academia reflects that. But curriculum design and delivery remain obstinately monomedia, privileging the word over the image instead of conjoining both. Utilizing online delivery to deliver in multimedia modes would bring pedagogic methods into alignment with how the brain is scientifically shown to work neurologically: like the rest of the human body, it works better when fed a balanced diet, in this case, words and images. It could be a second great pedagogic transformation.

This is no whim; it is supported by half a century of cognitive psychology and works regardless of culture, age, gender or location because it mirrors our neurological architectures. This is an opportunity to discuss how virtual delivery can synergise scientific discovery and pedagogic practice to better engage our students and avoid making the same mistakes we did with the last ‘great pedagogic transformation’.

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