Where to start when we make a prediction about how post-secondary education will transform post-pandemic? These are unprecedented times so we don’t have much to base our predictions on. Not much except the brave institutions that are leading the transition back into the classroom and paving the way for the rest of us for a smoother transition. I will therefore base my prediction on my 20 plus years as an educator and from student, faculty, and staff sentiment and feedback. If the transition back into the classroom is done right, even the ” hoary, old baby-boomer professors who not only had never taught online but who never had any interest in doing so” (The Chronicle) will be eager to continue to offer students the flexibility and accessibility of online learning.
“Hybrid” is a common word these days, but it has been a common word for many years already. There will be little debate that classes will demand a hybrid component, but what will that look like? “Flexibility” will accompany the hybrid classroom. Not flexibility with the learner but with the institution and the instructors’ ability to offer their courses when they feel would best promote learning. More of a meet and greet model in the first class and a wrap up in the last could prove popular. From experience I know that the HyFlex model will only cause more anxiety and stress so this option should not be mandated as we transition back into the classroom. This is nothing new, but it certainly wasn’t very common except graduate classes.
Going beyond the hybrid delivery model let’s look at assessment. There is much more knowledge checking then there is authentic assessment. Knowledge check is beneficial when a topic needs to be reinforced before moving on, in other words assessment for learning and not of learning. There are many alternative assessment methods that will make learning more authentic, and that will come out in the months to come. It will just take some time to envision what it will look like and how to deliver it. One way to envision it is to reflect on key responsibilities in your own career and replicate it in an assessment. As a learning designer I create many workshops and how to videos. I teach communications so I have students design how-to videos on course topics that can be shown to students in future classes. This not only gives future students examples of great work but also provides soft skills that are essential in today’s online world. Above all, it gets the students to synthesize concepts and produce a final product that will be used for the benefit of others.
Hybrid classes with authentic assessment will be waiting for us on the other end of this pandemic. I know we have been working towards these goals for years, but we now know how resilient, flexible and collaborative we are so this will become a reality now that instructors have harnessed at least the basic skills of online teaching. After we sift through the data from multitudes of student surveys over the pandemic there will be very few unknowns in how to design and deliver courses.
Hybrid and authenticity are but just two factors to consider when envisioning what is to come in a post-pandemic post-secondary learning environment, but they are two critically necessary elements to start redesigning. Like I said at the beginning, if it’s done right, even the baby-boomer professors, which are the ones who visit the Learning and Teaching Centers only to put out fires, will be eager to continue to offer students the flexibility and accessibility of online learning.