Logo for MindWires COVID Transitions podcast

In this episode, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss value of getting student input while making plans for Fall 2020. But that’s not always simple to do, or at least common to do. The discussion built on some of the concepts in in this blog post.

Hosts:

  • Phil Hill
  • Jeanette Wiseman
  • Kevin Kelly

Transcription:

Phil: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of MindWires COVID Transitions. I’m here with Janette Wisemen and Kevin Kelly and looking forward to our conversation today.

What we mentioned in our last podcast that we wanted to explore in more detail is getting more of the student perspective.

Kevin, you mentioned this in your recent blog post talking about that COVID-19 recovery and planning must include student perspective. And if you don’t mind me quoting you to you. You made a good point saying “to increase student success with the planning, we have to include students in the conversation. Right now, for the most part, we talk about students without talking to them.”

I think that’s a really important point that we’d like to go through today, is that whole challenge and experience and ideas about getting student input.

In particular, because there’s been a really significant shift over the past week or two where most focus is now on what’s going to happen in the fall. Colleges and universities have big decisions to make and they’re making it worth partial information. And this is a key theme of your posts were saying, well, as you do that, you need to understand what the student perspective is.

Kevin, it might be worthwhile if you could just describe a little bit more of what motivated you to write the post and how you see this challenge, including what we’re not doing so far and what we need to do more of on getting student perspective.

Kevin: Well, what motivated me to write the post? I teach a class called How to Learn with your mobile device. It’s the flip side of the coin where my day job I teach faculty how to teach online my night job grading papers related to how students are learning with their mobile devices. And the student voice has always been important to me throughout my career. So what’s interesting is the consistency with the comments my own students made at the bottom of the blog post you referenced with some of the quantitative data from surveys that are out there in the sphere that have recently been produced and publicized. There are some themes out there that we can touch on throughout today’s conversation that are consistent in both areas.

Phil: But before we get into those themes, I guess I want to first acknowledge or deal with what I believe we’re saying, which is we’re not doing a good job of of talking with students, getting their input and more of that perspective.

So part of the question is why is it so difficult to get student perspective?

I mean, one of the most obvious issues is the numbers that you have far more students than you have faculty.

But there are also other challenges, I think that we have any time we’re trying to get student perspective and this is not just a matter of COVID-19 planning.

This is something that I’ve seen throughout my consulting career whenever doing a needs assessment on a campus. A lot of times what happens is we say, well, we need to get student input, whether it’s while doing an LMS evaluation, looking at online education strategy, figuring out student support or whatever the case may be. Whenever we go try to get student input, one of the things that happens is they don’t respond typically to the same methods that you see with with that work with faculty and with staff at a university.

One of the examples is as I was working with the University of Iowa, this is a long time ago and we tried to do focus groups. When we wanted to get faculty involved in focus groups, we had rich discussions, and it allowed us to dive deeper into topics and not just get a quick hit answer, but actually explore topics and what things be discovered. Try the same thing with students and it just didn’t work. Either the students, particularly undergraduate, they just were not comfortable in a focus group type of arrangement or they’re just not available for it. And one of the things we did is we changed our approach and we did things such as ‘let’s go to the coffee shop’. Kids these days, they love their coffee. They love their sugar. We would just show up at the coffee shop and say that they would get a free coffee drink if they would come and talk to us. And that worked much better. We got a lot more students coming to talk to us. And similar approach with a town hall. Not that there’s an easy answer, but one of the things I’ve seen is that just students react differently to different methods of data collection, if you will, than do faculty and staff. I’m not sure if either of you two have run into a similar situation about the difficulty of getting student input.

Jeanette: I would say for me, I think that you have to go back, and I look at it as students are consumers. And this is an issue across any industry is trying to get really authentic feedback from your customer, from your consumer. And that’s one of the places where any industry has issues with. I think that I’ve seen in my experiences, especially with student focus groups, not necessarily with online surveying, is you have to figure out why the students showing up there and focus groups especially. These are more product-based focus groups that I was involved with, where I feel the problem is finding authentic voices within those groups. Because typically the people that show up to those are the ones that either already interested in the product, interested in the discipline. In my case, this was in publishing where their favorite professor asked them to. And so they usually were a little bit more sunshine and roses. And I wasn’t getting the critical feedback that I felt like we needed, I think in these cases. I always question why a student’s showing up, why a student might be completing that survey. Is that they really just want the coffee? Is it because they know it’s going to maybe be some brownie points for their professor? Maybe. Sometimes those professors are also offering extra credit. Is that feedback really going to be authentic? I think that’s the hardest part in any survey, regardless of what industry you’re in.

Phil: I’ve even seen it. It’s almost a role or an identity for students that when you start looking at them, you’ll find out these are the students that happen to be in all of the committees or in the student Senate. And you start saying you tend to always show up to give your perspective on what students want, which also means a lot of other students just defer to them, and this is sort of another angle which gets to why you’re actually there. Kevin, what about you from your experience, particularly at San Francisco State, on trying to get student input. Have you found that to be a challenge compared to the faculty and staff?

Kevin: I do believe that there are challenges getting the student perspective in the traditional ways that you just both described. However, I think the challenges can be mitigated by taking some steps. One, we need to do a good job of seeking the appropriate voices. When I worked at San Francisco State University full time, we needed student perspective. We go to the student government and ask them either to go out to their networks, get as much data as they could, and be the voice for the students at all different levels and needs. Or we would prepare the students in advance.

So then they’re not coming in cold, and are able to give a thoughtful response on the fly, because faculty and staff are typically engaged in the types of questions and thinking that we’re asking and these focus groups or surveys or what have you. And so, yes, you can. We used pizza instead of coffee, and we would be able to fill the room with students. But having an intelligent conversation with those students makes means requiring a little prep work, even if it’s the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session dedicated to laying out what we’re trying to do, helping to paint a picture that they can see themselves in, and then providing an avenue for them to provide critical feedback and making sure that they understand it’s not only encouraged but desired that that feedback is going to inform what’s going to happen. It’s the same reason in the instructions for surveys that you include. This is how we’re going to use the results.

Phil: I don’t think it’s that it can’t be done. I think part of the point is it takes additional planning and preparation. And I suspect this is a large reason that we’re not seeing what you were noting in the blog posts, that we’re not seeing as much about student support during the crisis as we are about faculty support. It’s a reminder of this.

Kevin: I think that the reason we’re not seeing as much about students is because we’re not asking the students. Full stop. We’re putting our focus on ‘we need to get those classes online’. ‘We need to help the instructors’. And we left the students out into the ether without communicating with them. You see that in some of these surveys that students who are entering college next year are frustrated that 40 percent of them didn’t get any communication from the campus that accepted them. So they are worried about the status of their enrollment and we’re not communicating. My own students, when they commented on my blog post, gave feedback about the impact that some faculty members are confusing them with their communication. Some lack structure, and they gave some great suggestions to be present by reaching out more, to be human. By asking students what they need to be flexible, by providing alternate office hours and to be multi-modal by using video and text or Remind.com Text messages as alternate pathways for students to consume communication information.

Phil: Let’s talk a little bit about when where are the different channels or what is out there, in this time right now as we’re trying to understand what students perceive that’s happening? I mean, what they’re living through. They’ve gone through this mass transition to virtual over the past two months.

They have immediate experience on how that’s gone for them. But they’re also thinking strongly, as you mentioned, about what’s going to happen in the fall time.

Where are the places that we’ve that we have seen some of the examples that you’ve mentioned in the blog post? But there are other things as well. You mentioned Campus Sonar as a source to get some interesting student input. For people who haven’t looked at it, they do social listening, and they actually go out – and they’re reading and looking at all kinds of social media. And it’s a mass technique in general, saying out of these tens of thousands of tweets, what are the common themes that we’re seeing? One of the things that I find most interesting from Campus Sonar actually gets in to where students are talking. And I had heard this from my daughters before – but I had never really jumped into it – of just what how important Reddit is as a place where students tend to talk to each other and share their thoughts about what’s happening in their college experience. I found that that’s one of the things that jumped out at me. I had no idea until I was reading campus sonar just how much students use Reddit as a forum for discussing things. And it becomes a great resource for trying to understand what students are saying. Have you guys worked with or looked at Reddit in terms of student discussions before?

Jeanette: My use of Reddit hasn’t really been around standard discussion.

I’ve always going there for other little things that I need to find out. But I can see why it would be a really good place. It seems like a very honest place sometimes. Maybe too honest. But a place where students do feel like they can be unfiltered, or anyone can be unfiltered and kind of give their opinions on a huge variety of topics. And I can see why that would be a really good place to look. I haven’t personally done that, though, except for just recently. Because we found it to be such a good collection of voices.

Kevin: I actually have used Reddit, in part because the students in my class have talked about it enough that I started going there. And a few years back I changed one of my assignments to become a debate based on the Reddit ‘Change my View’ paradigm where students pose an idea and then challenged the rest of the class to change their view about that particular thought that they provided. Having Reddit, what I find interesting about the Campus Sonar data: One, there is the highest concentration of chatter around the fall semester falls in the news outlets, not necessarily in students’ own communications through social media or blogs. That’s interesting. When we do get to the information, that’s the student perspective – it’s around 3 percent of the total. They had like one hundred and forty-nine thousand posts or social media entries that they scanned, and only around 3 percent of that was the first-person perspective where they could identify it. It was a student or a student’s family member at a particular institution and then they could dive into that.

Phil: But even within that data. If you saw that section where they would talk about students speculating about fall 2020 on Reddit. They mention – and it’s not as big as the numbers on some of the other discussions – about 300 of them shared how they would react if their campus announced that the fall semester would go online. A lot of the comments and the way they categorize this – first of all, this strikes home for me – is students saying they would be annoyed if they have to continue living with their parents. Then there’s also they mentioned panic, particularly from a STEM student who has multiple lab courses being very upset. This is the one that’s got to worry schools the most, cancel enrollment and wait another year. And that’s probably one of the scenarios that it’s the most concerning. But it is interesting to hear how students describe it. Even within this small sample set.

Kevin: Agreed. And I think some of the key issues that we’re maybe not paying attention to, students are aware that the learning experience this semester hasn’t been the highest quality, because faculty members and instructional designers are doing everything they can just to get the courses up so that students can complete the semester. I think the expectations for the fall are going to be much higher, and if they students get the perception that they won’t be a higher quality experience, then they will avoid it at all costs. It’s something that my colleague from the City University of New York mentioned as a potential risk as well. However, the other factors that come into play. The Barnes and Noble survey talked about the human connection. Fifty five percent were concerned about lack of social interactions. Those are things that are not being considered as much because we’re so focused on getting courses online. And you brought up a specific type of course, STEM courses, and there are a bunch of others, career and technical, education, clinical. All these different courses that have hands-on experiences as a requirement that really need a physical presence. I know that Jeanette brought up the concept last time of having the large classes potentially staying online and the smaller classes, and potentially the lab classes, being the ones that happen on a campus. My own wife is a former chemist and she was talking last night about how she can’t imagine what the workforce is going to have at the end of this experience, because there’s going to be a gap in student experience in labs. She had the opportunity to work at UC Santa Cruz and the professor’s lab, and it was one of the factors that helped her get a job in the biotech industry. She mused about something that made me wonder, does industry have a responsibility to start spinning up things like apprenticeships and internships to to fill that void?

Phil: That’s definitely has to be a challenge.

Jeanette, any anything else that struck you from either the Campus Sonar or the Barnes and Noble survey that he had mentioned?

Jeanette: I think there’s a couple of things that are running through my mind right now.

One is this idea that students are missing – it’s universal right now that people are missing – the social interactions that we all crave, especially for college students. That experience, being non-traditional or a traditional student, you still want that commodity that you’ve meet your classmates, with your instructors, with your professors. You’re looking for that mentorship and it’s not there right now online. I don’t think that it is impossible. It’s just – even with everything everyone’s doing – it’s not there. And I think that’s where schools need to be looking at, is seeing how they can maybe recreate those experiences. I’m really worried about, if I was if I was a student right now, what I would be worried about and fall is not only having my courses online, but if I’m not a local student, I’m usually supposed to be on campus and there’s another breakout. What’s going to happen? I think that’s going through the institutions’ minds. I’m sure it’s also the students that they don’t want to show up all semester in September, October, August, – whenever their school start is – and then by the end of October, November, being sent back home and have this whole thing happen again.

Are those students looking to skip the year? Are those students looking to maybe … there’s the big brand names that have always been really successful with online courses. I think the announcement this week of what Southern New Hampshire is doing is remarkable. I think it’s a fantastic strategy on their part. If you didn’t see it, they’re offering freshman course for next year is free and a guarantee that whether you’re on campus, online or hybrid, it’s ten thousand dollars a year moving forward for your tuition. I think it’s those types of moves that are going to make people be more assured in their selection for colleges. I think it’s those types of things that students are looking for. And if you’re not a freshman, but you’re a sophomore, you’re going back to your second, third, fourth year, I think that’s the concern is not only what am I spending my money on, but what’s this experience going to be? Is my school prepared to give me the social interactions and the other support systems that I’m craving from my school, but also the education that I’m expecting?

Phil: Let me turn to a little bit more specifics for a while. One thing that was interesting to me – and it’s a small sample set, but it allows you to talk specifics – is that Kevin successfully got his own students commenting on his blog post, which gave us specific feedback on what they happen to think.

And as an example, as I’m reading their comments, one thing that came across to me is their perception of Zoom classrooms, where teachers have just taken their face-to-face and gone online with Zoom as the basis, there were a lot more positive comments about Zoom and that blog post comment thread than I was expecting. I don’t know if that surprised you, Kevin, based on who the students are, but that certainly jumped out to me, and at the very least it made me say, hey, we need to be careful about the assumptions that we’re making if we’re not listening to what students are actually saying. But did that surprise you at all, Kevin?

Kevin: A little, I would say. I think probably three or four out of the nine students who did participate in providing comments mentioned Zoom being helpful in some way. One said it decreased the classroom distractions, the distractions other students provide. Another mentioned that it increased the flexibility by being able to go asynchronous and reviewing the recordings because their sleep schedule had changed as a result of living at home. And some just like that social interaction that we brought up. One person did mention an equity issue that they realized some of their classmates didn’t have computers or internet access, advocating for asking students what they have at home. That’s something that I pushed in one of my blog posts recently, rather than asking every instructor to survey their students, institutions should be surveying the students once so that we have a consistent set of data that we can make decisions around how to support them.

Phil: Any other notes that came out of that comment thread because it’s actually pretty rich? These weren’t just quick comments that they made.

Kevin: A few things. One, they gave some great advice for instructors about the coursework itself, the learning experience. They asked faculty to make the coursework relatable. For instance, one said, use the pandemic so that I can learn about my surroundings and myself. Another said, focus on understanding quality rather than quantity. A lot of pushback against the extra work. Just because we’re online, faculty are providing more assignments, incorporating different learning approaches, providing work samples, because there’s no way to get strong explanations online from some of the instructors. Reducing the intensity of the assignments, not the goals, but the intensity. So those are some pretty good advice from the students. I would say one of the things that’s supported by some of the surveys out there is the need for some student support. They want it to be easier to contact staff on campus, and they’re having a really hard time finding out how to do so. That’s something that institutions really need to work on this – how to increase the visibility of student support staff and make sure that they can be reached in a distance capacity.

Phil: On that previous point you were making, I find that interesting about students giving advice to instructors. Jeanette had mentioned earlier in this episode about students as consumers, and that’s sort of a fraught term. And I think it can get in the way sometimes, as educators think about this, is there’s a concern that we’re trying to consumerize education and make it purely transactional and not based on deeper learning. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of merit to that view. However, I think it can also make it too easy for faculty, for staff or instructional design to not listen to student input, such as what you just listed on valuable suggestions. The examples that you shared, Kevin, those are not just simplistic, consumer oriented. It sounds like the students really were being thoughtful – these are things that would help me learn and help my engagement with the topic and where it is. To me, that’s a good example of where we could do a better job of listening to students. We don’t want to go to the point of just asking their sentiment, no depth to it, but there’s a lot that we can learn. Even instructors, by listening to the people that we’re teaching,

Kevin: Agreed. Again, I’ll go back to the premise that I proposed earlier, which is make sure the students are prepared. We just happen to have a class of 50 students where the focus of that class is learning how to learn. And not every student has done that. They may be reacting in a way that some of these students did as well. They love more leniency with deadlines, more flexible exam schedules, so they can take it within a 24- or 48-hour period instead of at a specific time. But as you mentioned, there were some pretty thoughtful responses and the prompts that I provided them in a long discussion forum in my class. They specifically pulled examples from what they’d been learning in the class about learning and put it out there for faculty as a suggestion. I’m hopeful that we’ll see more of that. And that’s the call I made, that request for increased student perspective in the planning that we’re doing for fall.

Phil: These students were ringers. You had this whole thing set up.

Kevin: In some ways, but in some ways that’s what you want, right? People with enough knowledge and information about a topic to give valuable feedback, as opposed to what you might hear sometimes on the news soundbites from people who are just reacting emotionally without really thinking about. The topic itself.

Phil: On the opposite side – and what I mean by opposite is instead of just individual students with well-thought out answers but more of a broader survey approach of students – it seems like there are more examples right now of surveying high school students, high school seniors in particular, and figuring out are they going to enter college in the fall or not.

What we’re not hearing enough of yet are surveys of current college students, at least surveys that are shared so that the community can learn. And a recent one from Simpson Scarborough, they surveyed both high school students and existing college students, and they gave broader based views. Some of the examples there were interesting to me. They looked at their perception of the schools, COVID-19 response and communication in general. Like the question, how do you feel your college or university is handling the COVID-19 outbreak? Twenty one percent of current college students said excellent. Forty one percent said good. Twenty nine percent said fair, and only 8 percent said poor. But in general, it seems like students’ appreciation of what colleges and universities are going through is they’re saying, hey, you guys are handling this well in general. It even goes into the communication they felt. Thirty seven percent that the college communications are excellent, and 36 percent are good.

Yet at the same time, if you ask them what’s your overall impression of the school? The majority of them are saying that their perception of their school is getting worse. And there was one interesting crosstab saying, for the students who said that their schools had good or excellent communications, 32 percent of those students said their opinion of the current school has gotten worse. It’s not great, but it’s out there. But if you now take the subset of students who rated their school communications as poor, sixty seven percent of those students said that their opinion of the current school has gotten worse.

That difference really highlights the importance for an institution of having a good open communication channel with students and frequently and regularly letting them know what’s happening, because that is going to impact what schools think about, I mean what students think about their school, which obviously impacts whether they’re going to go back to it. Jeanette, any other did that surprise you at all? I mean, I know it’s high level views, but anything from The Simpson Scarborough survey that jumped out at you, any surprises?

Jeanette: My take away from the those surveys were that especially at the time – and I think we don’t know who those students were and what their individual circumstances were – but it seems like there was just a level of frustration of either lack of communication or how things were rolled out. I think you equal that with, students having been kicked off campus really quickly. Phil, you mentioned your daughter and some of the frustrations just where they were asked to leave campus right away, and there’s dorm rooms full of their full belongings with really no communication about when to pick up their stuff. I think a lot of the survey that we’ve seen reflects those frustrations, with institutions were doing the best they could. I think faculty are doing the best they could. What I’m interested in seeing is hopefully some of these students will be surveyed again at the end of the semester, and we’ll have a better sense of what their thoughts were, and their feelings were around that. I think that’s really going to be telling for summer courses if anyone is doing that. And certainly, for the fall.

Phil: We would like to get deeper in to particularly with the survey and the data, and there’s some demographic questions. What type of school they go to that impacts how to interpret some of this data? It’s part of that. We’ll give just a little bit a little teaser – Top Hat has run a survey and gotten responses for more than 3000 students, and they’ve asked us to work with them, that we can look at the survey results and help them with the description of the survey so that it comes across fairly, and it removes some of the potential or perception of bias on their part. They’re obviously an EdTech vendor, even though the survey itself did not at all ask about their product.

I mentioned this, that this is going to be coming up within  the next week or two where we will have this survey available, and we are going to have the opportunity to look at the details that they collected so that we could do a deeper set of analysis on a student survey. And I’m looking forward to that. I think that some of the themes that we’ve mentioned here, I think that we see in the Top Hat survey, but there’s a lot of additional data I think we’ll be able to pull out of that as we work with them. That’s something that should be coming up soon and would love to share that with you. Overall, we want to point out just how important it is to get the student perspective. I’ll remind people that part of the situation is getting ready for the fall. This is such a big challenge for schools with so many unknowns. And the last thing we should be doing is doing that without getting multiple perspectives to make effective decisions and students. As Kevin has pointed out in his blog post, their perspective is crucial as we do this planning.

We’ll look forward to going into more detail once we get additional survey data. And we also look forward to covering some of the institutional decision-making that we’re starting to see in another episode about whether schools go online face to face or some hybrid mix of them going into the fall 2020. We’re starting to see more news reports about what schools intend to do. And we’d like to jump into that and describe it accurately and explore that subject. Expect both of those topics coming up in an episode soon. Thank you very much.

Logo for MindWires COVID Transitions podcast

In this episode, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss the an overlooked aspect of the COVID response from higher education. Beyond traditional face-to-face models, and fully online models, there is a vast middle ground of hybrid – the combination of face-to-face and online components. Added this is the concept of Hybrid Flexible as shared in in this blog post.

Hosts:

  • Phil Hill
  • Jeanette Wiseman
  • Kevin Kelly

Transcription:

Phil: Welcome, everyone. It’s great to talk again. And it’s been an interesting week and a half since we did our pilot episode to work out the podcast issues. And here we are, yet another week into the shutdown. How are you guys holding up?

Jeanette: Doing pretty good, I think. I’m surprised that I just realized this marks the sixth week that my kids have been out of school, which seems fast and slow at the same time. But, you know, I think that there’s some maybe sadness that sort of kicking in at the end of your school year. Things are happening, but also just a level of comfort of being home as well. It’s kind of a mixed bag at the Wiseman the household. How about you, Kevin?

Kevin: I think my big problem is I don’t give myself time in a regular circumstance.

And, you know, I’m working on a book about online teaching right now that we’re trying to get to the publisher. Every free moment that I’m not on a Zoom call or doing work for a client is spent doing some other form of work.

Even yesterday, I worked all day. Really nothing has changed much except for not as much business travel.

Phil: But as for myself, I’m the same way trying to deal with a lack of business travel and wishing my family the best in the meantime. Today, what we wanted to talk about is that it seems like there’s been a pretty broad consensus since we last talked that the Fall 2020 academic term in the Northern Hemisphere in particular is now really looking to be in question, that it’s not at all safe to just assume that schools will be back to their normal method of delivery where they’re free to do fully face to face with no restrictions for the fall.

And I’ve definitely noticed a pretty strong recognition of this point, and that’s led to some interesting conversations.

But one thing I’m noticing that isn’t being discussed enough is hybrid education and the possibility of a partial reopening situations, where a school, certain parts of their activity can be done face to face, but certain parts are going to need to be online.

And the challenge of trying to figure out what is the right mix for a school to take, particularly given the fact that there are still so many unknowns about what the reopening are going to look like. And that’s something I’d like to explore in more depth today. But before we get started on what schools are doing, I’d like to check in with both of you.

Have you what have you noticed with the online public commentary or are you noticing the same trend about online versus face to face and not enough about hybrid or what are you guys seeing?

Kevin: It’s only just starting to hit the list serves I frequent in terms of people starting to think about the summer for teaching and the summer for professional development to prepare people for the fall. And you know, I don’t think there’s been enough consideration about the formats other than I think people are preparing to help faculty with a more intentional online presence. And not even considering what you’re hinting at, which is the possibility that even if we go back to the classroom, some students won’t be able to get back to campus for travel restrictions or won’t feel safe.

And when we get to that topic about hybrid, I’m going to insert the concept of hybrid flexible. And I’ll talk about that more when we get to it.

Phil: I like that. Having a teaser thrown in there. Jeanette, how about you? What have you been saying with online conversations, both in terms of recognition that we can’t make safe assumptions about the fall and in terms of whether the conversation is nuanced enough about the different options?

Jeanette: You know, I’ve seen more. I think I’ve been looking at more communications maybe from the instructor level and not as much in that administrative level or maybe even an instructional designer online development. And it seems like instructors that I’ve been reading and following seem to be in somewhat denial of what’s happening. You know, I think they’re thinking that there’s and these are the ones, I think the instructors that maybe don’t have as much experience of teaching online, that they think that, you know, the online transition in March didn’t go smoothly. Some recognition of see how maybe this could work for them. I think I’m seeing frustrations and some of the platforms, especially depending on what a mess they’re using some frustrations on those platforms. But then in terms of fall reading is a lot of people talk about and seems registrations happening for fall. A lot on campus right now. They’re seeing their classes start to fill up and especially those intro classes. And they’re kind of thinking that business, it might be business as usual is surprisingly what I’m saying more than I’m not. And I think that there’s going to be maybe a shock for some of those people fall depending on what happens. I guess, you know, again, there’s a lot of unknowns, but it makes me worry a little bit for those friends of mine.

Phil: Well, one thing that I’ve noticed and you were actually the first one who pointed it out so clearly to me and it got me thinking about it, Jeanette, was if you go more into the planning side, you mentioned just now the intro courses. You were the first one that said to me … If I could easily see it that the intro classes, you’re going to have to be online, but maybe the seminars or smaller sections, that’s what can be done face to face. How did that strike you – or tell us more about that idea when you first thought about it.

Jeanette: I mean, I’m just sort of thinking about planning. And it just seems like if you went to a fairly large school or university, you remember those intro classes and they’re packed and they’re full. And it’s the theater scene usually.

And that’s what’s the first thing that we’re closed down. And that doesn’t seem like if we’re still trained social distance in some way, or at least be careful with it, it’s those classes that they’re going to have a harder time with being able to have in person and that those we’re going to be the ones that are going to go online. I guess I think there’s a lot more resources already prepared for those courses from the publishers, from the course development vendors that we know of where it might be. Also, a little bit easier transition for those courses.

To have them happen online, that it would be for upper level, master’s level courses where the work on the instructor is going to be much. It’s going to be much heavier lifting. They’re going to have to possibly be more synchronous classes, which are going to work as well for the students that aren’t in the same time zone.

It just seems like that might be where they’re going to have to go. You know, and I think it’s not only them thinking about what’s going to happen for middle school and high schools, which I know we are more in Higher Ed. But it seems like how are they going to manage all of the class changes?

It just seems like there’s too many people in these big schools to be moving around in closed areas. That’s sort of how I was thinking of it.

Phil: I think it makes perfect sense. And I guess just following up on your previous comment and I don’t know if you’ve talked to enough people, it makes me wonder if there’s a difference among teachers. If the people who are used to teaching large introductory classes is that subset more accepting and dealing with what might happen in the future. And whereas there is another who tend to teach more upper division classes. Is there a difference on the teacher level on what they’re thinking about or assuming it’s going to happen come the fall time?

Jeanette: The ones that really enjoy the upper division courses I think are more likely. They like that seminar class. They like being able to talk to their students in person. I think there’s more mentoring happening and a lot of cases at that level. And I don’t think they’re hoping that those are going to happen in person. I think the entry level courses, the professors I’ve been talking to, I think are trying to figure out how they can maybe rely on the teachers a little bit more to help in a system with the online course. If that happens, knowing that they can’t do it all themselves, especially maybe the one on one emails or discussions that are happening on the side.

I just I’m a little bit concerned for those people who are thinking this is all going to be over in the fall and not prepared for what could be at least partially online fall semester.

Phil: Kevin, what are you hearing particularly of the professional development work that you do?

Kevin: Well, right now, like I said, it’s it’s early days and people are starting to realize that they need to plan, but they haven’t done the planning and they’re waiting on others the same way. Students in small groups and online courses wait for somebody to make the first post I call it. The online discussions are the same as high school dances phenomenon where you need to see someone on the dance floor before you go do it yourself.

People are asking for ideas and they ask the rest of the world at large.

What are you planning? I can put together a list and steal your ideas. Beg, borrow, steal. That’s the motto and the mantra. But to tonight’s point, you know, at San Francisco State, when I was there full time, we worked with a professor of one of the largest classes on campus, an intro to marketing class. And he had this challenge where he the contract with the local theater near campus broke down so he couldn’t fit a thousand people in one room anymore. We were doing all these things like have TV’s and alternate rooms. And finally, we tried this hybrid flexible thing that I talked about where his thousand students dropped to about 150 in person, which could be spaced six feet apart in a big enough room if it were done in a way that provides maximum flexibility for students to choose how they participate. And in normal settings, non-covered era settings, again, around 15 percent of the students chose to come in person. The rest either chose to watch the lecture live while it was being recorded or watch it asynchronously after it had been recorded. And then they all participated in the online activities that everybody participated in, whether it be quizzes or discussions. To me, that’s the direction we need to consider because it provides flexibility for the instructors. If they start online and move to the classroom, start in the classroom and move online or we just don’t know what’s going to happen. It could be this toggling back and forth if they’re truly going to throttle, how many people are allowed into large settings where people can gather? Groups of 10 to 50. It gives us our best opportunity of success and not having a disruptive experience like we had in the spring.

Phil: And I really like the flexibility part of that, because one thing you know, one thing we’ve been calling out is we see continued turmoil in the fall. And part of that’s just due to the nature of code.

It might be people are talking about flare ups that might happen or there might be an ease and rules and allowing certain situations, let’s say a classroom. You know, we’re six feet distancing is the rule. But then if somebody, you know, test positive in the fall. Trust me, that situation is going to change on a dime. Flexibility seems to be such an important factor that we’re not just preparing for face to face or preparing for online. But we’re preparing to go back and forth as needed. That flexibility seems to be just a real key factor for all planning exercises coming in the fall time.

Kevin: Well, and I would and just to emphasize, Brian Beatty from San Francisco State, where I teach is the one who came up with the concept. But when we talk about flexibility, the context you just provided is institution centric flexibility, whether or not we go in the classroom or go online. And regardless of what happens at the institution level, that the point of hybrid flexible or what I called in my blog post hybrid flexible is the concept of giving the students the choice of whether or not they go online or stay face to face, because in some cases we may see a return to the classroom, but not every student can return. Giving the students the choice of whether or not they attend online, synchronously, in-person, synchronously or online asynchronously. It provides the greatest amount of opportunities for students to succeed. It follows the principles of Universal Design for Learning as well, of which I’m a big fan.

Phil: Well, that’s why I hadn’t really thought about that. But Universal Design for Learning that seems to be a useful concept that frequently gets overlooked, gets overlooked by me, and that it certainly has been a key element for addressing accessibility requirements and challenges in the past. But now it has the opportunity to also address what we’re going to be seeing, particularly in the fall time with this flexibility, need for flexibility. Why is it that that’s still not a well-known framework, if you will, for looking at this? That just sort of confuses me, just seems to be an underutilized resource, if you will.

Well, like my thinking is and people see the work in framework, and they choose not to follow it. Universal Design for Learning implies that you’re providing multiple pathways for learners to succeed, which means you’re doing multiple amounts of work for each part of the instructional process. You’re providing instructional materials in multiple formats like reading. Michael Wesch from K-State reads and records all of the text in his class so that students who are on public transportation need to wash the dishes after putting the kids to bed. They can still listen to the readings almost like a book on tape. That’s a he’s really thinking about the student experience, which very few instructors do. And he makes it so that students can download everything they need for the week with one download that’s light so they can stay asynchronous and offline.

Phil: Jeannette, you and I have talked to at least two different groups recently where it hits on this idea where Kevin brought up. He said, hey, Phil, you’re talking about the institutional perspective, but there’s also the student perspective of flexibility you get to choose. And that raises the issue about how we’re dealing with a very complex thing here. How do we deliver higher education in unprecedented times. This idea of hybrid could be cut in many different ways. It might be in terms of large lecture classes or large lecture portions of the class versus discussions. But there are other ways to divide this up as well. I’ve seen one from, I believe, Alex Usher the Higher Education Strategy Associates. He was talking about lab courses where he could foresee schools doing the theoretical parts of the work in the fall and pushing lab portions into the spring when we might have more time to be ready to do labs. What are some of the other ways that you’ve heard described?

Where you could sort of divide up the face to face and online if you’re taking a hybrid approach, in particular if you want to maintain some flexibility.

Jeanette: You know, aside from doing, I think the entire upper level courses. I think there’s been some.

I’ve seen some discussion of those intro courses, maybe need to take more of the the small group that you see for like an early entry level English one on one class or usually see those as being much smaller, but at typically like a T N level that they’re just not going to be the large courses. I’ve seen a little bit of that. I think it also leads to the flexibility discussion of, you know, what we’re seeing as could potentially be a really large recession coming up or even depression. And typically, when we see those, there’s this push to go and get extra education online.

I think that’s you know what, that flexibility and a worry that I think with the recession. It could be that we get out of it very quickly if people go back to work.

But you’ve already invested so much money into some education, having that flexibility – the ability to either go online and finish up the course or go in person – will add to some potential revenue drivers for schools because they’re able to really market and serve their students that maybe decided to get some education online, how to go quickly back to work and can’t be going to class.

Kevin: Well, and to piggyback on what Jeanette said, Usher and the Higher Education Strategy Associates, also pointed out that micro- credentials may become bigger than we’ve seen in the past because people aren’t quite sure what the future looks like. They don’t want to invest in a long-term program like an MBA, but they might go and get six or eight week my credential and something that will advance them either in their career path or toward some sort of lateral move. I wouldn’t be surprised if some things pop up that help people become more proficient at working remotely. Virtual teamwork in that kind of thing.

Phil: Let’s come back to the professional development aspect again is there’s a lot you know, we’re talking about these flexible models. We’re talking about hybrid models, we’re talking about universal design where you have different pathways and preparing different pathways.

Everything we’re talking about here just further clarifies what a big challenge we have and preparing instructors, instructional designers, TAs, everybody who’s going to be working to do the instruction portion. And it’s at a time where there are already stressed out. If you’re school, this is the challenge you have to face, but it can’t be viewed just simply as a binary. Are we going to be online? Are we going to be face to face? But how can we be in-between in a way that fits our student population? And how do you be prepared for it when it might change during the middle of the term? There’s just a lot of preparation that the schools are going to need to be ready to do from the instruction side and from the learning side, from the students’ side.

If somebody is bringing up these options of, hey, what if you do it with multiple pathways or what if you do it with a hybrid flexible model? Would that be viewed as more or less work? Is that more daunting or less daunting from an instructor perspective?

Kevin: Think a little of both. I think the key thing is what I normally promote is building over time, which we don’t have or building with others, which we do have. If everybody is doing this type of work together, then we can create orientations for students to become more proficient online learners once at the campus level, instead of instructors forced to create their own orientation modules on their own. Even better if we can do it at the district or system level. It’s done once for let’s say in California’s case, one hundred and fourteen community colleges can leverage one orientation. But in terms of the concept of building flexibility into your course because they did some work this spring, then the reusability of the objects that they created as it becomes an important part. And it’s actually one of the four principles of hybrid flexible. The concept on the teacher side is that they need to create a ‘many hands makes light work’ mentality, split up as much as they can pull and other people on the student support side. I advocated in my most recent blog post that they start using work-study money to pay veteran online learners to become mentors to newer online learners so that they aren’t struggling. Because we do know in these large classes the ones that Jeanette has promoted as the ones that should go online in the fall regardless. Those are the ones that have a MOOC-like feel and have a higher level of drop off students who don’t feel they can succeed. Maybe because they don’t feel like they’re part of a community, they’re a part of a virtual cattle call.

Phil: You packed quite a bit in there that I think would be useful to sort of unpack a little bit and take some time to talk about. We’ll set that up as a future episode to go through this hybrid flexible model on the different aspects of it.

I don’t want to just glance past it quickly. We’ll definitely cover it in the blog post, as Kevin has already done. But we’ll also explore this in more detail on an upcoming episode.

Our next one, however, is I actually want to talk much more about the student perspective, what they’re already seeing in the transitions. For our next episode, we’re going to talk more of the student perspective of what’s working and what’s not working and how that’s going to impact us. But we’ll also line up this discussion more on the hybrid flexible model. But for now, we’re still in an area with a lot of unknowns, but that means that we need to be prepared for it.

It’s very important to think not just face to face or online, but to think about hybrid, to think about different ways to set that up. Thanks for joining us today and we will catch you in future episodes.

Logo for MindWires COVID Transitions podcast

In our inaugural podcast episode, Phil Hill, Jeanette Wiseman, and Kevin Kelly discuss the phased transition that higher education is going through as a result of COVID-19 towards increased online and hybrid educational models. This discussion builds off of the multi-phase response of higher education to COVID-19 as described in this blog post.

Hosts:

  • Phil Hill
  • Jeanette Wiseman
  • Kevin Kelly

Transcription:

Phil: Welcome, everyone. I think that we’ve all got our dogs put away, the office doors closed, all the mandatory activities in this day and age, but it’s sort of funny. One thing that we’ve noticed here is you get so much people are talking about having to work remotely and dealing with, you know, dogs, kids and everything else. But part of it, I look at this saying I’ve been doing this about 18 or 19 years. It’s almost reminding me what I’ve had to deal with.

Jeanette: You know, what’s changed for me is that I’ve been working from home also for about I have about twelve years. I think at this point and if not more, actually, I think it’s more than that. But anyway, what’s changed for me is I always had this excuse that, well, I’m the one working from home. I’m not going into the office. There’s no way that I’m going on video with you guys, because part of the luxury of working from home is that I don’t have to get dressed up. And now everybody is on video. For the first time in, you know, over a decade, I have been actually trying to not look as sloppy when I get up and start work every day. That’s what’s changed for me, is that I’m actually doing better.

Phil: Kevin, anything changing from your side?

Kevin: No, only that people have at least realized that things have not changed much for me other than a lot less travel.

Jeanette: You were taking a shower before this. Come on. That’s just me. OK.

Kevin: I am putting on colored shirts for four Zoom calls. Things like that.

Phil: Yeah, well, I’ve always had the shirt, the taking in the bedroom for when you have that last minute. Oh, man. It’s a video call. You’ve got to go. Run grab the shirt even if you’re wearing, you know, sweat pants or something. It’s what Hillary, my daughter, calls a work mullet.

Jeanette: That’s a very easy for guys, of course.

Phil: Well, it’s interesting doing our first podcast during this time when everything’s changing day to day, week to week. I mean, it’s just been a wild ride over the past. What has it been? Now about a month of the major impact of COVID-19 hitting higher education where we work. It’s almost exactly one month from when the University of Washington and Seattle University first shut down their face to face classes and announced that they were going to be going virtual. I think it was March 6 where they made that announcement, and starting March 9th, their face to face classes were shut down. It just a month ago and to me, that was a seminal moment when those two schools made that decision public.

Kevin: Similar to our opening conversation just about life and how our eyes haven’t changed as much because I already taught an online class when my campus suspended face to face courses. They specifically said online classes will keep going as normal. And another way that my existence really hasn’t changed as much except for the workload has increased because everybody’s focused on online teaching and learning where I do a lot of work.

Phil: And that was becoming pretty obvious to me about a week and a half ago that there was a lot of move looking at what do we do now? And that was necessary. And everybody was figuring out how can we do all hands on deck? How can we start getting these – it’s called by multiple different names, remote teaching, COVID converted courses, online courses. The whole shift away from face to face was an all hands on deck moment. But pretty quickly, it became apparent that, yes, while that was happening, there’s a lot of things that were getting swept under the rug. You know, the equity, privacy, various concerns that people knew about, but they just weren’t front and center with what do we do this week? Well, the summer has got to be different than the spring because there are certain issues that we can’t tolerate them not being thought about.

With everybody rushing into a Zoom type of mentality where it’s synchronous videos and very little understanding of what that does for disadvantaged students or students with disabilities. You know, I could see that there was already starting to be a shift of, hey, by the time we get to summer, we better have our act together in this regard.

Even though it was it, it’s almost like we’ve gone through or gone from this, what I described as phase one. And already you’re starting to go into phase two just within a month’s time, even though both are somewhat reactive. They’re they feel different in nature to me as far as what’s happening for the spring term and what really needs to be happening now to be ready for summer term or the remainder of the spring term.

Phil: I’m not sure you know where that’s going, but that’s been a lot of the thought processes.What are the phases of the transition that we’re actually going through and how do they feel different moving forward? But, Kevin, one of the things that you really were pushing was the language of this, like initially saying, hey, there’s such a strong movement to look at, you know, calling this remote teaching and learning as opposed to online education. And I think a lot of that was an effort to call out that there’s different either different nature of this or different phases we’re going to be going through.

Kevin: Yes, I would say people had different reasons for. Clarifying language, so to speak. Some people have invested years of their lives to improving online teaching and learning and didn’t want to see a backslide based on people new to the process. Jumping in in an emergency situation and possibly ending up with different results. The other side of the coin, though, is the one that I. And more optimistic and so I lean to that side is the concept that by calling it something like it converted courses or remote teaching and learning that you’re removing. The stress that might accompany faculty and students feeling like they need to become experts overnight in using new tools for the teaching and learning process. So you’re right. The language is evolving. I won’t be surprised if is it Webster that comes up with the word of the year?

Kevin: It’s something like COVID isn’t one of the top.

Phil: Jeanette, you deal more on the K-12 level than certainly than I do both from, you know, your background, but also having three kids in school. Are you hearing any of these language issues describing the different faces, the remote versus online or covered converted? Are you hearing any of that in the K-12 world?

Jeanette: I have absolutely I think it just. And it varies a little bit. I think, you know, one thing going back is and looking at where we started, I think that there was a couple of weeks and maybe where this transitioning language is happening is what I think everybody told us. I want to say it was like stages of grief. But I think that there definitely stages of like shock. Is this really happening? I think there was also, you know, the beginning of like this started like snow day mentality of like, you know, we’re going to have a couple of days where we’re all going to kind of hunker down and stay in, but then everything’s going to open up. And I feel like it’s just been this week, at least for what I’ve been reading and just personally and with my kids where we’re realizing, hey, this is going to be kind of a long haul and we got to really figure out how we’re moving forward. You know, some of the, I don’t know, say fond of staying home, but the novelty is certainly worn off of his fate. And I think what I’m seeing in the language from the K-12 spaces kind of reflects that, where I think there was this big push a couple weeks ago, at least in my community. I live in New Mexico. There’s a lot of savanna aged kids.

Jeanette: It’s really one of the highest states with kids in poverty that are living in poverty. I think the decision to shut down the schools that was the biggest concern was, you know, how to not only equity and getting equity around education, but just also basic needs that were met through the school systems. And that has now shifted to what they’re calling in terms of language, continue continuous education. They’re not looking at this as OK, in summer or fall, we are going to start up. And this is an online education and it’s not called COVID, but it’s called continuing. Trying to continue that education in any way they can. Not only online, but for the K-12 system, for the especially the K-5. They’re pushing lessons from some of the top teachers within the district or within the state and to private access television stations so that the you know, they have said language arts is happening on Tuesdays at 10 o’clock and you can change, you know, turn in to this one channel and get that. That’s kind of just the shift is that it’s not necessarily online. They’re trying to reach a really wide swath of students that have a lot of different capabilities and also a lot of different equity issues that they’re trying to meet as well. Yeah, there’s definitely been a shift.

Phil: Yeah, well, I’ve definitely shifted my language, mostly being intimidated by Kevin online about how I described it, which is a worthwhile reaction in my opinion. But at the same time, I’m a little bit concerned that there’s an internal language issue going on. In other words, do students really use the language as somewhat the same way? And are they differentiating what they’re seeing today? Like, I don’t see students calling out. What we have today is remote teaching. And yes, we understand it’s different than online learning. What I see students mostly doing is they are tolerant and understanding of the immediate. We’ve got to get something working and we have no time to do it. But they still are viewing it as I don’t like online education. I don’t like online learning or here’s my view of it. And they students don’t see the difference. To me, I think there’s a risk that we don’t want to take this too far. This differentiation, particularly if students are not seeing the difference out there in the same way that instructors, staff, you know, all the educators are actually saying.

Kevin: I’d agree with that. And if you look at, let’s say that Cal State L.A. student newspaper and that I cited recently in the article talked about students’ reactions to online instruction, full stop. They didn’t make a distinguishing characteristic between what’s happening now and what’s happened in the past and having taught online for so long and served probably around 3,000 students over the last 10 years. Oh, I do have students who say I shouldn’t take online classes after they have finished. I really need something because I don’t have the self-discipline that’s required to complete the activities on time. One of the things that I have been pushing in different circles is how do we support students to become more self-directed learners through orientations or other activities? Support networks, peer mentors at the student level so that those students aren’t left behind because they’re not well suited or it’s just not their preferred method of learning?

Phil: Some of this is we’re reacting to the situation and trying to read the tea leaves. I think a bigger differentiation from a student perspective is more of what we’re tolerant of. Like I think there’s a certain level of tolerance seeing what’s going on. To complete the term and complete this academic year. But I foresee and I’ve been reading a lot of analysis saying students are going to have a very different perspective once it comes time for the false fall term. You know, with a North America at that point, schools really better have their act together in terms of dealing with accessibility, dealing with disadvantaged students, but also just in terms of dealing with quality online learning experiences and even beyond that.

To me, I think that’s a big differentiation. Is this just the tolerance and what that actually is going to mean in terms of a school’s financial condition, to be quite honest. I see a lot of shift that’s going to be a different set of expectations. That’s going to be very important. Once we hit the fall term.

Jeanette: I agree. I mean, I think that especially if students don’t have never taken an online course, so don’t know how ones that have been really thoughtfully designed are supposed to look like and how you’re supposed to interact with them if they haven’t had that experience yet and they find out that fall semester is going to be mostly online for them if they want to continue. I wonder what’s going to happen if the student’s going to want to continue regardless of what that course looks like. And regardless of the work that maybe has been done so that it is different from what they originally saw this spring, I think that’s a real risk for some institutions and how they’re going to be able to get across it. These are going to be different. You’re going to have a different experience and we’re going to support you along the way.

Kevin: There will be a marketing component that’s necessary as we move toward whatever the fall looks like, because exactly as she mentioned, I was speaking to a colleague at the City University of New York, and he said he’s afraid that once students find out that part or all of the fall semester is going to be online, that they will just disappear. And partly because they do not want to pay for an experience like they’re having now and to go to your framing of its tolerance. Now, I would call it a begrudging tolerance because they are keeping their eye on the prize of completing those units or completing those degrees. People who are that close to graduation are just willing to accept it because that’s their only option other than just withdrawing and starting again somewhere in the future.

Phil: How widespread is that understanding of this difference in expectations? Let’s keep our conversation a little bit. Focus on the quality of the law, online learning experience. Kevin, you do a lot of, you know, faculty workshops, professional development support. Is it a widespread understanding that we’re going to have a different set of expectations come the fall and we really need to deal with these subjects, you know, be much more, as you said in your post, proactive instead of reactive. How common is that view from what you’re saying?

Kevin: I think it depends on who you’re talking to and how much support they have at their institution. I think the people who are working with faculty are more aware that this is an emergency situation and we’re making do. But the teachers themselves are still adjusting to the fact that they’ve never taught online before, never logged into a learning management system before. And now two weeks later, they’re doing it to whatever extent they can, but they’re still having a hard time eating how to do what they did before. In an online environment, I’ve heard stories of instructors who want students to print 80 to 100 page documents and mail them using the U.S. Postal Service.

Kevin: We’ve all heard stories about the faculty who have just shifted their courses to real time meetings on Zoom at the same exact time they met in the classroom, even though not everybody in their classes is able to attend. I think that understanding of the fall and what it means for the quality of our courses is it’s almost too soon and air quotes for some people because they’re still heavily in the deep end and trying to figure out how to get through the spring.

Phil: But even if it might be too soon for them to deal with it or to digest, you know, I think a lot of what we’re talking here would be the faculty who have had very little experience with using digital education and the class, whether that’s hybrid or online. But even if they can’t deal with that right now, it’s too early.

That doesn’t mean that from an institutional perspective that you can just wait and then until people are ready. I mean, it seems to me that people who are working on our staff, admen from an institutional side, they better be getting ready for this, even if it’s too early in some cases to get faculty to change behavior or to be ready to take the next set of moves. It’s almost like different groups need to be doing different levels of preparation right now.

Kevin: Well, that’s definitely what I’ve proposed. I think the thing we need to keep in mind is not all campuses are equal. We have campus leaders who aren’t highly familiar with distance ed, who are relying on faculty who have been released from one or two courses to be the distance education coordinator. Recent survey of California community college campuses, around 40 percent of those that responded to the survey said they didn’t have any staff hired full time to support distance education as an instructional design staff member.

Kevin: That conversation, that level of thinking about quality of online courses is something that they’re just made. You call it all hands on deck. What if there’s nobody to go to the deck?

Phil: Yeah. I wonder what’s going to happen to those institutions. And Jeanette, I know that you work a lot with, you know, you’ve done so much work partnerships with different providers, publishers, vendors, you know, the vendors who are supporting education in so many ways. What about from that viewpoint? Are you seeing any kind of common understanding of what’s different today versus what’s going to have to be different from the fall time you have?

Jeanette: You see, I think they I think any vendor, for the most part that is in the education realm really does want to support, you know, the institutions and the teaching teachers and learners in this instance. And they’re working really hard to do that. They’ve all seen, I think, especially the online vendors, an incredible increase and usage of their products. And they’re excited about it. You know, a lot of times, I think especially some of these vendors, you know, they’ve been pushing to have teachers, students, institutions find the value of what they’re trying to sell. And it’s happening now. And I think there’s from what I’ve been hearing, there’s a lot of excitement around that. But then I think there’s also you know, you’re looking at depending on the type of vendor that you’re talking to, some of the issues, again, are around. I think financial viability, especially if that usage is tied to using that cloud service and if their pricing is now set, if there’s so much volume on what they’re tools. And then I think the other piece that we’re seeing is. You know, we’re seeing a lot of things around data security, especially in terms of Zoom, which has been an issue.

And then I think within the content providers, they’re filling a really important role and being able to provide some well-designed courses and that have the content, have the assessments and have activities. And that can be really helpful for someone that’s trying to fill a class.

Jeanette: But one of the questions that I have around that is if everybody is using some of the same, you know, kind of canned courses without customization, how does how do you differentiate that instruction from one school to another? We talked to a vendor where they have a wonderful platform. They have really well vetted content from what we can see, very interactive, well-designed. But if you’re a student and you’re using the same exact content and course and you’re going to an elite school pain, you know, tens of thousands dollars a year in tuition. And that same exact course is being taught and used at the community college down the street. What’s going to happen to this school? I think that now they’re looking at how are we going to be able to customize per school? How are and how are those institutions going to do that as well, so that the students are getting the value that they’re looking for within their education.

Phil: You mentioned two things that in my head as you’re talking, I’m thinking sustainability is on one hand, it’s sustainability of the vendor. Are, you know, are they going to be able to financially survive? And you know, what’s going to happen to their model? But it’s also sustainability of the institution, of what’s unique about what they provide. And is that going to affect their enrollment and their financial viability. So to a large degree, sustainability is a huge part of what we have to be looking at going into the fall. And I would add to this that there was sort of a feel good component to the all hands on deck reaction that was, hey, we’re going to offer our stuff for free until July. We’re going to you know what, we’re going to be good citizens and offer this for free. And there was a lot of EdTech platform and content offerings that were thrown out there, but that didn’t address the question of does that help or hurt sustainability of the institutions or of the vendors themselves.

And while that was good in intention and I likely helped in many cases of just quickly moving things to remote learning, it doesn’t seem like it has a place. Once we get into fall and once organizations have to think about sustainability, you know, we’ve got to move beyond that type of reaction and to think more critically about what is going to help out in the mid and long term.

Jeanette: Right. And that’s something that I think, you know, Kevin, I talked about it and you hit on it already. Kevin, is that their incredible need for well-trained instructional designers right now? It’s huge. And there’s just not there’s not enough of them.

You know, these schools and these institutions need to be able to create well-thought out courses. And, you know, we all know that this is not going to go away by fall. There’s always going to be this sense of we need to be able to be nimble and not to get our courses online. And so professional development and, you know, really well thought out courses that have instructional design backing is going to be a need going forward, regardless of what vendors can do and what content providers can do.

Jeanette: These schools really need to be thinking very thoughtfully about how are they going to serve their students? You know, current ones and future ones, and how are they going to differentiate for courses online and what community are those students joining? And same with the faculty. You know what? What does it mean to be a faculty member or a teacher within a certain institution? What type of support are they getting and are they just throwing something and expected to create it or are they given the support to build it out?

Kevin: You took all the words right out of my mouth, but I think, you know. And I mentioned this in the in the blog post we launched today that we can’t wait until fall to be thinking about what the ecosystem will look like for the fall. Campuses have adopted great numbers of technologies and added them like. Transformers all coming together. Whenever that was. But it’s it’s not sustainable to use Phil’s word. They’re not going to have a budget that can afford all of the tools that they have adopted rapidly. And and it’s going to degrade the quality of the experience if you have people trying to learn not just one new tool or two, but six. And then you get to that point that you are making, Jeannette, where once you’ve made these adoption decisions, you have to weave them into the instructional design.

It’s not an add on like a space shuttle strapped to a rocket, but it’s something that you’ve designed to work together. And like you say, there’s not there aren’t many people out there doing that.

Phil: I like the way that you describe the ecosystem. You know, we need to figure out what the ecosystem is going to look like. Because part of this incredible pace of change we’re going through by, you know, by requirement, I mean, we have to, and we have such an important need for quality design of courses and really ramping up the student experience. And we have a lot of that. We have to get done by fall. But we need to acknowledge a lot of this is happening during a period where budgets are going to be cut and there are a lot of layoffs happening and there are financial crisis going on.

And we’re not quite sure what the impact is going to be there. It’s a challenge. I mean, this is a challenge of our time that we’re facing is trying to figure out. We need to figure out now what the eco system should look like, certainly come fall time to take care of these things that are somewhat contradictory and prove support and quality of instructional design and instruction in general at the same time that a lot of money is going away, at the same time that students have logistical challenges left and right on what they can do remotely. And we’ve got to figure out what’s the best that we can do to set ourselves up for the future, for whenever we do get to a new normal. And that sort of is the challenge of our time right now. A lot of good things that can come out of it. But boy, this is it. It’s just daunting, particularly when you think of the timeframes we’re dealing with.

Phil: As we move forward, this is a lot of what we’d like to explore in real time. We’re trying to figure out what’s happening and what our role is moving forward as well. But this subject of how in these times we can manage this transition and keep the focus on student learning as best possible and make sure that so many of these items that we already know about. I mean, we understand issues about equity, about accessibility, about quality course design. But the question is, how can we actually get them implemented in the greatest number of cases to improve education moving forward in a rapidly changing environment. And this has been a great conversation. Thank you, Kevin and Jeanette. And we’re going to keep exploring this topic in future podcasts.