Pedagogy or Technology: Teaching in COVID-19
The Impact of Teaching in COVID-19
The dangerous COVID-19 virus and the pandemic associated with it have challenged the status-quo thinking of all universities. Physical distancing and other similar requirements have fully extended, if not exhausted, many colleges and universities' physical, financial, and human resources. New thinking is required to approach what appears to be unsolvable problems.
Traditional Modalities of Learning
At the forefront of discussions at the highest levels of most colleges and universities, is the simple, yet complicated issue to address how to deliver courses in the Fall term 2020. Many of these schools have begun to expand their capacity to offer more classes online and have invested significant resources in developing their online technology. While "Online" delivery seems like the simple, practical, and cost-effective solution, a closer examination of student preferences revealed that this is not a universally embraced preference by all students. As of May 5, 2020, twenty (20) universities are on a growing list of schools being sued by students requesting tuition discounts or refunds after these schools moved all their classes from F2F (face-to-face) to online. While the veracity of these claims is in question, the more significant issue here gets lost in the legal debate. There is a clear divide among students in their preference for F2F over online education. Any educator or administrator who claims either of these modalities is superior, more economical, or universally preferred to the other, blindly dismisses the half-empty view of the proverbial water bottle in favor of their preferred half-full view!
Students' Preferences During COVID-19
In a recent survey, 165 graduate students made up of working professionals were asked their preference for F2F classes in Fall 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these students would have to travel from other states to Los Angeles to attend classes. Overall, 22.42% of these students reported a strong preference for F2F attendance, with a range of 11.1% to 34.8%. Another 25.45% of the students stated they would prefer "some F2F" courses, and 46.75% said they would not attend F2F classes until the COVID-19 pandemic resolves. While these results do not represent a generalized preference for or against online learning, they do buttress the point that there is no "one-approach-fit-all" for a preferred mode of delivery.
A Pedagogical Solution
While many would prefer to attend classes online, perhaps just as many would prefer at least some F2F instruction. As such, colleges and universities realize that none of the traditional delivery modes (fully online delivery, fully F2F delivery, or a hybrid model of some online plus some F2F) will be sufficient to meet all the learners returning to classes in the Fall and subsequent terms. To be equitable to all students, an innovative approach where those who can attend in person and those who would only join online and receive the same quality of education is the solution. That is, all students, regardless of the mode of delivery, will be fully engaged and immersed in the same classroom at the same time. While the present level of practice in the standard is an online education, and to some degree, adaptive to hybrid models where some delivery is F2F, the new challenge is how to accommodate distant and in-person learners SIMULTANEOUSLY. This new challenge is of pedagogy, far more than it is one of technology, although the technology required to do this is still in the developmental stage.
A New Modality
Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) took the challenge of finding a new modality that meets students' needs and their academic learning preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new learning modality, a new pedagogical approach, has been developed called "Optimal Engagement and Immersion Pedagogy (OEIP)."
OEIP is a new classroom experience that allows students to engage in either modality, F2F, or online, simultaneously. Active participation and engagement between students transpire utilizing technological advances at minimal expenditure (under $1,500 per classroom) with no additional resources for the students.
With readily accessible technology, students can join their F2F classes online as it is occurring. Using several cameras and microphones placed throughout the classroom, students online can see their professor lecturing, view their entire classroom present, clearly hear their classmates speak and engage with them, and see the whiteboard. OEIP provides flexibility in a high-tech unique learning modality that extends beyond the traditional 100% online and F2F learning methods. As a result, Pepperdine GSEP will begin using an OEIP learning modality to allow for simultaneous attendance from home or in person, once F2F classes are safe to be held again, to meet all their students' needs and provide the same high-quality education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.