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Pedagogy or Technology: Teaching in COVID-19

The Impact of Teaching in COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged the status-quo thinking of all educational institutions. 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 the needs of all learners returning to classes in the Fall and subsequent terms. The equitable solution is an innovative approach that provides the same quality education to online and F2F learners simultaneously. That is, all students, regardless of the mode of delivery, will be fully engaged and immersed in the same classroom at the same time with the same instructor. While the present level of practice is an online education, and to some degree, adaptive to hybrid models where some delivery is F2F, the new challenge is how to accommodate remote and in-person learners SIMULTANEOUSLY. This new challenge is of pedagogy, far more than it is one of technology.

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 among students and instructors transpires utilizing technological advances at minimal expenditure, with no additional resources for the students.

With readily accessible technology, students can join their F2F classes online as they are occurring. Using cameras and microphones placed throughout the classroom, students online can see their professor lecturing, view their entire classroom, 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 the OEIP learning modality to allow for simultaneous attendance from home or in-person, to meet all students' needs while providing the same high-quality education in unpredictable circumstances.

Beyond Higher Education

School districts are preparing for returns to campus amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and are searching for solutions to facilitate these complicated transitions while maintaining the continuity and quality of educational programming. These unprecedented times require the K-12 education community to pursue creative solutions that honor the diverse needs of students, families, and teachers without sacrificing sound pedagogy or causing significant class roster changes to further disrupt classroom communities. Optimal Engagement and Immersion Pedagogy is an innovative solution that empowers teachers to simultaneously engage F2F and online students in meaningful, authentic learning experiences, while maintaining maximum flexibility to respond to changing on-ground conditions, such as needing to return to fully remote instruction. Simplicity of implementation and adaptability combined with student-centered pedagogy are hallmarks of OEIP.