‘Let’s collaborate through online learning’

Lockdown changes could benefit future learning, says Kate Lindsay.

Kate Lindsay

Covid-19 has led to teaching and learning in establishments across the world moving from physical spaces to being more online than ever before.

I’ve always been fascinated with the 1960s movement to relocate the residents of city slum housing collectively into high-rise estates, or as they were called ‘streets in the sky’. We had two such projects in my home town of Sheffield that have moved through phases of utopian vision and abandonment; one has survived into a phase of gentrification.

However, both these projects had significant social failures. Moving an on-ground community into the sky will only work if that community is cared for, if the fabric that they reside in is maintained and improved over time, and if differences in ways of living are recognised and supported. The same is true for the design of online learning.

Looking forward to the next academic year, our universities are likely to look very different. There is no doubt that some, if not a significant amount, of teaching will have to take place online. Emergency remote-teaching methods in place now are going to have to undergo renovation, if not a complete rebuild, to provide high-quality online education where both teachers and students can reside comfortably.

For many institutions this will require significant investment at a time when finances are strained, but there is an alternative model. There are opportunities to collaborate – with others who already have purpose-built online curriculums, and as subject communities to develop them. There is a small collection of universities in the UK, such as UCEM, who have designed fully online programmes that can be easily adapted to suit different delivery models and embed different types of teaching. 

There are opportunities to enter into a dialogue about reusing and expanding the existing educational products we have. In doing so we can become much more sustainable as a sector, and resilient against future disruption. We may be socially distanced, but we could end up being more connected than ever before.
We just need to develop the right place.

Kate Lindsay is head of digital education at University College of Estate Management

Main image: Kuprevich/Dreamstime.com

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