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The new normal: Dialogues and ways forward

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As we grapple with adapting higher education to COVID-19, dialogic spaces are needed where we can explore lessons learned and consider paths forward. This Pecha Kucha synthesizes key discussions from a 12-month dialogic webinar series, The New Normal, aimed at understanding current experiences and sustainable solutions in the meeting places of technology, teaching, learning, assessment and student engagement in higher education.


The Pecha Kucha is organised into four topic areas, each briefly discussed in this abstract: ‘busting’ higher education myths, student engagement, dual delivery, and assessment. For each topic area, the Pecha Kucha addresses the nature of disruptions and consequences to practice, teachers’ discourse and experience around attempted solutions, and students' responses to teachers’ perceptions and solutions. We conclude the Pecha Kucha with a brief synthesis of perspectives and recommendations for ways forward in technology-informed higher education practices.


Online learning operates under too many false assumptions. These range from the myth of the digital native (Margaryan, Littlejohn, & Vojt, 2011). to the belief that online engagement should closely replicate in-person practice. This section of the presentation dismantles some persistent online learning assumptions and explores different perspectives on how ‘myth busting’ may lead to better online learning.


Student engagement is a seminal issue in higher education. As we examine data from our first COVID semester, specific engagement issues appear at the forefront: what does engagement look like when we decrease synchronous learning and can’t ‘see’ our students? How does online engagement differ from in-person paradigms? What are the implications for our practices, cultures, evaluation systems and services?

The part of the presentation explores student engagement in the context of the current pandemic and beyond. The discussion focuses on how we might best define, support and evaluate engagement. Also discussed are what ‘deep’ versus ‘surface’ engagement looks like (Author, 2019) and how we may avoid mistaking one for the other.


Effective dual delivery has become an imperative as universities struggle with articulating meaningful learning in both online and in-person paradigms (Author, 2021). Some of the key topics addressed in this part of the presentation are, what are effective approaches, outcomes and affordances? What tensions have emerged and how are they (not) being resolved? Is blended learning the same as dual delivery? As we venture back into on-campus teaching and learning for the second half of 2021 and leverage what we have learnt from the rapid move to online learning, what principles and practices can enhance the face-to-face teaching and learning experience in the future?


In higher education, assessment is simultaneously the topic of greatest concern to students and the most difficult area of practice to change (Winstone & Boud, 2020; Author). The disruptions of COVID have led to fraught and confronting experiences for instructors and students around assessment and accompanying technologies. This section of the presentation addresses key areas of tension and dialogue around remote proctoring, transitions to open book and online examinations, provision and framing of feedback and formative assessment, and how we negotiate fundamental issues of trust, validity and community.


References


Author (2014).

Author (2019).

Author (2021).

Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Vojt, G. (2011). Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital technologies. Computers & education, 56(2), 429-440.

Winstone, N. E., & Boud, D. (2020). The need to disentangle assessment and feedback in higher education. Studies in higher education, 1-12.


https://2021conference.ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Pecha-Kucha-Abstracts-2021_v4.pdf

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