What a difference a year makes! Yes, remote learning has been steadily growing as a successful alternative and supplement to the face-to-face classroom over the past three decades, but the emergence of COVID-19 worldwide has seen an explosion in the demand for access to education using online formats. It has, no doubt, affected you personally. So, what should you know about the broadscale uptick in virtual learning, and how will it affect your current and future educational goals?
Perhaps one of the most important distinctions that should be made in the significant growth of online learning in 2020 is between emergency remote teaching and established distance learning programs.
Emergency Remote Teaching
Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) is a term that “emerged as a common alternative term used by online education researchers and professional practitioners to draw a clear contrast with what many of us know as high-quality online education” (The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning).
ERT can be defined as the transition to online instruction that arises from an unplanned crisis or need, such as a natural disaster or a pandemic, as we’ve seen with COVID-19. It is temporary in nature and requires the transfer of traditional classroom instruction to an online platform in very short order. Instructors are also required to quickly adjust to teaching, facilitating, and assessing students in new ways. To their credit, schools across the nation have risen to the challenge during this time, developing innovative learning solutions to ensure that students do not fall behind in their academic pursuits. The alternative would be devastating. It’s important to note, however, that ERT is not without its drawbacks.
The Ottawa Univerisity Difference
First of all, because a school’s entire teaching staff is utilizing technology resources full-time across the entire student population, many schools simply aren’t equipped to provide the level of support needed to ensure a quality virtual learning experience. Ottawa University is widely recognized as one of the most popular institutions with an already well-established online presence.
What’s more, there is no universal or standardized methodology for ERT, which allows for extreme variances in the way online learning is conducted and assessed. Each district, private school, or university devises its own system for teaching material through distance learning that was previously offered face-to-face in the classroom. For example, some schools go fully online with no visual online interaction with teachers; others offer blended formats; and still others use real-time video teaching or conferencing, requiring students to be on a pre-determined school schedule. Some are self-paced while others are class paced or deadline oriented. Class size also varies significantly – think public universities with 500+ students in a class vs a non-profit institution with an average of 30-40 – which impacts the teacher’s ability to engage personally with students online.
In addition to differences in teaching modality, schools have different budget capabilities for bridging the technology, resource and personnel gap when required to go fully online, thus putting some students at a disadvantage. And none of these factors account for the diverse academic, emotional and social needs of different student populations, i.e. adult vs elementary vs high school vs young adult learners.
Schools are also on the hook for quickly deciphering and implementing state and federal guidelines for ERT. These can, again, cause wildly different approaches in online teaching. As a result, ERT often becomes a knee-jerk content delivery model, making it nearly impossible to adequately adapt all coursework and resources on such a wide scale in such a short time. This is not the case with Ottawa University. Ottawa University was one of the first to embrace a growing demand for programs specifically tailored to the needs and learning styles of adult students. Our highly accredited institution is a true pioneer in online learning.
In extenuating circumstances like war or lockdown, ERT may be unavoidable, even acceptable and welcomed, considering the vast demand for access to education and the alternative of not having it at all. Online learning in 2020 has become exactly that for many students of all ages across the world. But is that the only online education option? The answer is “No.”
Established Distance Learning Programs
Ottawa University is an accredited university with a wide variety of reputable, online programs that are taught by experts. Our programs were created using a systematic model for design and development based on research for effective online learning results. The model our programs use is strategic in its purposes and methods for ensuring quality of instruction and assessment, something noticeably missing from most emergency online instruction.
Remember, Ottawa University’s online degree programs and curriculum are not simply regular classroom content put onto a virtual platform. It is designed specifically for online or remote learning using rigorous research and educational standards, and our certified instructors are robustly trained for online instruction and assessment. Not only are the curricula, staff, and assessments tailored for remote teaching in our established programs, but preparation has also been made for needed resources, such as e-books, technical support, counseling, and career services.
Clearly, online learning has been brought to the forefront in 2020, and ERT will undoubtedly improve over time by becoming more standardized and generating best practices. As the world continues to muddle its way through being thrust into emergency remote learning and teaching, it may be time to take a step back and consider your education goals and online learning options. Identifying an established, accredited distance learning program provides a higher quality, more structured, and more reliable education.
If you are considering furthering your education and would like to more about how Ottawa University can help you achieve your dreams of earning a college degree, Contact OU today!