Creative Destruction: What will education look like post Covid?

If you take the emotional angst out of our current situation; curious to hear how you think education (all levels) will change post Covid. Will zoom and other tech help reinvent the classroom? Will the elites have to up their game to create value worth tuition in a tech savvy world? Will online be the standard going forward?

I imagine there will be some very creative new ways of teaching. I know many will be stuck in the pre covid mode as change is hard. Also each level of education is so different (early ed through college). Wife is an educator. Many friends are educators. They are all resistant to change and want out. I don’t blame them but can’t help but feel this would be the time to create something special.

I remember S had a HS science teacher who stressed that he believes in the kids teaching themselves (used a lot of online resources - 6 yrs ago) and that his role was to facilitate discussion. Very much open architecture environment. Felt very odd to the structured student (including my son). Maybe he was on to something.

I do feel the pandemic will bring upon lasting change in society. How we do things. It will test conventional thought and irritate status quo thinking.

D is a performing artist. Yesterday she took a ballet and jazz class given by a prominent Broadway studio… from the comfort of our makeshift dance room / living room in FL. Never would have had that opportunity. She thought it went quite well. First time they ever did this so I imagine it will improve.

After 17 yrs in the house, we finally will be using our living room. It took a pandemic :smile:

I’ll bite with two thoughts…

  1. I wonder if we will see traditional, large lectures again after the epidemic. I’m wondering this as someone who is currently breaking down their traditional fall lectures into digestable, recorded chunks, for uploading.

I think big-hall lectures were on their way out anyways. The problem? Students don’t show. And as teachers, we’ve been part of the problem by having live lecture capture, so that students could listen to the lecture recordings at their convenience.

  1. If the Covid-19 epidemic rolled on for more than next year, I could imagine larger-scale changes. Why have so many colleges delivering essentially the same teaching online? I could imagine some consolidation.

This relates to the product that the college delivers. Once you removed the physical campus and its amenities, it will be a challenge for many colleges to differentiate the product that they deliver. People may be willing to pay a premium for an immersive experience at their dream school, but once it goes online, you might be able to get a similar educational content for a whole lot less.

On the flip side, the value of really talented educators may go up…

Very good points and I agree. I think differentiation will have to set in for colleges to continue to charge $X. I guess it’s not a completely new conversation when you consider the whole MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) movement and even platforms like Coursera / Udemy. Some of that content is already quite good.

What will colleges actually represent? Will there be a decided difference in being on campus and tied to that community? Will employers care (or grad schools)? Do colleges become more about experiential learning / immersive experience where kids are teaching themselves online but Profs are there to facilitate research and projects? Could be a very cool outcome.

I remember my college senior year (in the 80s) was almost entirely independent study. I was a communications major and was selected to produce a television show for a local affiliate. My prof had a relationship with the industry. We would meet, discuss the project, think through logistics. It was up to me to choose a topic, arrange for all the equipment, book interviews, put a crew together, shoot and edit the footage, etc. Had I stayed in that industry, that would have been a very useful experience. He also had me doing campus newscasts which led to me doing play by play for the hoop team. I was very busy, but essentially didn’t have classes to attend.

I imagine some highly skilled professors will become far more valuable and others less. Maybe their ability to connect with their field will play a bigger role. Last semester S had a PoliSci class about Warfare. Instructor was a former intelligence officer. He had guest lecturers from his previous life (think CIA). Very engaging and interesting without a textbook. I believe there were plenty of articles assigned and pretty robust discussion. Maybe that becomes the norm.

K-12 is a different animal (different developmental stages) but could likely benefit from an overhaul.

You hear about the added interest in home schooling in the pandemic. Pods being created to allow for social interaction while minimizing exposure. Our neighborhood would present a pretty lucrative opportunity for an educator to manage and deliver the content. Parents would be willing to pay $X per kid per week. I’m sure that’s about to start happening in many places. Wonder how it coincides with official state requirements to pass on to the next grade.

For us the value isn’t necessarily in the professors. Sure there maybe the occasional “rock star” but for the most part they are interchangeable between schools. At schools that follow the large lecture class format, courses are primarily self-directed learning anyway with the exception being tutorials or smaller seminar courses. DS19’s classes will be completely online for at least the fall semester (winter semester is still TBD). The only real difference for him this fall versus last year is going to be that he won’t have in-person labs which obviously is not ideal. The actual learning being online however won’t be that much different. Most of the learning is done independently by the students. Professors/TAs/lab instructors are mainly “guides on the side”. What does differentiate schools is the quality of the peer group they attract and that is what is potentially missing in an online only environment, the ability to connect and collaborate with peers which is where the bulk of the learning occurs. If schools can find a way to facilitate that with online courses then I think students can have a comparable academic experience as being physically on campus. What is missing in an online model isn’t traditional academic learning. It’s the life and growth experience that comes from being on a physical campus and I don’t think the demand for that is going to go away any time soon. Even during a pandemic the number of students willing to risk returning to campus even if it means taking online courses from their dorm rooms demonstrates that.

Yes there is the actual instruction / course content and there is “everything else”. I imagine the coursework could become far more immersive, and therefore hard to separate from the “everything else”.

I’m not a believer, even in intro courses, that all classes are essentially the same across the college spectrum. I agree that Econ 101 is Econ 101, but I don’t agree that quality of the course is the same everywhere. Perhaps an extreme example: When I took it at the state flagship in the 80s, I had the basic survey course with 500 kids and a TA (or maybe the prof - don’t remember). We used the same textbook as my HS girlfriend who was at UPENN. Her prof wrote the textbook. Her class was full of better students. I have no idea how large her class was or how difficult the prof was (doesn’t automatically mean he was the best teacher). Our class was likely multiple choice mid term / final. She may have been required to take a deeper dive. I don’t know.

Would be interesting if those classes could be combined with some immersive project to really drill down.

Most elementary, middle and high schools in our area had already gotten rid of the “sage on a stage” model. In fact, kids learned on their own at home and then did “homework” in class with the teacher there to help. White boards were used with lots of multimedia and every student had an IPad.

This had not happened yet at the university/college level, at least for residential programs.

That said, many many non-traditional students have been taking classes online for some time. It’s not a radical change for them.

Online classes have a lot of potential and many faculty are training over the summer. Combining Zoom with lectures recorded in segments (with office hours, small group work, questions and discussion on chat) with Canvas or Blackboard (discussion there too) can give a pretty good educational experience.

But I am quite sure residential colleges will still be in demand, at least those that survive. The residential college experience is so much more than the academics. Many can’t afford that but those who can, or get enough aid, will certainly resume. Many lectures are already recorded.

ps I really don’t think MOOC’s are typical online classes- but people keep using them as an example. So many colleges and universities have online classes, yet MOOC’s keep coming up. I really hope people understand they do not represent the typical online experience.

How do the MOOC’s differ? I’m truly not that familiar. I’ve taken a financial credential course online and it was fine. Not sure if it fell in the MOOC category. It was for an industry credential.

Your K-12 experience sounds a lot more advanced then what we have here.

Re MOOCs vs. online credit courses:

I did my MS Ed in TESOL completely online back before streaming video, and this summer I’ve finished three MOOCs. Well-designed MOOCs are excellent opportunities for people to get an introduction to online learning and can serve as good models for the online-delivery part of credit classes. The mechanical part of it, as it were. The MOOCS differed from my grad coursework in that there was no live interaction available with the instructor, quizzes were entirely machine graded, there were no true final exams, the reading load was a lot lighter, and the course content was more immediately applicable to my job. Which of course is why I enrolled in them in the first place.

Re punctuated equilibrium in education:

The pandemic has caused the acceleration of a change in education that was already coming. We basically got kicked out of the nest. Straight from the 19th century and into the 21st for a lot of us to be honest. Right now a whole bunch of new evolutionary pathways are developing. We don’t know yet where they will lead, and it is going to be interesting to see what happens next!

Re the view from my window:

I teach adult ed. ESL and pre-academic ESL at a community college. My students’ only complaints about Zoom are 1) classmates who don’t stay muted so we hear all the noise from their households, and 2) not getting to chat with their friends in their own languages before and after class so they have to exchange contact information and connect outside of class. Yes, it is harder to build the classroom community remotely, and yes, there are technical glitches, but truly there is no reason for my classes to ever return to face-to-face status. That is a simple fact. Even when the pandemic dies down enough for us to have face-to-face classes, the programs where I teach will continue to offer some sections remotely because of student demand for classes at times that work for their lives without having to commute to a physical class site. This is going to be true at 4-year institutions too. Some classes will never go back, some will return to the original version, and some will return but forever changed.

Every webinar I’ve attended this spring and summer has included some version of this message:

Good teaching is good teaching, and we can figure out how to deliver it in the new environment. We just need to give ourselves, our colleagues, our students, and their families a bit of grace as everyone moves toward whatever it is that the new normal turns out to be.

@happymomof1 I really appreciate your post. I sense you are correct that some classes will never go back. Like you say,“Good teaching is good teaching”. I’m imagining a small virtual class where the prof is still engaging (calling on students for their opinion), using video on part of the screen when appropriate, using the white board feature(I do that all the time with business meetings). Having Virtual office hours. Kids getting together in person or in zoom for study groups. Could easily take over the larger lectures. It just makes you wonder how far this will go and if it will drain the population base on campus. If so, that will hurt the ultimate experience in and of itself.

I can also imagine a scenario where most classes are online and kids just go move to the college town and live in apartments to gain independence. That’s not a college experience. It will be critical for the colleges to provide lots of programming to keep kids coming. Perhaps that will be the differentiators.

@rickle1 -

A ballet professor I know started putting classes online in the spring for his students, and they told their pals, who told theirs, who told theirs, and students are now attending regularly from all around the world. They can even attend a class later that they missed, because the recordings are up forever in Facebook. The institute he works at re-envisioned their summer dance intensive to include live students (yes, dancing with masks on multiple hours each day) and with virtual students attending remotely - at least one with a 14 hour time difference from Australia.

We are indeed in a new world. Education is no longer tied down to a particular time or space. When people feel safe to go back to class they will be choosing in-person classes for specific reasons, and not simply attending in-person as a default.

Glad to see this discussion.
My thoughts run in a different direction.
Yes, this will accelerate the move to MOOC and other online delivery of education. But in some ways, it might help revive the a) local and b) small.

a) This certainly, I would think, put a dent in the assumption that college-bound kids will apply to a zillion schools where ever and that the “best” college experience must be far away from home. After these disruptions, how many are going to think twice about sending kid and his/her stuff all the way across the country when probably, with some exceptions, so much of that experience and an equally valuable education can be had closer to home?

(Our experience was college freshman at a smallish private college halfway across the country had to come back, like everyone else. If his school had gone all remote/online this fall, we would have shrugged and said, “Seeyah” and gotten him in one of the many excellent schools around here. The advantage is that the school he’s in shares our religious traditions and values, but that is not something that is going to be experienced in any deep way in an online learning experience, anyway).

b) Smaller means more flexible and more personal which means something right now. Son’s school is intending face-to-face delivery. They are taking precautions, and indeed, have sent out lengthy protocol missives, etc. Everyone knows that it could all blow apart. But the level of communication has been excellent, the administration is transparent about all the possibilities, and there’s a level of trust that my friends who have kids in large state schools just don’t seem to feel at the moment.

I’m all about disruption of education as it’s delivered and experienced in this country, from K-college. It’s been miserable and stressful for everyone these past few months, but hopefully good will come out of it.

As somebody observing this from inside academia, and seeing the responses of the students, one thing is very clear - as a rule, students do not like taking classes on Zoom. Given the choice, almost every one will choose in-person. That means that, once the threat of infecting has dropped, if given the choice, students will not choose online classes. Students haven’t learned that they can take Zoom classes, they have learned that they dislike Zoom classes.

The teacher speaking directly to a group of students is a format which is thousands of years old, and is worldwide, and speaks to basic human nature. Humans are social, and learning is a social activity, and always has been. Zoom classes are individual activities and do not work as well.

The interactions between the students are as important as the lectures by the instructor, especially in large classroom, and Zoom cannot provide that. Maybe if and when we are able to create a truly “virtual” classroom, that will be possible. Perhaps.

Streaming lectures to a live classroom can be a halfway decent replacement for a large class lecture, though, but I think that even here students will mostly prefer a live instructor, if only because the have a better sense of the instructor, which helps with the clarity of the lecture. The lecture also has a better sense of whether students are following or if they (the instructor) has lost the students.

@happymomof1 As the parent of a dancer, I can say that there is absolutely and categorically no way that online lessons can even come close to providing any real level of dance education. A dance teacher needs to see dancers from a 360 degree perspective, and needs to be able to actually physically interact with students. Moreover, dance is almost all a group activity, and dancers learn to move with each other by sensing the movement of other dancers around them - air movement, floor vibrations, sound and even body heat and smell. A Zoom lesson is a poor replacement at best.

@MWolf interesting points. Not calling out UF but I think a reasonable example to advance the conversation. UF (Definitely in the biz school and maybe lots of other places) utilizes the ELP (Electronic Learning Platform). Essentially it’s a recorded video of a lecture. They make a big deal about it but that’s what it is. I believe it’s a live recording of a class so those watching can actually ask questions within the tech. Couple of points:

  1. I wasn't a fan as it was "sold" to us as a great way for kids to take their biz classes when it was most convenient. Live class was offered at 8 or 9 am. Room fit about 75 kids. If you wanted to be at in person class, you had to get there early to get a seat. Didn't have multiple sessions. That's what the ELP was for. Was told the really active kids within the biz school tend to come to live classes. The rest just watch it on their computer whenever. Left there thinking what kind of education is this?
  2. Read several write ups on the process and many, many, many students preferred the ELP to going to live class. They could fit it in their schedule however they chose (I didn't like that attitude as I thought "this is college. Your schedule should start with your classes"... but I'm 1000 yrs old). Anyway, some formed groups to watch the classes together, keep each other on track, etc. This isn't just for the large survey classes. Lots of them have this option.

As I mentioned, I didn’t care for that. But now, it seems like they should be way ahead of the curve. Although UF’s reason for doing it has more to do with capacity and facilities, it may be that it’s quite useful and a good piece of teaching modality going forward.

Employers, to the extent that they care about one college versus another, tend to care about what they perceive as quality of graduates. This usually correlates to one or more of (a) the college’s admission selectivity, (b) the quality of the education as measured by how well the graduate can do things that they employer needs them to do (which may include either or both of major-specific skills and knowledge, or general skills that the employer expects college graduates to have), © familiarity with or favoritism toward the college (“alumni network”).

Introductory economics probably does not vary as much as intermediate economics (that are typically taken by sophomores and juniors). Intermediate economics may require multivariable calculus, single variable calculus, or no calculus. While the heavier math versions are more likely to be found at more selective colleges, there are enough exceptions that this cannot be automatically assumed without checking.

Interesting that there were that many early birds to fill the seats in a 8am lecture…

I think students will learn that some classes can be taken online. My daughter took 2-3 during her time in school and liked them. All had writing assignments due every few days so she kept up.

I also think students will learn they can take a semester or even a year away from campus and still get the classes they need into the time frame to graduate on time. This will allow for internships that might not fit the perfect semester timeline and let the student not miss a semester.

I didn’t think of that aspect. While I still think that students will prefer taking courses in person, the possibility to do an internship while still taking a class or two would be a huge plus, especially for students who want to do internships during the school year, but also want to still take some credits during that period.

I also think that colleges will be able to develop more extensive, and higher quality, programs for students who may have difficulty being on campus for all eight semesters.

Rather than having a student either taking an online class or a F-2-F class, you can have students doing both for each course. The students taking the course online can also interact with students who are on site and in lectures. So, for example, students who need to go back home to take care of an ailing relative can still take courses with their cohort. Even if they are taking fewer classes, there is still a continuity.

@MWolf Zoom classes certainly do provide opportunities for students to interact with one another, and with the teacher.

Over the summer, many faculty have been training to use the features of Zoom (combined with Canvas and Blackboard) to provide an optimal experience. A family member is teaching on Zoom and gets very positive feedback from students. The professor should feel free to deliver a lecture with personality, just as they would in person.

A MOOC is a “massive open online class.” Emphasis on the “massive.” These are utilitarian and handy for some purposes, but should not be confused with the kind of online classes offered at colleges and universities, which are either limited in size or have TA’s for sections.

I have to say that my D was pleasantly surprised with how much instruction, interaction, and learning happened online.

That said, it was not close to the experience of being in the labs, collaborative work spaces, and inside the classroom. I think schools will push to continue to reopen to in person learning.