The Post-Pandemic Campus

empty classroomAn article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (unfortunately, "premium" for subscribers even in these pandemic days) is called "How Should Colleges Prepare for a Post-Pandemic World?" by Brian Rosenberg. His general advice is to "anticipate and plan for change rather than merely hope that it will not arrive." Change has arrived.

This article may be for higher education but almost all of these thoughts apply to K12 schools too.

Here are my highlighted excerpts with some commentary:

  • College is staggeringly expensive. Students and their families are going to be hard hit. Plus, colleges that have lost enormous sums of money will be attempting to recap but from families that have lost income and savings: Most colleges will need to provide more financial aid and possibly fewer services with fewer people.
  • When the lockdown is over there will still be a period of voluntary separation. With no vaccine, many people are still going to be hesitant to travel, return to campus, interact in groups in classrooms and labs. I suspect there will be more gap years than in the past.
  • Distance learning was forced upon us. Some of it was fine. It had been fine in many courses before all this. Some of it was lacking. It was done in a panic without much time to prepare and with faculty and students were not ready for it and never wanted to be online before. Schools need to really evaluate what worked, what didn't work and what they will change next time this kind of longterm disruption occurs. And it will.
    What courses and subjects can use the online model to be less expensive but still highly effective? Of course, most schools still charge the same for an online course as a face-to-face one, so there is no savings for students.  way to teach. Can a hybrid model of in-person+online lower cost? These are not new questions to ask, but too many schools have still never addressed them - and the answers may be different in 20121 than they were in 2019. 
  • Is distance learning "good enough" in a world of sharply diminished resources? The author suspects that for many students and families the answer will be yes. I agree.
  • So, how should schools prepare for the post-pandemic world? It is better to anticipate and plan for change than merely to hope that it will not arrive. One change might be rethinking the traditional academic calendar - "which is almost unique in its inefficiency."  The author suggests the "simplest way to lower the cost of college" but it is not the easiest way - eliminate the long breaks and make it easier for students to graduate in three years.

Everything Online Is Not Open

open access
 Open Access promo buttons - photo by biblioteekje, on Flickr

Here's my point upfront: Not everything online is open. 

This is the story of an image and a blog post that are mine and that have found their way online in other places. 

I post a lot of things online - mostly articles and images. Almost all of that is marked with a Creative Commons License. That means that with few restrictions you can use and reuse the resources. This blog is labeled in that way.

CC license

But the Open Everything movement of the past three decades has created a generation and an incorrect assumption that everything online is open.   

I found a photo of mine that I had used online in another place. It was the two Buddhas image shown here and I found it on a well-respected Buddhist journal website.

It also shows up in other places. One simple Google image search turned up 10 instances of it being used and it can also be found on other sites. I'm actually pleased to see it used and properly attributed for others to see.  

Buddha phone latte

The really important distinction is that in the case of the Tricycle journal using the photo (as you can see above), they have credited me and linked to their source which is my Flickr site. That "attribution" is part of the CC license I used. That is the way open is supposed to work. Other people have reused the image (which I did clearly mark for reuse) too but without attribution. And others after them have then reused it having no idea where the image originated and whether or not it is open for their reuse. (Another Flick example is at the top of this post.)

I have also seen other mages of mine used in places online without attribution. In some cases, they were images I did NOT license as open (such as an image on Instagram or Facebook). I'm not a professional photographer who makes a living from my images, but there are people who are and obviously this is a critical issue for them. Watermarking images, disabling right-click downloading and using smaller, lower-quality files are some ways they might try to prevent copying. But it's so easy to grab a screenshot of anything online that it's impossible to fully prevent it. Plus, you have to spend a lot of time tracking down where your images are being used and pursue misusers.

When I use free and open images from others (Google allows for that kind of search and there are many sites such as pixabay.com), I still doublecheck to see whether I need to attribute a creator or site. On that popular image sharing site, they have a Pixabay License and it also states when you download an image that it is is "Free for commercial use. No attribution required," there is an opportunity for you to give attribution. I always tag the image name with "pixabay" and I usually will still give credit. For one thing, I want others that see it and know that it's not my work and that they too can legitimately use it. The site tells you that "Crediting isn’t required, but linking back is greatly appreciated and allows image authors to gain exposure." You can also "tip" the creator with a donation. Pixabay, Wikimedia, Flickr, YouTube, and others will give you the correct code to use for attribution and perhaps even for embedding. An example is at the bottom of this post.

I have Google Alerts set for lots of words and phrases. For example, I get updates about the appearance of my name, Serendipty35, and serendipity35.net appearing n the web and I check out the sites. It's always nice to see someone linking to the blog or mentioning me in a positive fashion. It is a lot less appealing to find posts plagiarized and in a few cases, the entire posts feed being fed into some other site as its content.

As an educator for 40+ years, I have always included lessons in the proper use and citation of sources for all kinds of intellectual property. It's a lot more difficult since the Internet came into being because the copying is so much faster and easier. Educating users in and out of school and of all ages about the proper use of reusing content is a lesson that should never end.

open sign pixabay

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

COVID-19 Virus Gets Schools to Think About Online Learning

school closed sign

Photo by Melissa Baldwin via Flickr - modified - CC license

It's Monday morning in America and students are headed back to classrooms. Well, most of them are headed out to a school classroom. The COVID-19 virus (AKA coronavirus) has finally put some schools into motion to consider and try to set up online learning in the event that the school is closed.

Of course, if nothing is already in place, it's too late.

An NPR headline about K-12 education says "As Schools Close Because Of Coronavirus, Nearly 300 Million Kids Aren't In Class."

A NY Times headline on higher education states "First U.S. Colleges Close Classrooms as Virus Spreads. More Could Follow." It uses the University of Washington ias an example as they move to online classes for its 50,000 students. This week finds both K-12 and colleges starting spring break, which might be a break from the problem or a time to prepare for the possibility of not reopening after the break.

In my home state of New Jersey, the state posted a directive and "guidance" to schools. Local school officials are concerned about this public health emergency. The NJDOE will count days of home learning toward the requirement that districts provide 180 days of instruction. The risk of exposure to COVID-19 in New Jersey remains low at the moment but the possibility of mandated public health school closures is real. 

The phrase "it's not a case of if but when" is being applied to COVID-19 but it also applies to less serious situations like natural disasters that close schools and even instances when teachers or students need to be home for extended periods.

Newbie schools will quickly learn that there is a lot more to online learning than "putting materials online." Some schools may be using software or a paid platform to post homework and other materials. That's not online learning. That's content management.

In preparing to move instruction online, it is too easily forgotten that training needs to be done for faculty and for students. I think back to the late 1990s when I first began teaching using the Internet and designing online courses. Both groups of users were not ready for it. Some students didn't even have the basic technology from a home computer, fast enough Internet and even smaller things like a microphone for a computer. 

The software we used included a Course Management System (at first our CMS was WebCT at the college) and additional software for watching and recording video and audio and all of it became the major training activities for the instructional technology department I managed. We tried very hard not to be known as "the WebCT people."

I had started in K-12 education and when I left there at that time we had no online learning in place. Unfortunately, for many schools, they are not that much further along today.

Certainly, money is a factor. A school district that provides students with a laptop or tablet to take home has a big advantage over one where only some students have a computer and broadband at home. In the past two decades, not everyone has gotten online or is carrying a smartphone in their pocket.

Again, having the hardware, software, and content online is only part of the solution.

The college that doesn't offer online classes is rare today, but even more rare is the college that is prepared to go fully online with all its courses, students and faculty in an emergency.

It is sad and disappointing that it takes a possible pandemic for schools to think about how they would deal with a shutdown. The capability to provide instruction when there is a weather closing or other short-term emergency should be considered as important already. 

Schools have made progress going online in the 21st century, but not enough.