As I write this based in the UK in early January 2022 here like in many other countries we are wrestling with the issues caused by the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid. Yet one can be reasonably optimistic at present that 2022 will be a bit closer to what used to be called “normal” than 2021 or 2020 were.
I also hope that the finer details of the “new normal” in educational provision will become clearer as the calendar year goes on. We do not want the old normal to “click in” like a dislocated shoulder being put back in place (I know of what I speak) and reassert itself to the detriment of reasoned online provision. Actually I don’t think it will – a lot of “forced embedding” has taken place in the last 18 months and it is often forgotten now that in many countries (not all), many higher education institutions (less so, schools) were changing their approach fast for some years before the pandemic started – much more than some institution presidents seemed to be aware of. Indeed the MOOC revolution started ten years ago; FutureLearn was founded just over nine years ago; open educational resources go back before that. Not new concepts.
One issue we shall continue to “bang on about” is resilience. Those institutions with an existing scalable LMS (VLE to us in the UK) and some experience with it were on the whole in much better shape to cope with the changes required by the pandemic than those without. In particular there should be no need to cancel examinations from now on – which does not mean that all exams will take place in exam halls. The modern LMS can do a reasonable job in delivering online exams but now there are several commercial LMS-type full online examination systems ready for prime time and in use in several institutions. This is not just an issue for universities: school-level exam providers need to be much more aware of such systems too.
A key part of the resilience agenda – and one less within the control of individual institutions – is to overcome digital poverty. One way or the other (and governments have to be involved either directly or indirectly as funders) we have to ensure that all students have adequate digital devices to study with.
So… good fortune to all governments, institutions, providers, teachers and students in the educational year ahead.