Chapter 1: Fundamental Change in Education

1.8 Navigating new developments in technology and online learning

Instructors in both universities and colleges now face the following challenges:

  • to teach in ways that help develop the knowledge and skills needed in today’s society;
  • to handle increasingly large classes;
  • to develop teaching methods that are appropriate for an increasingly diverse student body;
  • to deal with a variety of different modes of delivery.

However, in general, teachers and instructors in post-secondary education have little or no training in teaching, pedagogy or the research on learning. Even many school teachers lack adequate training to deal with rapidly changing technologies. We wouldn’t expect pilots to fly a modern jet without any training, yet that is exactly what we are expecting of our teachers and instructors.

This book then aims to provide a framework for making decisions about how to teach, and how best to use technology, in ways that are true to the core values of universities, colleges, and schools, while building on the large amount of research into learning and teaching, and into the use of technology for teaching, that has been done over the last 50 years or so.

The next chapter deals with the most important question of all: how do you want to teach in a digital age?

Activity 1.8 Main conclusions from Chapter 1

Use the comment box to write down at least five conclusions you would draw from this chapter, in addition to the key takeaways below.

Click here to compare your answers with mine.

Key Takeaways

  1. Teaching methods need to be used that help to develop and transfer specific skills that serve both the purposes of knowledge development and dissemination, while at the same time preparing graduates for work in a knowledge-based society.
  2. As student numbers have increased, teaching has regressed for a variety of reasons to a greater focus on information transmission and less focus on questioning, exploration of ideas, presentation of alternative viewpoints, and the development of critical or original thinking. Yet these are the very skills needed by students in a knowledge-based society.
  3. The wide diversity of the student body is a major challenge for institutions. This requires more focus on teaching methods that provide support for learners, more individualization of learning, and more flexible delivery.
  4. Online learning is a continuum; every instructor and every institution now needs to decide: where on this continuum of teaching should a particular course or program be?
  5. As more academic content becomes openly and freely available, students will look increasingly to their local institutions for support with their learning, rather than for the delivery of content. This puts a greater focus on teaching skills and less on subject expertise.
  6. Faculty and instructors need a strong framework for assessing the value of different technologies, new or existing, and for deciding how or when these technologies make sense for them (and/or their students) to use.