With the ubiquity of the Internet and the pedagogical opportunities that digital media afford for education on all levels, online learning constitutes a form of education that accommodates learners’ individual needs beyond traditional face-to-face instruction, allowing it to occur with the student physically separated from the instructor. Online learning and distance education have entered into the mainstream of educational provision at of most of the 21st century’s higher education institutions. With its consequent focus on the learner and elements of course accessibility and flexibility and learner collaboration, online learning renegotiates the meaning of teaching and learning, positioning students at the heart of the process and requiring new competencies for successful online learners as well as instructors. New teaching and learning strategies, support structures, and services are being developed and implemented and often require system-wide changes within higher education institutions. Drawing on central elements from the field of distance education, both in practice and in its theoretical foundations, online learning makes use of new affordances of a variety of information and communication technologies—ranging from multimedia learning objects to social and collaborative media and entire virtual learning environments. Fundamental learning theories are being revisited and discussed in the context of online learning, leaving room for their further development and application in the digital age.
Lisa Marie Blaschke and Svenja Bedenlier
Critical Digital Pedagogy in the Platform Society
Earl Aguilera and Christina Salazar
The term “critical digital pedagogy” has been used to describe a broad range of approaches to teaching and learning rooted in critical theory, digital cultural studies, and the liberatory education promoted within schools of critical pedagogy since the 1960s. References to critical digital pedagogy began to appear in published scholarly literature in the early 2000s as a response to the expansion of neoliberal ideologies and policies in an age of proliferating digital and networked technologies. These shifts in technological, economic, and social organization have since become collectively described as the “platformization” of society, driven by processes such as datafication, commodification, and algorithmic selection. In response to concerns about the neoliberalization, dehumanization, and platformization of education specifically, the emergent field of critical digital pedagogy has coalesced into a community of educators, designers, and theorists with an international scope, though the majority of published scholarship originates from the United States and the European Union. While the approaches and methods that the proponents of critical digital pedagogy engage with are varied, three broad families of practice include critical instructional design, humanizing online teaching and learning, and digital ungrading. Following earlier traditions of critical pedagogy, practitioners in the field of critical digital pedagogy find themselves grappling with critiques of their approaches as overly politicized, ideologically driven, and pragmatically limited. Open issues in the field include the expanding role of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the role of political activism beyond the classroom, and the addressing of intersections between race, class, and other dimensions of identity within a critical framework.
The Global Response of Universities and Colleges to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Post-Pandemic Futures
For universities and colleges around the world the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant disruption. The pandemic created challenges and possibilities, as well as amplifying existing trends for higher education institutions. The initial pandemic-related disruption affected universities and their students in many countries and had widespread effects on their operations and teaching. In particular, the temporary closure of campuses had implications for the “on campus” experience, and the closure of inter- and intra-national borders reshaped patterns of the international movement of students. The widespread and rapid shift to online education showed possibilities and limitations for technology-enhanced learning. In addition, the pandemic had an impact on government priorities for funding higher education when many were faced with unprecedented fiscal pressures, leading to funding reductions for some universities.
Moral Education and Technology
Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland
Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.
Online Networks in Teacher Education
Initial teacher education is increasingly happening online, both formally and informally, within networks that are commercial, institutional, governmental, and research-driven. These networks make use of the capabilities of the internet and related technology to better support teachers. The scholarship of teacher learning within online networks can be divided into four main strands: network design, outcomes from network participation, agency within the network of networks, and critical perspectives on online networks of teachers. Online networks are designed environments, and there are design decisions involved in developing different types of teacher network. Research into networked learning provides a common language for talking about these networks that allows for articulation of transferable design principles and comparison between networks. Some studies of networks of teachers are conducted with a focus upon the forms of social support that teachers provide for each other. These studies look to understand the role of online networks within the profession, and to contribute to growing and testing the base of theoretical knowledge about how teachers can be better supported through online networks. There is a growing strand of literature that focuses upon how teacher agency can be developed so that each teacher can take advantage of a world in which online networks are prevalent and can use them to flourish within the profession. Teachers can learn to develop their own professional learning network that makes use of existing online networks. While there is much optimism about the potential of online learning networks to support teachers and serve the profession, there are also perspectives that are critical of the widespread embrace of online networks by teachers and the way in which this development is changing the profession.
Simulations in Teacher Education
Stefan Schutt, Rebecca Miles-Keogh, and Dale Linegar
For decades, simulations have helped educators build students’ skills and workplace readiness in professions such as health care and medicine. Historically, teacher education has been slower in its take-up of simulations, but the value of practice for pre-service teachers (PSTs) has become more widely recognized as digital technologies have become ubiquitous. Simulations, however, are not only digital. Although their long history incorporates technology-based platforms such as virtual worlds, “serious games” and online scenarios, they also include resource-intensive face-to-face activities such as role plays involving teachers, student peers or paid actors. In teacher education a range of pedagogies support the use of simulations by recognizing the complexities of classroom practice and emphasize targeting specific aspects for skill development and supporting opportunities for deconstruction, reflection and feedback. An overview of these developments provides social practice theories as a theoretical framework for exploring the potential of simulations to help PSTs practice targeted skills in risk-free environments, followed by a potted history of simulations in education, identifying limitations, and concluding with thoughts about future directions. Examples of contemporary simulations are used throughout to illustrate specific points.