Learning from the Pandemic
On March 1, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. I think we all remember the first few days and weeks of the pandemic. Every hour brought news of grim changes like the bells of a doomsday clock: Disneyland closes indefinitely for the first time in its history, the NBA postpones March Madness, New York City pauses its plans for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, countries close their borders, Broadway theaters go dark, retail stores close their doors, Japan postpones the Olympic Games, churches stop holding worship services, schools cancel classes and prepare for remote learning, and states issue stay-at-home orders.
As schools and universities adapted to fit an ever-changing “new normal,” traditional methods of education were turned on their heads and an unprecedented number of students relied on online education. As we mark the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, we see the majority of businesses and educational institutions returning to pre-pandemic operations, with most people reentering the stage of in-person interactions and expectations in workplace and classroom settings. As we return to something that resembles our previous normal, we may be tempted to ignore or gloss over the pandemic, to forget the past and move forward. But the best way forward is to take the time to comprehend the permanent effects of the pandemic in the changing face of education and recognize which pandemic-prompted changes are here to stay—for the better.
Students and the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic left students searching for a foothold in the changing world and longing for a sense of normalcy, and many students have struggled with depression and anxiety related to the global changes. While experiencing sudden school closures and the constant whiplash of policy changes, many students relied on their instructors to be a center in the chaos around them.
Students responded to the pandemic in myriad ways. Some students reinvented social structures, collaborating with classmates online or from six feet apart. Others sank further into isolation, turning off their cameras and retreating behind the black square in Zoom. Some students have dropped out of college or postponed higher education due to economic and health concerns. Others have bounced back almost seamlessly. Because of the great variety in students’ personal experiences, we may see a greater range in student performance and participation in the coming months.
Teachers and the Pandemic
Many educators, as they made the shift to online learning, brought some of the best practices of in-person learning with them: recorded PowerPoints to replace lectures, creative video elements and assignments to replace in-class elements, high-tech virtual alternatives to simulate labs and field trips, etc. This resource-rich approach to online learning permanently changed many people’s practices in teaching and learning online, leading some professors to experiment with flipped classrooms through recorded lectures and Zoom meetings with students. In the process of moving courses online, many educators reevaluated their course material and their expectations for students, rooting out busywork and emphasizing the core of the course. And while many instructors will return to traditional classrooms, they will return with an expanded arsenal of electronic resources.
Beyond the technical aspects of teaching during COVID-19, many instructors experienced burnout and struggled to connect with students. Many would come to benefit from an increased focus on emotional intelligence and resilience and learn to prioritize connection, even in traditionally isolated mediums. In an increasingly digital sphere, we all yearn to see the humanity in others break through the screen. Some of the most successful instructors during the pandemic redefined traditional boundaries in communication, office hours, and connecting with students. The flexibility many professors adopted as a necessity during the height of the pandemic to address both their needs and their students’ needs will be a valuable tool going forward.
Education and the Pandemic
The very foundations of traditional education systems shook during the height of the pandemic, and we continue to feel the aftershocks today. Students balked at paying Ivy-League prices for online-university content, deepening the divide between the assumed prestige of traditional universities and the accessibility of rapidly improving online schools. And because tests and entrance exams (GRE, ACT, SAT, etc.) could not be safely held in their traditional formats, many programs and colleges temporarily adjusted their acceptance criteria, furthering the discussion about the continued relevance of such tests. The great, global shift to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic will continue to influence and inform educational methods for years to come.
MyEducator and the Pandemic
As a publisher of online textbooks, MyEducator was uniquely positioned to help instructors in the sudden transition to virtual learning. In March of 2020, we offered free mid-semester adoption of our learning resources to any high school or university instructors who needed help and support making the shift to online learning. This included access to our support team and supplemental course resources. And in the continued prevalence of online learning throughout 2020 and 2021, the MyEducator courses and teaching resources helped many instructors provide relevant, robust content to their students.
We know that we’re just one aspect of the story of education in the pandemic, but the MyEducator team is dedicated to learning from the past two years and improving its resources to provide for the changing needs of higher education. In future blog posts, we hope to share our data trends and insights on education during the pandemic, the present state of higher education, and the future possibilities of higher education.
Bona, Christopher. Teaching College During the COVID-19 Pandemic. McGraw Hill Blog.
Bona, Christopher. Teaching College in the “New Normal.” McGraw Hill Blog.
MacAulay, Doreen. Emotional Intelligence Can Create a Better Experience for Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic. McGraw Hill Blog.
MacNaughton, Hannah. 3 Things I Hope My Instructors Remember as We Return to Campus. McGraw Hill Blog
Matson, Catherine. What I Learned from Teaching During the Pandemic. McGraw Hill Blog.