10 simple rules

Published: 22 October 2020

Guidance for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education

In March, higher education systems across the globe were disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. After an immediate and emergency ‘pivot’ to shift teaching online, educational institutions were faced with a summer of contemplation and preparation for the 2020−21 academic year and a new reality for how we teach.

In response, UofG academics Dr Emily Nordmann, Dr Chiara Horlin, and Professor Jo-Anne Murray, in partnership with colleagues from the Universities of Aberdeen, Sheffield and Edinburgh, have identified ten guiding principles that balance pedagogical best practice of online learning with the pragmatism necessary during this longer-term crisis.

Last week ‘10 simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education’ was published in PLOS Computational Biology. The paper addresses a common question that unites all educators and institutions: how do we provide teaching and assessment to students in a manner that is accessible, fair, equitable, and provides the best learning whilst acknowledging the temporary nature of the pivot?

“The key to online delivery is accessibility and flexibility,” says Dr Chiara Horlin. “This is also the hallmark of universal design approaches to learning, and widely recognised by educators and researchers passionate about supporting neurodiversity and the needs of all students.”

The paper recognises that no ‘one size fits all’ solution exists and many of the choices that need to be made on both micro- and macro-levels will be far from simple. However, these guiding principles emphasise a need to break the invisible boundaries of ‘tradition’, and highlight:

  • The critical importance in considering accessibility and pedagogical flexibility
  • Clarity in communication and setting of expectations
  • The vital roles for both synchronous and asynchronous coursework components
  • Monitoring and supporting engagement
  • Realistic learning outcomes for field, laboratory and performance
  • And perhaps most importantly, fostering community between and within students and staff.

Despite the difficulties and uncertainty that lie ahead, it is important to not lose sight of the potential for this crisis to result in lasting positive changes to higher education. Already much reflection has taken place over what truly matters when it comes to learning and the importance and necessity of teaching-focused staff for the stability of the higher education sector.

First published: 22 October 2020