During 2020, education moved on-line in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For most, this meant making the best of a difficult situation through emergency remote teaching. This is far from a deliberately designed curriculum and the rapid move on-line has challenged assumptions and prompted new approaches.

As education providers move back towards stable delivery, they are considering what of their 2020 innovations they will keep. It is time to think critically about the best teaching tool for the task and specifically, what is best done in each mode.

On-line learning is widely seen as a flexible model that increases access for learners. Distance education providers like the UK Open University were quick to take this on. Now, in a digital world, on-line education should be the norm as an authentic work and life environment building digital literacy. But on-line is also an important learning environment because it can do some things better than face-to-face

It is worth considering where on-line activities provide the most value in fully on-line or blended learning designs. Here are six activities which belong in the on-line environment – you can probably think of many more

Exploration – the internet has brought the world to our fingertips. Students, teachers, researchers and citizens gather information online

Information management – digital media are pre-eminent at organising, curating and storing data locally or in the cloud. We are well past filing cabinets

Data analysis and visualisation – research and business analysis has been digital for decades but now digital representations are routine in news and media

Simulation – online and physical activities provide different and complementary experiences. Online simulation is valued for a new perspective or to experience learning environments otherwise out of reach

Repetition – some learning such as language acquisition requires repetition to achieve mastery. Your computer never gets tired of testing knowledge

Flexible collaboration – asynchronous interactions are more important in a globally-connected world. We expect to collaborate accommodating different time zones and life commitments.

In rebuilding our courses post-pandemic (on-line, work-based or blended), we should take the time to choose the teaching tool to best fit the learning need.



Liz Johnson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, Deakin University

[email protected]


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