From devastating bushfires, to trying to teach online into China despite the Great Firewall, and to now teaching our entire student cohort online – 2020 is already a tough year. Our social, political and educational “norms” have been fundamentally challenged. Here in university land, we seemed to have crossed over into a Twilight Zone, hoping for the pedagogical best but fearing a COVID-19 induced inadequacy.

As we muddle through, I would like to pause and question “what digital education really means,” touching on two key ideas: connection and compassion.

First, in a climate where social distancing is a survival must, a palpable sense of isolation is growing. This is deleterious for students and staff, studying and teaching online for the first time or with limited experience. We need a web of support and resources to pivot our practice effectively. It is worth remembering why Web 2.0 – the impetus for many innovations in digital education – emerged. It was to connect people and their ideas across places and times, not to automate tasks. Now is the time to reach out; to have coffee virtually and talk about teaching online. Your institution will have digital learning experts and relevant resources – they will be your best friends.

Second, we need deep levels of critical compassion for our “Panic-gogy” and its trial and inevitable errors. University teachers are, at the best of times, overloaded – balancing research, teaching, caring for their students and family life, even without COVID-19. We need to be kind and reasonable about what is achievable, while doing our best to care for students and assure the quality of learning (experiences) and outcomes.

Connecting professional networks and targeted, compassionate service design for online learning are two key ideas in our short course – ‘Transforming Digital Learning: learning design meets service design’. Deakin University is offering this online course free for the next 6 months for anyone pivoting their practice online. If you’re looking for a learning community that offers both connection and compassion while social distancing, you are very welcome to join us. Let’s be pedagogically connected and explore these challenging times together


Dr Chie Adachi

Director, Digital Learning, Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University

[email protected]


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