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Lessons for Higher Education from the COVID-19 Transition to Online Teaching and Learning

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Mental Health & Wellbeing, Social Impacts

We are engaged in a multi-institutional, multi-national study of the consequences from the COVID-19 related transition to emergency remote teaching. By comparing across institutions and nations we will glean lessons of the SWOT variety – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – resulting from rapidly transitioning to teaching under social distancing. Speculation suggests that this disruptive event will trigger long-lasting consequences for online teaching and learning, both positive and negative, just as it will have broader enduring effects for working remotely, supply chain logistics, and health care organization.

Working with partners in Asia, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere in North America we are interviewing faculty members about their experiences and surveying random samples of students about their challenges.


We believe the multi-national, COVID-19 necessitated, transition to emergency remote teaching provides a unique opportunity to assess the impacts of a mass-scaled attempt at using virtual platforms as learning environments. Institutional online responses will vary substantially, from the simple dumping of lecture notes and PowerPoint slides onto a digital platform through to richer interactive engagements among professors and student peers with more sophisticated, refined assessment methods, both formative and summative. Further, the availability of institution-wide learning analytics provides a rich source of data (e.g., learning management tool usage, peer-to-peer interactions) although this will differ by institutional readiness.

Key Questions

  1. What range of approaches to online teaching and learning occurred? What were the most commonly used approach to content delivery, faculty-student interaction, and student grading? How did this vary within and between institutions, given different levels of institutional readiness?
  2. What factors promoted the most robust online teaching and learning outcomes (e.g., student participation, peer to professor and peer to peer interaction, student presentations) for faculty, students, and staff (institutional, individual, discipline-related, etc.)?
  3. Given the diversity of students on campuses, how were different student groups able to adapt, cope, or thrive with the transition to online learning (e.g., students registered with access and diversity units, international students)?
  4. How will this recent online experience inform post-COVID-19 teaching and what opportunities might this transition present for the enhancement of greater online teaching and learning (e.g., doing it better, doing more of it, etc.)?
  5. What barriers from this transition might create obstacles for the future use of online teaching and learning?
  6. How has the COVID-19 experience informed institutional plans, strategies, and concrete activities for the continuity and delivery of teaching in the future (next few academic terms, longer term)?

We are interviewing faculty, learning support professionals, and senior administrators, and asking a random sample of students to complete a self-administered questionnaire. We are also using aggregate level learning analytics to investigate the transition from face-to-face to emergency remote instruction.

Collaboration opportunities:
We are seeking international, institutional partners.