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From emergency remote teaching to resilient systems for higher education

17 Apr 2020 | Dr Kay Hack (PFHEA) Ahead of two member benefit webinars on 21 and 28 April, Kay Hack, Principal Adviser at Advance HE, explores how HE can use the current crisis to transform remote teaching from an emergency response to a resilient teaching system for the future.

Exceptional efforts have been made by the HE sector over the past month to continue to deliver or attain learning outcomes in non-ideal circumstances. Students and staff recognised that achieving the ‘perfect’ online learning experience was out of reach in the time-frame available and most have exhibited great patience and humanity.

But how much of this online delivery has focused on delivering content - whether through real-time or asynchronous lectures? Has the development of the attributes and competencies: the complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity that employers want and need, taken a backseat? Has the current crisis exposed or enhanced our own capacity for virtual collaboration, social and emotional intelligence, new media literacy, novel and adaptive thinking, and cognitive load management - the critical future facing skills identified by the Institute for the Future (Davies, 2011).

As the crisis is set to continue into the next academic year, both returning and new students will be expecting an effective, accessible and flexible learning experience. Are universities ready to respond to diverse and rapidly evolving challenges?

On campus teaching is critically dependent on physical locations - laboratories, art and design studios, and theatres, whilst the student experience is affected by the social spaces, the libraries, and access to computer suites and maker spaces - how can we effectively deliver authentic, participatory and connected learning experiences for students who are unable to return to campus due to on-going or intermittent travel or health restrictions?

Prior to the current crisis the HE sector had begun to recognise the growing need for agile and responsive education and training systems to regularly upskill and reskill the workforce. 

Changes to the ways of working and living already being wrought by the fourth industrial revolution and artificial intelligence were driving changes in how and where we will work and continue to learn across our careers, but also upon how higher education provides those on-going learning opportunities. The pandemic has highlighted that most higher education institutions need to enhance their capacity to deliver flexible and resilient education systems that would meet student expectations and the accelerating social and economic transformations that wider society anticipates. 

In the next two webinars in our COVID-19 series we will hear from academics on the frontline of the current crisis and those who have had significant experience in delivering flexible and accessible higher education.

Emergency Remote Teaching – What have we learnt?

Webinar 1 will provide an opportunity to reflect on our emergency remote teaching – was it a pale reflection of our face-to-face delivery and how can we move away from the deficit model? Please join Eva Wong and Theresa Kwong (Hong Kong Baptist University) who first had to deal with a disruption of teaching due to civil unrest before the virus hit, David White (University of the Arts, London) a renowned thought leader on digital learning and culture, and Torrey Trust (Associate Professor of Learning Technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst) who’s research and teaching focus on how technology can support teachers in designing contexts that enhance student learning.

Beyond fire-fighting – developing resilient higher education

In the second webinar please join Kate Lindsay, Head of Digital Education at the University College of Estate Management, with particular interests in critical digital pedagogy and inclusive practice, Ale Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Northampton, with a mission to redesign all of Northampton’s programmes for active blended learning and Jackie Potter, Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development , who will remind us of the importance of foregrounding belonging, community and connectedness as we plan to start the 2020/2021 academic year online. Together we will explore models of online pedagogy and consider how to create active online learning and some practical approaches to mitigate against the critical points of failure inherent in higher education.

These two webinars will help us to reflect on what we have learnt over the past month to ensure that our approaches to curriculum design are more resilient and to identify the new opportunities that have arisen from the Covid-19 crisis.


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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