Lost in translation: time

Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

Thomas Hardy

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

One of the things we noticed when the pandemic struck and lockdown happened, was as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version.

The two hour physical in-person lecture became a two hour online lecture.

Why was the online lecture two hours?

Well in the timetable it was two hours!

Why is it two hours on the timetable?

Well we only have the room for two hours.

But online you don’t need a physical room?

But the programme validation said we need to have a certain number of hours and the term is a number of weeks, the end result was two hours a week. That was in the timetable and that’s how long we have the room for. Someone else has the room before and after my session.

The thing is translating practice online doesn’t really work. You lose the nuances of what made the in-person experience so great and you don’t take the advantage of the affordances of what digital can bring.

There is no physical constraint on why an online two hour lecture needs to be two hours.

There may be (actual) timetabling constraints if the two hours is delivered live online, the students may need to attend another live online session. However this may not always be the case and certainly isn’t if the session is recorded in advance.

When it comes to designing an online module or an in-person module with online elements, we can design the online aspects without the physical, geographical and chronological constraints of an in-person session.

This means sessions can be designed to fit the topic, rather than fitting the topic to the session.

It means you can do longer sessions, or shorter sessions. 

Sessions no longer need to be weekly (as in you only have the room once a week). You can front load the delivery when delivering online, taking advantage of asynchronous recordings for example.

The real challenges here are more cultural and process, than technical or physical.

Was the module validation process designed for in-person modules? Can it be redesigned for mixed (blended) or online delivery?

Does the academic have the necessary skills to design an irregular model of delivery based around the topic and content rather than the availability of a specific room at a specific time once a week?

What about student expectations? Will they find an asynchronous, irregular timetable too much to handle?

Time is not a constraint, we are.

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