Since its start in the late 1990s, asynchronous online instruction has spread throughout the world and has been the subject of extensive experimentation and study. In this episode, Safary Wa-Mbaleka, Kelvin Thompson, and Leni Casimiro join us to discuss their new handbook that examines effective practices in online learning from a global perspective.
Safary is an Associate Professor of Leadership in Higher Education at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has authored and co-authored more than 40 scholarly journal articles and more than 20 books and book chapters. Kelvin is the Vice Provost for Online Strategy and Teaching Innovation at the University of Louisville. Kelvin developed the BlendKit Course open courseware as part of the Blended Learning Toolkit, and he co-hosts TOPcast: The Teaching Online Podcast. Leni is a Professor of Education, the Associate Dean of the AIIAS Graduate School and Chair of its Education Department and the Director of AIIAS Online, the virtual campus of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines. Kelvin, and Leni are frequent invited speakers on topics related to online instruction. They are the co-editors of The Sage Handbook of Online Higher Education.
John: Since its start in the late 1990s, asynchronous online instruction has spread throughout the world and has been the subject of extensive experimentation and study. In this episode, we discuss a new handbook that examines effective practices in online learning from a global perspective.[MUSIC]
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…
Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.[MUSIC]
John: Our guests today are Safary Wa-Mbaleka, Kelvin Thompson, and Leni Casimiro. Safary is an Associate Professor of Leadership in Higher Education at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has authored and co-authored more than 40 scholarly journal articles and more than 20 books and book chapters. Kelvin is the Vice Provost for Online Strategy and Teaching Innovation at the University of Louisville. Kelvin developed the BlendKit Course open courseware as part of the Blended Learning Toolkit, and he co-hosts TOPcast: The Teaching Online Podcast. Leni is a Professor of Education, the Associate Dean of the AIIAS Graduate School and Chair of its Education Department and the Director of AIIAS Online, the virtual campus of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines. Kelvin, and Leni are frequent invited speakers on topics related to online instruction. They are the co-editors of The Sage Handbook of Online Higher Education, which we’ll be talking about today. Welcome Safary and Leni and welcome back, Kelvin.
Safary: Thank you.
Leni: Thank you.
Kelvin: Good to be here.
Safary: A pleasure to be here.
Rebecca: Today’s teas are? Safary, are you drinking tea?
Safary: I’m having water this morning.
Rebecca: A key ingredient to tea it might add. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: How about you, Leni?
Leni: I used green tea, particularly this Japanese matcha. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: Nice. How about you, Kelvin?
Kelvin: I have deconstructed tea. That’s also called water.
Rebecca: [LAUGHTER] Popular globally.
John: And speaking of globally, Rebecca and I are both drinking Moon Bird tea, which is a gift from one of our listeners in France who sent this to us a few weeks ago. So again…
John: …thank you, Myriam.
Rebecca: Yeah, it has a nice hint of pear and elderflower.
John: …which is also a green tea.
John: We’ve invited you here today to discuss the SAGE Handbook of Online Higher Education. Could you tell us a bit about the origin of this book project?
Safary: The origin of this project is actually something that has to do with me having worked with Kelvin several years ago at the University of Central Florida. And right after that, I decided to work in the Philippines and that’s where I met with Leni Casimiro and we worked together. And at both institutions, we were working with online education. And eventually I was transferred to work for two years in Kenya. During the COVID-19. I happened to be in Kenya, and I quickly saw the great need of people wanting to have online education. The resources went up in the place. The things were scattered all over the place. And immediately the idea came that we needed a project that captured the whole world because now this was a worldwide phenomenon, it was no longer something peculiar to Kenya or Philippines or U.S., the whole world was in need of a tool like this. And that’s how I reached out to Kelvin and to Leni.. Thankfully, they both agreed to be part of the project. And I think, from my perspective, that’s where it came from. I don’t know about them… how they think about this? [LAUGHTER]
Leni: Well, for me, it’s really a big project that we did, combining the different parts of the world. You see where Kelvin comes from, representing the West, I represent the opposite, the East. And although Safary comes from the East as well, but he can represent the African continent. And so this really makes the book a global project, really a blend of different perspectives. And so I can say that online learning is represented all over the world in this particular book. And this is indeed, a big surprise to all the readers and a big discovery for everyone.
John: Speaking of readers, what is the intended audience of this book?
Kelvin: Well, I mean, honestly, I would say anyone, anywhere, around the whole planet, who in any way touches online or digital education, should access this book. It’s great for libraries and institutions to acquire and be in their communities. It’s a big book. There’s stuff in there for everybody. So I think it’s a great resource.
Rebecca: Speaking of the size of the book, the handbook contains 50 chapters. Can you talk about how you selected those chapters?
Kelvin: I think the scope and the sequence and the layout of the chapters and the sections sources originally to Safary’s proposal with the publisher, but it was intended to be rather comprehensive with sections like fundamentals and student support and administration and instructional design, instructional delivery, regional specifics, particular regions around the world, and how online education might differ a little bit in, say, the African context versus the European context. But over time, as we were recruiting authors, and as the writing process started, you get a little bit of evolution, the sections might morph a little bit, the distinctives of a given chapter might adjust based on interest and specializations of the authors. So that’s a little bit of the insight into the evolution. But I credit Safary for the vision, which I would say, is probably about 80 plus percent of what he originally had envisioned in the layout. That’s my guess. Safary, would you agree with that?
Safary: Yeah, the thing is that, when you work on a huge book like this, especially a handbook for Sage, they want to have the complete plan when you submit your proposal. Before I can get my co-editors to agree with me, they need to have kind of ideas, okay, this is what I have in mind. So usually, when I work on a handbook like this, I come up with a rough draft. And Kelvin and Leni were very good in catching certain things that I wouldn’t have caught because of their expertise, their experience, and their regions that they represent. And so in the end, what we have here is a product of the Table of Contents was really the product of these three brains that are speaking today.
Leni: I really liked the way Safary has chosen the chapters of this book. Well, we can say that he really originated the choice of these chapters. As you can see, from the perspective of a reader, when you look at the content, you can look in the sequencing, and you will find that you are actually looking into the step-by-step development, or the step-by-step process of engaging in online education. I will say it’s almost like a manual, almost every step that you will go through in undertaking online education in your institution is covered in this book. That’s why it’s really a very important book for every school to have.
John: We had some challenges coming up with a brief intro for each of you, because each of you has done so much with online education in many different roles in many different places. But you also have an editorial board for this book, which is a little bit different than many other books that we’ve seen in terms of handbooks. What was the role of the editorial board in putting this handbook together?
Safary: Yes, we had an editorial board. When you have a project of this magnitude, it is really important to have experts from different parts, especially at the global perspective of experts, and of course, experts on the different topics that are represented in the handbook. As much as we have experience with online education, we cannot assume to know it all… areas where we definitely need help. And so we selected very well known, very well recognized experts from different parts of the world. As far as online education is concerned, all the names that are there are people who are very well respected in the field of online education within their respective countries. The role they played was, for them to be our experts in checking the accuracy and the quality and the completeness of the chapters that were submitted to us. So basically, each chapter went to two to three reviewers and the editorial board members were the primary reviewers to help us really catch everything… and the work they did, I know that some chapters had more feedback than others, but I can say that contribution they gave through their feedback was very substantive in improving this handbook. I don’t know, Leni, how you found that when you’re working with the editorial members who are assigned to you?
Leni: Yeah, actually the editors we chose, I can say they are truly excellent and helpful. During the early parts of the writing of the chapters we lead editors are having like a tug of war with the chapter authors. They tend to bargain their thoughts with us, but when the editorial board came into the picture, it gave a more balanced outlook into writing the chapters. And so we really appreciate their services. The other thing is that this editorial board members are experts in the area and so we can truly depend on them. Their feedback were truly much valued and contributed much to the excellence of the contents of this book.
Rebecca: So the handbook is divided into seven sections. Can you provide a brief overview of each of those sections to give us the lay of the land?
Leni: Oh Yeah, seven sections, it’s nice to give an overview for people to know what the book contains. First section, of course, is the fundamentals of online education. It contains the introduction to the topic of the book, online learning, and some variations in online delivery, like blended, MOOC and ERT, emergency remote teaching, we just really call it ERT, and that became popular during the pandemic. The second section, online education around the world. This section is the most colorful part of the book, at least for me. Because it tours us around the world and gives us a view of how online education grew in varied contexts like US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. The third section, Online Instructional Design, this section now brings us to the T-cell of online learning, the design of online instruction with focus on how learning happens online. This is now the more serious part of the book. While we came from the most colorful, we now go to the serious part of the book. And then the fourth one, Online Instructional Delivery, this section focuses on the hammer and nail of online learning, the actual online teaching, and this is the most exciting part. Because this is now the delivery, the previous one was the most serious part, this one is the most exciting part. And then perhaps, Kelvin, can you say about the fifth section [LAUGHTER] Instructional Technology for Online Education?
Kelvin: Here’s what I would say about that, if you’ve got the most serious, you talked about the most exciting that you talked about, maybe the fifth instructional technology for online education is the most invisible, maybe that’s what it is. Nobody thinks about plumbing until it doesn’t work. [LAUGHTER]
Leni: Thank you. So that’s technology, I would say this section is essential, because you cannot teach without knowing how to use technology [LAUGHTER]. And the sixth section, Online Education Administration and Management, I would say this is the driver’s seat of online bandwagon [LAUGHTER]. Online education can never prosper without the support of the school administration. So, leading school reforms, like entering the field of online education requires certain strategies to be certain of success. Therefore, I would say this section will indeed equip the readers with those skills, perhaps Safary, can tell us what section seven is?
Safary: I would say the last section is the Customer Service, given that the students are the customers. So the customer service, how to make sure we deliver the best customer service to the online students. And so it discusses all those different aspects of how to really prepare, plan effective service to the students, because many times when people are migrating from face-to-face to online or integrating online education, they forget that online students actually need serious support. And this support definitely needs to be defined. And people who are dealing with the students need to be trained. And so the last chapter actually deals exactly with that.
Leni: For me, because I was looking at the table of contents, and I was smiling in my mind, wow, this is really neatly done. And so this works came to my mind, and I said, Oh, the seventh section, this section focuses on the heart of every online classroom, the students. And so because the students are the reason why we offer online learning, thus we ought to know how we should support them.
Rebecca: One of the things that I love about working on collaborative projects that are really big, and then you have these opportunities to reflect together, is how you summarize what you did. It’s probably really different than while you were right in the middle of it. And it’s fun watching the facial expressions and things as you guys are describing the different sections.
John: With 50 chapters, there’s a great deal of breadth and depth on these topics. In section one, though, you address two topics which are not always considered as part of traditional, at least, online education, which is the use of MOOCs and ERT, emergency remote teaching. But these have played fairly important roles. Could you talk a little bit about the role of MOOCs and Emergency Remote Teaching in the larger environment of online higher education?
Leni: As I see it, MOOC and ERT are connected to the overall theme of the book, because technically they are both delivered online. Online learning can be synchronous or asynchronous. And it’s mostly taken asynchronously while ERT is done synchronously, because it is generally a replication of the face-to-face classroom through the web. However, there are certain arguments in the field as to whether can we classify these two under online learning, because they are believed to not use the principles of effective online teaching. And they say, is their instructional design in ERT? There are more questions to raise to the point that some people believe they should not be called online learning. But for me, we have a common denominator, course delivery through the web. Maybe we can hear from my co-editors here, Kelvin and Safary, what they think about it?
Kelvin: I was thinking, John, when you asked that question, I think the combination of Emergency Remote Teaching and Massive Open Online Courses, it’s part of the popular conception of what online education is, it’s sort of like what a layperson might think, is, it’s just one big thing. So if you didn’t address Emergency Remote Teaching, Massive Open Online Courses, maybe even Blended or Hybrid learning, those mutations, it might not provide quite the same way in for the broadest possible audience. But then, once we’ve ushered you into the house, through the front door, I hope we do a good job of taking you on a more detailed guided tour through the nuances and everything that online education can be, without just being stuck at that surface level.
Safary: If I may add something to the ERT. Personally, the reason why I wanted to see this chapter there was that outside of the United States and maybe Canada, and a little bit of Latin America, when ERT came, Emergency Remote Teaching came, many people call it online education. And as we know, online education, the way we know it traditionally, is much more than translating your face-to-face class to a Zoom class or Google meet class. And let’s face it, that the word there is emergency. This was an emergency modality, which obviously emergency is never the best option, it means better than the chaos that you’re going through. And so many people who didn’t know online education, they came to believe that Emergency Remote Teaching means online education. And many people who were against online education to start with, it was like, “Okay, we have already said that this thing is really bad because it was an emergency.” So it was very important to distinguish what Emergency Remote Teaching is. And in the future, if somebody wants to use that for another calamity that happens, then they know what steps to take, but it does not replace what is known, what we define as quality online education.
Rebecca: One of the parts of your book, The second section is about online education around the world. And getting that tour around the world is not something we typically get the opportunity to have. So can you talk a little bit about what some of the global differences in how online higher education is structured and practiced across continents and regions?
Safary: This section came up as we were trying to make the book global. We really wanted to hear the voices of the people from around the world and not just the United States… the United States being the lead on online education, no question about that. We wanted to know where things are in different regions that were represented. We had to even go online to try to track people down from different countries. It was not easy finding people from certain regions where we didn’t have a network. So as a result, we’re able to bring on board chapters from different parts of the world. We had a chapter from the United States, we had a chapter from Europe, from Canada, from Asia, from Latin America, from Africa, from Australia, and from Middle East. So we were able to see what was happening in each one of them. And these chapters we had, they were kind of similar in a way where we wanted to know what is happening, what are the challenges, what are the achievements that people have in those regions, so that people from those regions who decided to do more work on online education, they have a place where they can learn of what is happening in the whole region from this book. They can have this as a reference to understand what was happening in their region. It is true that when you have one chapter, for example, I co-authored a chapter on Africa, because I was still in Africa at that time. It’s a chapter that’s covering 52 countries, you cannot really cover 52 countries, we just had to have illustration from some of African countries, because there’s no way we have data on all the 52 countries, but at least, there were some common themes that were coming up from a different African countries if I can speak from that specific region.
Leni: I can speak from the perspective of an Asian because I come from Asia. And I would say, we cannot deny that online education started in the West. But because we live in a connected world, it spread easily. Basically, I can see a lot of similarities around the world. The only differences I noticed, because your question says what are some of the global differences in how online education is structured and practiced? Now, I would say the only differences I noticed are the approaches to online learning, depending on the level of their maturity, in using this modality, and the resonance of the context they serve. Institutions that have been engaged in online learning for a long time definitely deal with issues that are different from those of newcomers, the needs of the context they serve also differ, so the strategies utilized also differ. One thing I would highlight, though, is that you can clearly see the creativity and continuity of people in different parts of the world in running online education. And we still can learn from each other. That’s why I said a while ago, the section on the global online education is really colorful.
Rebecca: One of the things that I think is really interesting about that section, is that it can also give us insight as instructors that teach a global audience about what the contexts are that students might be coming from. And that’s something that we often don’t have a little bit of insight into.
Safary: I think that is a very good point. Now that we have online education, people are teaching in many different countries. I remember just a couple of weeks ago, I was approached by one of my former students who wanted me to teach a class in the Caribbean. If things worked out for me, for that class, I would have just glanced at that chapter that covers a little bit of the Caribbean and see what I need to watch out for. So that is definitely a good point for the section on the different regions. In this handbook.
John: When online education first started, there wasn’t really that much known about what would work effectively. And as online education evolved, we saw the role of instructional design become an important part of the practice of online education. And section three deals with online instructional design. And that’s helped facilitate and inform online education, along with a lot of research that’s been done since the early stages. How have instructional design practices evolved since the early stages of online education in the latter part of last century?
Kelvin: That’s a good question. And I guess I’ve been in this field watching this first hand and touching it for about 25 years now. So I sometimes say not exactly the first floor of the building, but just one step above. And what I would say is that when I started in the late 90s, what we saw a lot was adaptation of traditional instructional systems design models and practices, that is constructs that were used quite often in corporate education. See if this takes you back to the past: CD ROM development, military learners. Those kinds of methods, practices, and models were adapted to this online context. And some of that’s constrained, like you’re making a system, like it’s a bounded system that was, quite often the context, like a CD ROM. And now you’re talking about the internet, a network open system. And I remember some of those early days, like, “Okay, what can we learn from these models? How can we adapt those?” Over time though, we learned that this is a unique context, which then began to have its own models and practices and processes and research and iterations and development. And I think of even things like much newer developments, like alongside of constructs like inclusive pedagogy, we see practices and thrusts, like inclusive design, as being a very specialized subset. So we’ve got a very robust research and professional practice literature that has grown up and these, arguably, two and a half decades of online education experience to draw upon. And I guess I’ll just say this, about that. Throughout my time in this field, what I’ve seen is that online tends to make the formerly invisible, visible; formerly implicit, explicit. And I think that evolution of instructional design and development field, it has learned from that. Online education has drawn us along in what does it mean to bring learners in from really anywhere and bring them together in a learning community, and how do we excel in that. That’s been a really rich progression over these last two and a half decades.
Safary: If I may add to that, the reason why we had this section was that many people who are new to online education, they think that online education is about uploading all the files that you have been using face to face, and then let the students read that, and that’s online education. It leads to a lot of frustration from the students because there was no instructional design for online learning. And so we needed to have a section that would guide people into that. And also for instructional designers in college and universities where they already have instructional designers. Some of them have not gotten a degree in instructional design. So they have limited knowledge. They just happen to know a little bit more than everybody else, but they don’t really have a solid foundation. And so that section helps to kind of guide people in the proper instructional design for online learning.
Rebecca: So sections four and five focus on online instructional delivery and instructional technology. These are topics that we love to talk about and have episodes of this podcast on. But given the time constraints, we probably can’t dig in fully here. But can you help us identify some of the most important changes that have occurred in how well designed online courses are taught?
Leni: That’s a nice question. Kelvin also said a while ago, he was mentioning about the early years of online instructional design, I would say, perhaps 1998 to 2000, those are the early years I’ve been involved, still in the planning stages of online delivery. Most of the online courses we developed were primarily text based, and are delivered asynchronously. That was after the military, Kelvin used, online learning, it was already in the university. Why text based? Because even our students, in the context we are serving also did not have the capability or the capacity to access videos or higher level technology tools. That’s why we designed the way they can access us. And so, yes, it was primarily text based and asynchronous. However, through the years, I would say two forces caused the major changes in the way we design online courses, first, technological developments, particularly in instructional technology. And second, changes in the needs or nature of our stakeholders, the students. Well, technological developments without a doubt have increased the repertoire of instructional media that we can use in designing truly engaging online courses. But as I’ve said earlier, technology is not the heart of online learning… it’s our students. And we saw how the nature of our online students change over time as well. While many of them were happy with plain text based asynchronous online courses during the early days, now they want more real-time meetings. And the flexibility they want is indeed tremendous, I tell you. We notice that there is a greater demand now for more flexible and personalized learning approaches. And these topics are dealt with in this handbook. I know Kelvin has written on this. And some other chapters also addressed this flexible learning, personalized learning approaches. These are now the needs and demands of the new generation of online students.
John: This is bringing me back to a time when I started back in 1997 teaching online when many of the students had 300 baud… [LAUGHTER] …or 1200 baud modems, and you couldn’t do much more than text. And I remember putting in some flash-based videos, and many students couldn’t access those because they didn’t have the download speed, especially students in more rural areas. So there was a lot of resistance to online education when it was first introduced, which is one of the reasons why I think instructional design practices became a part of early online education to help ensure the quality of that. And we do have, in most institutions a fairly elaborate process of instructional design assistance and instructional design review for online courses, which is something that’s never really happened in the same way for most face-to-face courses. Might it be time to start applying some of the techniques and practices of design that’s being used for online course delivery to in-person course delivery?
Safary: I remember about 15 years ago, I was training faculty on online teaching in the Caribbean. And I remember many of them, at the end of the training, saying, “I have improved my face-to-face teaching because of the training that I have been going through for online teaching.” So I definitely believe that if people get the proper training in online teaching, they can use that knowledge to improve face-to-face teaching. Because let’s face it, many people are teaching not because they have a degree in education, but because they have a degree in whatever field they come from, they have never learned how to teach. And so when they go through the training for online teaching, they discover a lot of principles that they should have even been using face to face. So I definitely agree with you on that one.
Kelvin: Yeah, it’s true. I say it all the time online makes the formerly implicit, explicit; formerly invisible, visible. And I think that’s why online has been a vehicle for applying thoughtful design and teaching practices and the improvement thereof. Once you sort of concretize the elements that make up an online education experience, then you can see well, how are they arrayed? Are they lined up properly? Does this cause lead to the desired effect, and you can work on improvement, no offense to anyone in this, but when we just are dealing in the ephemeral, we will walk into a space, four walls and a door, and we say words into the air, it’s much harder to see how those parts fit together or don’t. And it’s harder to be reflective. So, I think that’s the reason that online education has brought more emphasis to potential improvements, continuous improvements, and so I welcome it as a vehicle for a more thoughtful process in general. I love this elegant turn of phrase Caroline Boswell says she frames teaching as a student success intervention. Or as I put it, I’m one of those odd people who sees a connection between teaching and learning. And not everybody does.
Rebecca: You’re kind of queuing up our next question perfectly Kelvin. The final section of your book is really about student support. And our students are often distributed when we’re teaching online. So what are some of the biggest challenges in terms of supporting students that are in these online programs or online courses?
Kelvin: Yeah, I would welcome Leni’s and Safary’s viewpoint on this as well. But to me, I’ll keep it simple and say that the biggest challenge is the diversity of student profiles. The different backgrounds, the multifaceted demographics, and resource or not resource, or technological connection or not technological connection, that diversity makes it awfully hard to assure kind of an equitable experience for everyone. So that’s the gap that emerges, that student support is trying to offer… not to mention the diversity of approaches to design and development in the actual experience. But I’m curious what Leni and Safary would say to that.
Leni: I would go for the opposite, on the side of the teachers, I would say the greatest challenge in student support is personalizing your support. It’s related to your diversity. Almost every online student has her unique needs and contexts. So considering different personalities and backgrounds as well, you may be able to personalize your support. But in the name of efficiency, you’ll find yourself dehumanizing the process. What do I mean by this? Well, machines can never replace human touch. And human touch is what every online student needs.
Safary: If I may speak a little bit from experience I had in Kenya during the COVID-19, we migrated our classes to the online delivery. And I quickly realized that… and this was something that was going on in all of Africa, I know this because I was involved in different international association for online education all over the continent…. and so we were meeting and discussing some of these issues. The major challenges that were going on at that time, I don’t know about today, were dealing with infrastructure, because most universities that didn’t have online education platforms, or online education structural systems, so the technology was not in place. Many students there were not access because the internet was extremely slow, some were using loads of data to access the materials and they would run out. Some had issues with electricity. These are things we take for granted in the West. These are the not issues that we will discuss even in textbooks of online education, but they are real issues that cannot be ignored. And so that was a major challenge in supporting online students, because the infrastructure was not in place. And I think the issue is still the same. But more and more work is being done. I remember, for example, in Kenya, what the government did, they gave the free data access to all the faculty in the whole country, as long as it was used only for instructional purposes [LAUGHTER]. If you want to use it for something else, it wouldn’t work. I mean, that was quite creative, to try to help people to help education move forward, because everything was just stuck because of COVID-19.
John: Over the past year, we’ve seen a fairly explosive growth and use of generative AI large language models, including chat GPT, Claude, and a few others that have come out very recently. And that opens up a lot of interesting opportunities, but also some challenges for online education, particularly concerning the assessment of asynchronous learning. How do you see online education adapting in response to the widespread availability of tools like this, which will only become more powerful over the next few years?
Kelvin: It’s sort of the very definition and epitome of disruptive innovation or disruptive technology. And just to be clear about this, I don’t think it’s limited or focused on asynchronous online education, I think it’s everything. For me, it’s really an opportunity to address learning and assessment of learning much more meaningfully, and I’ll use one of Leni’s words, more personalized and relational. I think one of the things we’re seeing with the injection of these various forms of artificial intelligence into the learning setting is the value proposition of the human. And I think it was Cathy Davidson, years ago, from HASTAC said something like, “If we faculty can be replaced by a computer we should be.” That is, if all you’re offering is something that is easily rendered more efficient and scalable by a machine then, well, what are you doing it for? I think that the opportunity to really gauge learning, which is a very personal and a meaningful thing, we act like it’s something that’s kind of homogenized and industrialized, but learning… I don’t know what learning is, frankly, I can’t crack open a human and see what all is happening with the connections and making of meaning in all the background experiences. All I can do is get insight, but in dialogue, in the creation of artifacts I get a glimpse. If we’re product oriented, to the exclusion of the process, and to the exclusion of the human context, well, that can be certainly disrupted, maybe stolen by artificial intelligence in machines. But if we keep the emphasis on humans, on “Well, John, tell me about this…” that’s more meaningful. I learned a practice a long time ago from a faculty member that I studied under, where she adopted a practice of a learning summary. And in any course, again, that’s just one artifact, but it gives a glimpse into the articulation of what learning is really about. So I think we need to push the envelope in “What does authentic assessment mean? What does meaningful learning look like?” Now, that’s hard to do at scale. Are you going to have a personal oral defense with every student for every assignment, probably not. But if we see artifacts, and products, as breadcrumb trails leading to a destination of a more substantive dialogical process, well, then maybe that’s something. So I don’t think we know yet how this is going to play out. And I think your listeners are gonna find cold comfort from me in getting to an easy solution. But I think the future of responding to generative AI is to lean more into the human and the relational than less.
Rebecca: So we always end by asking what’s next?
Safary: Well, as far as this project is concerned, what is next really, we want to continue building a community of online higher education scholars, practitioners, so that this momentum that has been created by this book can continue, because this is one of the few maybe rare books that really have so much global contribution to online education. Many of the books that are written, they’re usually kind of regional to a specific region of the world. And so this is the first time we have a network of, I think, around 100 people who contributed to this, coming from many different countries. And I feel this has created synergy on the discussion of online education in a way that we should not let that go. So one of the things that we have been talking about is the possibility of holding a summit on online higher education in the next few months, once everybody has gotten a chance to hold a copy of this book, and to bring different experts together from different parts of the world, and try to address online education from different parts of the world, while addressing common issues such as assessment, which is one of the major controversial issues anywhere have been, everybody talks about the challenges of online assessments. So that’s things like this, and probably this artificial intelligence, which is a new thing, we may want to go deeper into that… we’re not able to dig too deep with that, although we addressed it in the book. But we didn’t go too deeply because it was still kind of new ChatGPT was just coming out when we were finishing the handbook. And so that is one of the things that we are looking into, there is another handbook in the making with SAGE that will focus specifically on instructional design in higher education. So that would be like an extension of this project. So we want to continue building on this work, because we consider it’s very important.
Leni: I’m really optimistic about the next steps on this because it’s like a seminal book that really got there’s a global perspective, as Safary says it’s not the same as the other online learning books. So we can also see a lot of developments coming up. And so I will say, this book is just step one, the next steps will really be coming up definitely, because the field is always growing. We have seen its growth, and it will still grow. And so there’s more to follow, I believe.
Rebecca: Well, thank you all for joining us. I know that our listeners will really enjoy the handbook and all that it has to offer.
John: Well, thank you, and it’s great talking to all of you and we’re looking forward to reading the book.
Safary: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Really appreciate that and wish everybody a wonderful reading experience.
Kelvin: Thanks for having us, Rebecca and John.
Leni: Thank you very much.[MUSIC]
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.
Ganesh: Editing assistance by Ganesh.[MUSIC]