Commentary: Online teaching doesn’t have to suck for students or educators

SINGAPORE: Every week I read about another university in the United States forced to abandon in-person instruction due to a sudden rise in coronavirus cases: UNC-Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, James Madison.

This sudden change of direction has taken a toll on students, who are now restricted to remote instruction and self-isolation after moving to campus only weeks before.

It has also impacted faculty members, now forced to redesign their modules in the midst of the semester.

Here in Singapore, I have been planning for online teaching since May, when the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences made the controversial decision to offer nearly every course online this semester.


The decision was unpopular with many colleagues, including me. After all, nearly everyone prefers face-to-face instruction.

READ: Commentary: How ready are Singapore universities to start the new term as COVID-19 rages on?

READ: Commentary: Home-based

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Freivalds:The Lowdown on Higher Education; Can Remote Learning Reform It? | Commentary

Freivalds runs an international communications firm in Lexington.

There always comes a time in life when things change overnight. You had a bad diagnosis from your doctor or you just lost your job and the pension that went with it. Universities and colleges throughout the USA, there are some 3,000 of them, are learning almost overnight that the COVID-19 virus will forever change the way higher education operated.

I’m lucky to have gone to two universities, Georgetown and George Washington, for degrees, and for the last eight years have been auditing classes and lectures in Lexington at Washington & Lee and VMI and have taken classes at two public universities as well as executive seminars at Harvard. All this has provided a wonderful window to see what has been useful — and not — and what will happen in higher education.

In fact, in all of the scores of classes

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Education During COVID-19 and Beyond: Commentary on the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief

The impact of COVID-19 is causing unprecedented disruption to higher education everywhere. Within a matter of days or weeks, campuses around the world fell silent as countries went into lockdown in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Universities were required to develop rapid and creative responses that enabled them to continue to deliver teaching and learning when no staff or students could access a physical campus. An immediate, practical challenge for campus-based universities was to mobilize and assist teachers in designing and implementing alternative assessment arrangements and learning support at scale for specific cohorts that did not depend on face-to-face delivery.

This involved deploying on- and off-site facilities and technologies, and identifying and prioritizing student engagement activities that could be best facilitated by affordable and available software solutions. It also relied heavily on the creativity, empathy and judgement of individual teachers, who were themselves coping with considerable

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Commentary on equity in education

Discussions about school choice, like most political issues, have been polarizing in the current political climate. The pandemic has only exacerbated that, but it may also be clarifying a fundamental choice lurking behind the public vs. private debate: whether we’re going to let parents fail – because if parents fail, life becomes much harder for children.

I’ve written about my working-class father, who spent nearly 40 years at the United States Postal Service. Now, it’s time to tell you about my working-class mom, whose career in education spans four decades.

As most teachers will tell you, they don’t just have their biological kids. They nurture hundreds or even thousands of kids over many years. That was certainly true of my mom, who used to give her students peanut butter and cheese crackers before a standardized test, along with a rhyme for the times: 

Bust the test.
Bust the test, baby.

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