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Feeling overwhelmed, emergency remote teaching, and online learning in a hurry

Students and teachers are leaving learning behind in the pursuit of survival.


Anderson, C. (2020). Elizabeth Gilbert says it’s OK to feel overwhelmed. Here’s what to do next. The TED Interview podcast.

I think you would have to be either a sociopath or totally enlightened not to be feeling anxiety at a moment like this. So I would say that the first thing that I would want to encourage everybody to do is to give themselves a measure of mercy and compassion for the difficult emotions that you’re feeling right now. They’re extremely understandable.

For the first few weeks of physical distancing it seemed like, for many people, this was business as usual, only from home. The reality is that we are still going through the early stages of a collective social trauma that will take years to recover from. This isn’t simply an inconvenience that we need to get through as quickly as possible so that we can get on with our lives. And it feels like, for academics at least, that there’s an enormous amount of guilt associated with taking time to reflect on what this means for ourselves, our families, and our students.

This is a lovely podcast that explores the emotional and psychological side of what we’re all experiencing now, which might also be useful to share with students.


Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T. & Bond, A. (2020). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Educause Review.

These hurried moves online by so many institutions at once could seal the perception of online learning as a weak option, when in truth nobody making the transition to online teaching under these circumstances will truly be designing to take full advantage of the affordances and possibilities of the online format.

As we continue seeing university courses pushed aggressively online we need to think carefully about what it is that we’re doing, as well as the possible longer-term implications of our choices. And we we need to understand that these consequences will be the result of a response to “emergency remote teaching” and not that of a carefully considered move towards online and blended learning modes. There will (understandably) be a near or total lack of careful design and underlying learning theory in the current move towards emergency remote teaching, which is likely to influence the outcomes we’re looking for.

In other words, when we see the inevitable spate of articles that discuss the benefits and downfalls of “online learning” during the Covid-19 pandemic, we must recognise that that isn’t what actually happened. Online and blended learning is not what we’re currently doing. What we are often seeing at the moment is a knee-jerk response to the requirements of emergency remote teaching.


Cormier, D. (2020). Online learning in a hurry. Dave’s Educational Blog.

A collection of short YouTube videos with practical tips for moving your teaching online. Produced by Dave Cormier at the Office of Open Learning at the University of Windsor.

This episode of Online Learning in a Hurry is all about the way we take up space in our face 2 face classrooms. Think about what you do in the first five minutes of class. How do you walk in the room? What kind of questions do you ask students? How do you establish the social contract with your students before they do an activity? What kinds of things do you do to make them feel safe or welcomed or just that right amount of nervous so they can learn?

The extract above is taken from the second post in the series, where Dave suggests that we begin the process from a more thoughtful position (the first post is actually about establishing clear lines of communication with students, which is often simply assumed to be present). This series isn’t about the best way to move content into the LMS, or what kind of videoconferencing software to pick, or a list of “how to” type advice. It actually takes Dave some time to get to advice on moving content online, which is where most other resources start. While the collection of videos is presented as advice for getting your teaching online “in a hurry” it’s also a considered and thoughtful approach.

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