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Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to CoronaVirus pandemic



Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to CoronaVirus pandemic “Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster” Jim Wallis
Asian Journal of Distance Education Volume 15, Issue 1, 2020
Published by EdTechReview (ETR), New Delhi, India
ISSN 1347-9008
This is an open access article under the CC BY-SA license
Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to CoronaVirus
Aras Bozkurt1, Ramesh C. Sharma 2
Introduction: Education crisis on global scale due to COVID19 pandemic
“Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster” Jim Wallis
At the end of the day, the lesson learnt was so simple... With online and offline connections, the world
is a global village (McLuhan, 1962) and a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia can cause a hurricane all
around the world (Lorenz, 1972). Currently, it seems that the global education system is in the middle
of this hurricane. These times, where we are all witnessing developments warily, are certainly interesting
and strange, but the hope is that lessons will have been learned once things hopefully return to normal.
Though there were early warnings to be prepared (White, Ramirez, Smith, & Plonowski, 2010) and
already ongoing interruptions to education (Briggs, 2018; GCPEA, 2018), this is the first crisis to occur
on the global scale in the digital knowledge age, and there will be socio-cultural, economic, and political
consequences in the wake of this crisis. In other words, the educational landscape will feel the rush of
air from the butterfly’s flapping wings to the full extent.
In a nutshell, following the CoronaVirus (COVID19) outbreak in December 2019, the World Health
Organization (WHO) classified COVID19 as a global pandemic in March 2020 (WHO, 2020). To slow
down and prevent its spread, many countries followed strict protocols, such as complete lockdowns or
regulations to facilitate social distancing, while a few countries preferred herd immunity. Efforts to stop
the viral outbreak included working from homes, providing flexible working hours, or closing many
institutions where people could infect one another with COVID19. Protocols to shut down buildings
involved schools, universities and many other educational institutions. This situation forced all levels of
educational institutions to operate remotely and to put emergency remote teaching into practice.
It is reported that more than 1.5 billion learners of all ages from around the globe are affected due to
school and university closures owing to the COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020a; UNICEF, 2020). The affected
number of students equals around 90% of the world’s enrolled students (UNESCO, 2020a; 2020b), and
the shutting down of schools have widened learning inequalities and have hurt vulnerable children and
youth disproportionately (UNESCO, 2020a). Considering that education is a fundamental human right
(UN, 1984), in adopting the motto #LearningNeverStops, different measures were taken and solutions
produced immediately to sustain the education system (UNESCO, 2020a; 2020c; 2020d; 2020e);
however, fueled by the digital divide (UNESCO, 2020f), this doesn’t change the fact that there are
already known and there will be unpredicted consequences beyond the interruption of education
(UNESCO, 2020g).
1 Aras Bozkurt:; Anadolu University, Eskişehir, Turkey; ORCID:
2 Ramesh C. Sharma:; Ambedkar University Delhi, Delhi, India; ORCID:
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Bozkurt, A. & Sharma, R. C.
Another day in paradise: We are suddenly waking up to go online?
We have now seen that the education system, in general, is unprepared and vulnerable to external
threats. As a response to the global educational crisis, online emergency remote teaching has been put
into practice. However, we stumble into defining what we are desperately trying to accomplish. Online
distance education involves more than simply uploading educational content, rather, it is a learning
process that provides learners agency, responsibility, flexibility and choice. It is a complex process that
requires careful planning, designing and determination of aims to create an effective learning ecology.
In appearance, we are currently engaged in seems like online distance education, however, in essence,
this is rather a temporary solution, one that would be more properly named emergency remote teaching.
In other words, online distance education is one thing and emergency remote teaching is another thing.
Such a distinction is important, because the degree to which educators believe in distance education
these days will play a significant role in the prosperity of distance education in a post-COVID world.
In this regard, when we consider online distance education, we should go beyond sharing simple tools,
tips and tricks and instead focus on the changing learners’ needs, learning contexts, and the availability
and accessibility of the tools. Another significant distinction we have to highlight is how learners are
involved in the process. Apparently, while distance education has always been an alternative and flexible
option for learners, emergency remote teaching is an obligation, which means that we have to use
different strategies and approach the case with different priorities.
What do remote and distance represent in definitions?
What do we mean when we use the words remote and distance in an educational context? With some
nuances of implementation in remote teaching (Turoff, & Hiltz, 1986), distance education slightly differs
from emergency remote teaching. Distance education is an interdisciplinary field that has evolved over
time and that has served well in responding to learning needs and in guiding open educational practices
(Bozkurt, 2019a; 2019b; Zawacki-Richter et al., 2020). By definition, distance education is characterized
by the distance in time and/or space between learners and learning resources. While remote education
refers to spatial distance, distance education considers distance within the perspective of different
angles and strives to explain it through transactional distance. Distance education further places
emphasis on interactions between different parties and through different channels to let learners be
more engaged in the learning process (Moore, 1989; Riggs, 2020). In this sense, online distance
education and emergency remote teaching are not the same things. What is currently being done,
emergency remote teaching, should be considered a temporary solution to an immediate problem
(Chuck et al., 2020; Golden, 2020). In sum, it is true that many creative temporary solutions benefit from
the experiences of online distance education, and they sound and look alike; however, it would be unfair
to put online distance education and emergency remote teaching in the same equation. In this sense,
using the right definitions is important because rushing into emergency remote teaching, calling it online
distance education or online learning and assuming online tools to be a form of online distance education
should be approached with caution. First, designing learning systems under the wrong assumptions and
framing them around wrong definitions will make us more vulnerable to errors along the way. Second,
when things are settled and go back to normal, what people will remember will be bad examples from a
time of crisis, and the years of efforts it has taken to prove the effectiveness of distance education can
vanish all of a sudden. It is, therefore, distance educators’ responsibility to speak truthfully, to provide
working solutions and to use terms carefully and intentionally. Last but not least, another flaw in current
practices is the huge investments and high trust place in merely technology enhanced learning
processes. To save the day, they can be effective, but for long-term planning, we should reconsider
what we are doing.
In all, we have to approach with caution arguments made on purely technology-centric solutions. In the
dystopian Brave New World (Huxley, 1932), we set our hopes on technology, hoping that it will save
education and cure all the problems (Weller, 2020). Yet, it is a delusion to which we are recurrently lured
and trapped (Sharma, Kawachi, & Bozkurt, 2019). We naively forget that technology is a tool, not an
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Bozkurt, A. & Sharma, R. C.
end; and the right approach should not be learning from technology, but rather, learning with technology.
If we do not learn from our mistakes during COVID19 times, reality eventually will take its revenge when
things are over (Coeckelbergh, 2020).
Changing visions and narratives: What should we do and how can we keep learning in a safe
learning ecology?
It is maybe time to leave behind our obsession with teaching, transmitting knowledge and giving lectures
using cool, shiny EdTech tools. In a time of crisis, when people are under trauma, stress and
psychological pressure, should we focus on teaching educational content or should we focus on
teaching how to share, collaborate and support? We should remember, when things go back to normal,
people will not remember the educational content delivered, but they will remember how they felt, how
we cared for them, and how we supported them. We have to further remember that care is a basic
characteristic of human life, and that all people want to be cared for (Noddings, 2002). Leaving the
notion that what's happening is a great online learning experiment (Zimmerman, 2020) and an
opportunity to test online pedagogy centric approaches, we should try to amplify emotional presence in
order to create a climate of empathy and care, and following that we should focus on different types of
presence, such as teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence.
While we rush to implement emergency remote teaching, are we focusing enough on learners and
learning? Learners are simply being bombarded with lectures like a locust wave while sitting in front of
a webcam. It seems that the hitherto focus on learner engagement is now but an afterthought. Based
on the above arguments, it is more important to build support communities, and share the knowledge
and experience we have to provide efficient and meaningful learning processes. These learning
processes, of course, should not aim at purely learning, but rather, be directed towards therapy,
empathy, and care. We should show our commitment to support our students, and to institute teaching
and learning on the grounds of a pedagogy of care, not on purely didactic and insensitive grounds.
Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to make things right, and it is a well-known fact that the one size
fits all understanding does not work anymore. Before putting approaches into practice, we have to think
about many variables, including target group, age range, technological infrastructure, and social and
economic context. It has been claimed that developed countries are at an advantage in initiating
emergency remote teaching (Saavedra, 2020), but this is not valid for every country. For instance, it is
argued that “it is only the privileged that will benefit from the #pivotonline” (Adam, 2020). Apparently,
“the poorest and most vulnerable members of society are being hardest hit, both by the pandemic and
the response” (Guterres, 2020). Sadly, for whatever reason, many countries have already been suffering
from interruptions to education, and for many, this is not a new narrative. From a Darwinian point of
view, survival of the fittest is not acceptable in this case. We teach and explain the ideals of universal
values and advice to narrow the gaps, but as shameful as it is, we see that the digital divide is still a
threat and many still suffer from unavailable educational opportunities.
This clearly implies that the widening of participation and the promotion of social justice and equity are
other important issues that should still be on our agenda. The excuses can be accepted, and mistakes
can be tolerated for the first wave of interruption to education, However, what about the second, third
and more waves? As explained earlier, emergency remote teaching is not an option, but an obligation.
If we persist in making excuses and mistakes now, what will we say to the next [lost] generations in the
future? We, therefore, should be prepared in advance, learn from our mistakes, and not let history repeat
itself… When the time comes, if we would like to say that we did the right things to the next generations,
we should be better prepared and re-engineer distance education through online and offline modes to
respond to any interruptions to education.
As a final remark and as a note for future discussions, we have proudly seen that open educational
practices, open educational resources, open scholarship, open data and open science earned their
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Bozkurt, A. & Sharma, R. C.
stripes during these rough times and have proven that they are mechanisms functioning for the greater
The world is changing, and the causes of interruptions to education are not limited to pandemics; wars,
local conflicts, and other types of natural disasters are issues that should be kept on the future agenda
as potential sources of interruption. Emergency remote teaching or re-engineered distance education
should collaborate with different shareholders (e.g., psychologists, sociologists, therapists, etc.) to offer
better and timely solutions. Producing solutions on broader grounds is vital, because during times of
crises, delivering content is not the only issue of concern, caring and supporting learners at such times
is also important. As a matter of fact, what we teach in these times can have secondary importance. We
have to keep in mind that students will remember not the educational content delivered, but how they
felt during these hard times. With an empathetic approach, the story will not center on how to
successfully deliver educational content, but it will be on how learners narrate these times.
Adam, T. (2020, April 22). The privilege of #pivotonline: A South African perspective. Open Development
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McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. University of Toronto
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Suggested citation:
Bozkurt, A., & Sharma, R. C. (2020). Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to
CoronaVirus pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), i-vi.
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This paper explores elements of open education within the context of higher education. After an introduction to the origins of open education and its theoretical foundations, the topics of open and distance learning, international education issues in open education, open educational practices and scholarship, open educational resources, MOOCs, prior learning accreditation and recognition, and learner characteristics are considered, following the framework of macro, meso, and micro levels of research in open and distance learning. Implications for future research at the macro, meso, and micro levels are then provided.
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Well-planned online learning experiences are meaningfully different from courses offered online in response to a crisis or disaster. Colleges and universities working to maintain instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic should understand those differences when evaluating this emergency remote teaching.
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“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939.
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Distance education (DE) is a constantly evolving and advancing field, and as such, its intellectual network and dynamics need to be investigated and explored. In this regard, this study reviewed a total of 1685 articles and 51,940 references through social network analysis for a bibliometric examination of the DE field. The findings indicate that DE is an interdisciplinary field and part of mainstream education. The progressive knowledge domain analysis revealed that the intellectual roots of DE stem from generic social learning theories, after which DE-related theories began to emerge following the foundation of open universities. The research concludes that there was a paradigm shift that resulted from developments in online networked technologies in the 2000s, at which time DE started to gradually evolve into sixth generation ubiquitous DE.
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As pragmatist, interdisciplinary fields, distance education (DE) and open and distance learning (ODL) transform and adapt themselves according to changing paradigms. In this regard, the purpose of this study is to examine DE and ODL from different perspectives to discern their future directions. The study concludes that DE and ODL are constantly developing interdisciplinary fields where technology has become a significant catalyst and these fields become part of the mainstream education. However, mainstreaming should be evaluated with caution, and there is a need to revisit core values and fundamentals where critical pedagogy would have a pivotal role. Besides, there is no single theory that best explains these interdisciplinary fields, and therefore, there is a need to benefit from different theoretical approaches. Finally, as a result of constant changes, we should keep the definition of both DE and ODL up-to-date to better explain the needs of the global teaching and learning ecosystem.
Full-text available EDUCATION UNDER ATTACK 2018 MYANMAR A Report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack MYANMAR More than a dozen schools in Myanmarwere damaged, and classeswere disrupted by arson attacks, aerial bombings, and shelling. Communal,religious, and ethnic conflicts killed dozens of students and teachers. In Rakhine state,militaryled operations in Rohingya communities burned hundreds of villages to the ground and killed an unknown number of students and teachers GlobalCoalition to ProtectEducation from Attack More than a dozen schools were damaged, and classes were disrupted by arson attacks, aerial bombing, and mortar fire. Communal, religious, and ethnic conflict killed dozens of students and teachers. In Rakhine state, a campaign led by government security forces devastated Rohingya communities, razed hundreds of their villages, and killed students and teachers. In late 2016, government security forces reportedly used a school in Rakhine state to detain 12 elderly people, repeatedly beating them. READ FULLY IN GlobalCoalition to ProtectEducation from Attack Research Interests: Education, Myanmar, Myanmar Military, Gender Violence and Military Rape, and GlobalCoalition to ProtectEducation from Attack
The purpose of this case study was to determine the feasibility of delivering a course on-campus and in real time, simultaneously transmitting it to students who were remotely accessing the same course. In future years, it is anticipated that universities will have inadequate physical facilities to meet the demands of an increasing student population. Additionally, with warnings of impending pandemics, universities need to be prepared to deliver courses in alternative ways to ensure continuity of instruction. Thus, this pilot project was designed to deliver a course to a large section of students while also allowing off-campus students access to the course in real time. The planning and delivery of the course is described, including the technology used, the support provided by the university and technology support staff, the course that was used for the pilot project, and how students were selected to participate as the off-campus students. The perspectives of the instructor, teaching assistant, students (both on- and off-campus), and technology support personnel are summarized.