On the Pivot to Digital

This May, many of us have turned our attention to the unique challenges of course design for alternate delivery in the Fall. Questions of access, equity, and digital literacy inform our search for an effective pedagogical approach. Some of our questions are material—Will our students have quiet study spaces, access to a computer and enough bandwidth? Some of our questions are about practice—How will we engage our students? How will we ensure the integrity of our learning outcomes?

Much like how storytelling changed in the shift from radio to TV, the multi-modal realities of a digital learning space encourage us to rethink the core elements of our practice—the lecture, the discussion, the readings, the assessment.

But how? We might turn to the principles of the open education movement as an initial guide. The CanLit Guides project, for example, was developed as an open online educational resource. One goal of that project was to expand access to quality learning resources, minimizing barriers to participation and learning in the field of Canadian literature.

Another goal was flexibility in the design of teaching and learning resources. The chapters in the Guides can be used individually or built into comprehensive course packs. They can be used to support independent learning as stand-alone lessons or as part of a blended approach to guided or facilitated learning. They can be used both to support students in asynchronous learning and to facilitate synchronous discussion.

As we design for access and flexibility in a digital space, how we use synchronous and asynchronous engagement must necessarily change; as synchronous contact becomes a more rare and precious resource, we must think carefully about when and how we can use it. To help with this, we can turn to open, accessible, and flexible teaching and learning resources, like the Guides, which combine the student experiences of reading, lecture, and activity in new ways.

—Shannon Smyrl, Assistant Editor, CanLit Guides