A new pedagogy is emerging… and online learning is a key contributing factore

A New Pedagogy Is Emerging… and Online Learning Is a Key Contributing Factor | teachonline.ca

A very informative website from teachonline. They give an explanation of the Major Changes in the Way We Teach Post-Secondary Students. And very interesting information about seven key elements contributing to the development of this pedagogy. For this last topic, you have to go to the teach online website

While some students returned to campus and in-person learning, “back to something resembling normal” may not occur until some point in 2021 or later, but not before. Faculty are exploring what online teaching reality means for them. What is the new pedagogy of online teaching at scale really like? What does engaged learning look like in this new environment? How can online learning produce outstanding learning experiences?

At first, many faculty sought to replicate online what they normally do in a classroom. They soon discovered this was not a strategy that was practical, as not all students could access synchronous classes reliably and many had challenges, such as other siblings or parents needing access to the technology, the costs of broadband Internet access exceeding their ability to pay, or were in different time zones. Nor was it efficient.

In fact, what faculty began to discover is what has been known for some time. There is “no empirical evidence that says that classroom instruction benefits students (compared to alternatives) from a learning achievement perspective”, a finding from the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance at Concordia University. Faculty began to experiment with personal challenges, small group work, project-based learning and the recording of short videos. They began to explore pedagogy, the science and art of instruction based on design.

Faculty sought help from colleagues with previous experience teaching online, looking for evidence for what worked in their discipline. They were inspired by examples of creative arts and music, where Zoom rehearsals and performances produced remarkable and life-changing events. Some discovered open education resources, materials, labs, videos, simulations, and games, that helped them find new ways of engaging their online learners. Some truly innovative design ideas emerged, such as a course on COVID-19 in which a different “angle” (epidemiology, economics, psychology, virology, politics) became the focus for each week taught by a faculty member from that discipline.

Major Changes in the Way We Teach Post-Secondary Students

What is clear is major changes, in the way we teach post-secondary students, are triggered by the sudden immersion of many into online learning as a result of COVID-19 and the new technologies that increase flexibility in, and access to, post-secondary education. Indeed, we can already see institutions exploring the implications of these developments for program and course delivery beyond the pandemic.

In looking at what is being learned and the implications for students, faculty, staff, and institutions, we highlight:

  • Several key developments in online learning and how they impact our understanding of pedagogy;
  • More than 100 examples of applications of these developments in innovations in colleges and universities in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally, selected from Contact North | Contact Nord’s Pockets of Innovations Series on teachonline.ca; and
  • Seven questions for you to consider about the implications of changes in pedagogy and student learning.

This consideration of how technology is changing the way we teach and learn, leading to the emergence of new pedagogy, continues to be the most popular feature on teachonline.ca since its posting in 2012, drawing in an average of 100 new and returning readers every week. This revised and updated 2020 version is intended to offer new angles and resources to readers and inspire new approaches.

We also developed two other resources to support the exploration of the emerging pedagogy, including a webinar series featuring experts from around the world and an “Ask An Expert” resource where readers pose questions about teaching and learning and Contact North | Contact Nord research associates provide responses.

As the literature documenting examples of success in online learning during the pandemic emerges, new contributions will appear on teachonline.ca.

But before we explore the specifics, it is helpful to understand the context. The current and sudden exposure of so many to online teaching as a result of the pandemic accelerated developments already occurring.


Changes in society, student expectations, and technology were already motivating university and college faculty and instructors to rethink pedagogy and teaching methods before the pandemic. Canada has thousands of online courses and programs – there are 20,000 online college and university courses for credit in Ontario alone. Their number has been steadily growing since 1994 when the first fully online graduate degree programs were launched in Canada. Now online programs and courses are seen as strategic investments by colleges and universities eager to increase access and flexible learning routes for their programs and students. Of all colleges, universities, polytechnics and CEGEPs in Canada, by far the greatest majority offer courses and programs online with others offering a mix of online and on-campus programs.

New Demands of a Knowledge-Based Society

There are a number of separate factors at work in the knowledge-based society. The first is the continuing development of new knowledge, making it difficult to compress all students need to know within the limited time span of a post-secondary program or course. This means helping students to manage knowledge – how to find, analyze, evaluate, and apply knowledge as it constantly shifts and grows.

To put this in context, between 2003 and 2016 the number of academic papers published worldwide doubled and doubled again between 2016 and 2020. There are now over 1.8 million scientific papers published annually in over 28,000 journals. India alone published over 136,000 science and engineering papers in 2018 and the rate of Indian publications is growing at close to 11% per annum.

The second factor is the increased emphasis on applying knowledge to meet the demands of 21st-century society, using skills such as critical thinking, independent learning, the use of relevant information technology, software, and data within a discipline, and entrepreneurialism. The development of such skills requires active learning in rich and complex environments, with plenty of opportunities to develop, apply, assess and practice such skills.

Thirdly, it means educating students with the skills to manage their own learning throughout life, so they can continue to learn after graduation. Life-long learning, especially given expectations about rapid developments impacting the future of work, is now an imperative of governments around the world committing to developing a skilled workforce. With the pandemic likely to induce a global recession, demonstrable and certifiable skills will become key to securing and retaining work.

As governments shift their funding models to outcome-based funding, giving emphasis to the connection between learning and employment, the “global competencies” needed for work and sustainable development coupled with the skills related to specific employment opportunities are being given new emphasis.

New Student Expectations

Student demographics have been changing for some considerable time – more mature students, more students combining work and study, and more students looking for flexible learning options. While school leavers are still an important segment of the college and university student body, they no longer are the dominant drivers of the strategies pursued by the institutions which look to broader markets, especially international markets.

Even the most idealistic students expect to find good jobs after several years of study, jobs where they can apply their learning and earn a reasonable income. This is especially true as tuition and other educational costs increase. Students expect to be actively engaged in and see the relevance of their learning to the real world. Indeed, about 60% of all undergraduate students in Canada are enrolled in one of four fields of study: social and behavioural sciences and legal studies (but not law), business, management and public administration; physical and life sciences and technology; and the humanities. Almost all college students are studying work-related programs.

Today’s students grew up in a world where technology is a natural part of their environment. Their expectation is that technology is used whenever appropriate to help them learn, develop essential informational and technological literacy skills, and master the fluency necessary in their specific subject domain. This is one reason blended learning has grown in use across schools, colleges and universities and why some are now exploring a “flipped classroom” approach to learning.

Blended and online learning is a feature of most strategic plans for colleges, universities and polytechnics. The plans have been given a new emphasis as the pandemic forced online learning everywhere.

New Technologies

Continuing advances in digital technologies, social media, and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, give the end-user, the student, much more control over access to and the creation and sharing of knowledge. This empowers students, and faculty and instructors are finding ways to leverage this enhanced student control to increase their motivation and engagement. More recently, developments in artificial intelligence for teaching and learningvirtual and augmented reality and simulations and serious games have further emphasized the importance of technology-enabled learning seven key elements are contributing to the development of this new pedagogy.

Fast-Changing World of Work

As the nature of work changes – more project-based work, flattened organizational structures, new human: technology relationships, more global networks and supply chains – then the need for skills development and learning “on the job” becomes clear. Given the expectation that these developments will each accelerate and impact between 30-40% of all jobs, then constant learning becomes a driver for any-time, anywhere learning.

Now that the pandemic has disrupted the global economy – the IMF predicts a 5% fall in global GDP with some industries disrupted for many years to come (e.g. hospitality and tourism, travel, banking and financial services, retail) and high unemployment for some time to come – upskilling and reskilling will become a strong focus for government investment in higher education.

Work will change significantly over the coming decade. Recent innovations and developments in flexible, competency-based learning and assessment will give new impetus to online learning and work-related skill development.


For the text see the website of Teachonline.

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