25yearsedtech,  25YearsOU,  onlinepivot

25 Years of OU/Ed Tech – 2020: The Online Pivot


A “2 for the price or 1” post! As part of the ongoing 25 Years of Ed Tech project, I do one post that is based around the ed tech of that year that would have been included (the book stops in 2018 – oh and while you’re here, remember to check out the audiobook and podcast series of the book). I’ve also been doing my 25 Years of OU series reflecting on my career over 25 years at one institution. For this final post in the latter, and the 2020 entry for the former, there is a crossover of these two series, it’s like the time Magnum and Murder She Wrote combined.

There could be only one choice for both of these this year – the online pivot. Back in January we were all making aims, targets and setting workplans. LOL. When the real impact of the Covid-19 virus became apparent, it was quickly apparent that online learning would be a major player, even if the actual way it would pan out wasn’t clear (and still isn’t).

I know people like to say Ed Tech won’t save you, and that is a good antidote to the ed tech saviour hype, but in 2020 educational technologists really did save education (by which I don’t mean silicon valley profiteers, but the small teams within unis, colleges, schools, etc). People who were often buffeted around an institution, not treated with appropriate respect and under-resourced were suddenly called upon to keep the whole thing going. That’s a hell of a spotlight shift. ALT made the 2020 Community Award for all learning technologists and rightly so – I’ve seen so many peers working all over the summer, putting in hours way beyond the call of duty, supporting vast numbers of staff and students on ridiculous timeframes. I salute you all.

Like many with a history in the area I blogged and ran online workshops, and the sense of collegiality was strong, particularly back in the early days of April-June. It also led to a lot of innovation in a low scale, get it done mode, which reminded me of the early days of blogging, for instance Dave Cormier’s Online Learning In a Hurry site.

From an OU perspective it was a (re)validation of the distance learning model, which as I’ve argued, is more resilient. Lots of organisations sought our advice, and the response varied from informal webinars, provision of microcredentials, openly licensed OpenLearn content, agreements with other providers, invited speaker slots, etc.

There is a lot to come out from the pivot still, and most predictions will be wrong, but 2020 will be a significant year historically for the OU and for ed tech. For now, take a breathe and reflect on having made it through.

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