When we eventually limp out of lockdown, it will be interesting to see the range of reactions from everyone. I suspect there will be the full continuum of responses. Some people will have developed anxiety around others and operate largely in lockdown mode. Even if they feel ok about other people, more people will have had lifestyle revelations. The thought of commuting seems abhorrent, wearing anything but jeans and jogging bottoms feels extravagant and working in an office inefficient and constrictive. Working from home in a small-holding in Camarthenshire now seems like the dream.
But at the other end of the spectrum will be individuals who are desperate to be in proximity to others again. A crushed ride on the tube will feel life affirming and they’ll want to go to as many parties, theatres and restaurants as possible. They’ll buy 50 pairs of new shoes and adore dressing with the concept of some audience. They’ll relish the buzz and gossip of being in an office again.
And there will be everything inbetween. They are all valid responses. I think I’m towards the not-going back end. I can’t bear the thought of resuming commuting to Milton Keynes on the M4. I don’t want to be getting up at 5am to get trains to meetings in London. I’ll enjoy a couple of face to face conferences a year, but not the necessity of attending a stream of them.
Consider your own response on this range. And this applies to education also. Educators and learners will have similar attitudes. Some will want to be back on campus, in lectures and seminars, immersed in the spontaneity and bristle of face to face contact. Others will feel that the shift has now been made, and with it, a number of freedoms and a potential new way of teaching and learning to be explored. Inbetween most will want some of the benefits of online and the informal interaction of face to face.
This all presents a set of issues for institutions to grapple with. As I said all of these responses are valid, so insisting only one reaction will be accommodated is likely to lead to upheaval – staff or students will go elsewhere. How do they then accommodate this? The Hyflex model? The ‘take it or leave it’ approach? Diversification in the market place? A set of complex options to choose from?
The online pivot can be argued to have propelled online learning to centre stage and accelerated its uptake in higher ed by several years. But perhaps more significantly is the manner in which it will force flexibility on the sector, in terms of learners and staff. I mean, I’m not naive I know there will be the usual heavy handed approach from many institutions demanding on campus attendance, but flexibility will be the longer term trend.