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COVID-19 and Online Education’s Stealth Expansion


Spring semester 2020 began with my five courses offered in the usual classroom setting and ended with all of them converted to an online format. My community college, along with virtually all of higher education, went into complete lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of our courses were either canceled or taught remotely from the middle of March until the end of the semester in May.

This abrupt transition was unsettling. Many of my students had never previously taken an online course, and a number of my senior colleagues had never taught one.

I had taught the occasional online course for the past decade, so the quick switch wasn’t quite as strenuous for me, despite the need for some fast footwork to keep the semester going.

But we all understood that this would be a temporary arrangement, and that instruction would resume in the traditional classroom setting as soon as the pandemic abated.

Or maybe not. Proponents of distance learning began to cite a “black swan” moment, an unexpected windfall that achieved overnight what all their previous huffing and puffing in favor of online education had not been able to do.

All of a sudden, remote […]

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