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Sep 19 2020 - 04:00 PM
Remote Learning: Take One

In The Shift to Remote Learning: The Human Element, Doug Lederman, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Education, gathers expert opinions on how the "sudden, forced adoption of technology-delivered instruction" affects the well-being of professors and students alike." The article prompts thinking about the virtual classroom environment in which information, teaching, and learning are relayed from a distance. Six months from its date of publication, we take stock and reflect on the impact of remote learning from the perspective of academic libraries, key players in the settling landscape of the new normal.

Things have indeed changed with regard to teaching practices, priorities, and different learning experiences. From in-person offerings, we enter Zoom and/or Google Meet, our now staple platforms for delivering instruction: individual research consultations; course-specific instruction; library workshops on popular topics; orientations and tours, scripted, not scripted, recorded, and not recorded, for new students. We see greater degrees of planning and larger audiences for coordinated events -- often resulting in the rapid fire of chatted questions, or slow stream of sustained silences by the virtually invisible. We've experienced a finer need for the provision and production of online resources, tutorials, research guides, and blog posts -- a steady menu that feeds instruction. With students displaced from dorms and often local time zones, we've wrestled with schedules and constraints on time, aggravated by shortfalls in licensing or glitches from dinosaur devices. At least one staff performance evaluation expresses longing for in-person interactions, onsite workplace interchange with colleagues, and productivity stimulated by workplace dynamics.

Still, our ability to support teachers and learners grew stronger through crisis. We firmly adopted "digital first'", with most staff continuing to work remotely. We moved to "all e" in library acquisitions; optimized access to free research resources as a result of COVID-19; increased purchases of e-copies when possible for required course readings; accepted entire course reading lists to fulfill for placement in Canvas; added significant digital scholarly education literature; launched live chat, real time text transmission of messages; stayed tip-top with online support, or questions delivered via Ask a Librarian; updated and reorganized the FAQ,/ Knowledge Base of all things library; facilitated online requests to conduct library information sessions; encouraged exploration and use of open source scholarly materials; researched controlled digital lending; electronified book and newspaper displays; incorporated equitable access into virtual exhibits; brought up high impact services, Paging and Pick Up (curbside delivery of books) and Digital Delivery (scanning for personal use) with a skeletal onsite staff; updated the library website to reflect new services and improved design; released a new version of the library mobile app; and began a digital born, community archives' project about educational experiences and digital literacy during the pandemic.

Despite the undeniable desire for library as place, with the soul of its people, there, interacting meaningfully in welcoming, safe, and smart physical spaces, we witness adaptability and resilience -- qualities known to libraries that meet changing needs in changing times.

With the prevalence of distance education in today's pandemic world, Remote Learning: Shifting to the New Normal, addresses the need for and challenges of virtual learning. As scientists struggle to create a vaccine, campus leaders carefully weigh decisions to protect the health of their communities, offering limited or staggered onsite classes, hybrid approaches, and/or fully online courses. Whichever path, COVID-19 is on the uptick, predictions are worsening, and distance education is becoming a prolonged reality. Educational institutions are fighting to adapt to changing economics in an unprecedented time, and students may be questioning the benefits of deferred enrollment or their continuation of remote education. From the politics of online learning, to the re-imagining of teaching, this display encourages us to consider a new paradigm and leads us to question the future of higher education.

At the Everett News Cafe, you'll find a new book collection every few weeks that relates to current affairs, education, or learning environments. Remote Learning: Shifting to the New Normal is curated by Jennifer Govan, Senior Librarian, and designed by Sabarish Raghupathy, Software Engineer.


Coronavirus, Work From Home, by the darknut from Pixabay 

Poster Image, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries