2021 Special Focus - Transcending Social Distance: Emerging Practices in e-Learning

In the interest of “social distancing,” the COVID crisis suddenly threw learners en masse into online learning. At times, this has confirmed the worst fears of teachers and students who had not previously experienced e-learning. Children, college students and workplace and community learners have found themselves lumbered with videos followed by quizzes, canned e-textbook sequences, and endless video meetings where there is little opportunity to do much more than to listen. The learner is not only isolated at home; they have been isolated by their screens.

This situation is more than ironical—it is tragic. Since Web 2.0, we have known the social potentials of the internet. Learners could be working together in shared projects. They could be offering each other feedback on their work. They could be searching for examples of the ideas scaffolded in the curriculum and contributing content to the class. Their discussions could be formally required, valued and assessed. But tragedy is that today’s dreadful learning management systems and educational software tools were mostly engineered to replicate traditional transmission pedagogies and memory-focused assessments.

This conference aims to expand our imaginations into the social possibilities of e-learning. What should a next generation of e-learning pedagogy look like? What platforms will it require? How can artificial intelligence and learning analytics support a new kind of social learning?