"Addressing COVID-19 Challenges" by Anthony Hetrick (2020) <anthony.r.hetrick@gmail.com>

The question to answer: How can universities adapt to the changing world quickly?

Elearning methodologies used for distance and blended learning are well established in K-12 schools and higher education institutions. These two groups are diverse and require different solutions---the recommendations in this document focus on incorporating educational technology (edtech) in a higher education context.


Terminology in the field of educational technology changes over time and has no agreed-upon definition. We need to define these terms in our context to avoid confusion. These definitions capture the essence of the terms.


"The confluence of educational psychology and instructional design, of educational technology and distance education, and of recent technological developments related to the Internet" (Friesen, 2009, p. 6).

Educational Technology (concept)

The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using andmanaging appropriate technological processes and resources (Januszewski & Molenda, 2013, p. 1).

Educational Technology (practice)

Combines digital technology with educational theory and practice to facilitate learning and improve performance (Kennedy, 2018).

Distance Education

"Institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors" (Simonson & Seepersaud, 2018, p. 1).

Blended Learning

"The thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences" (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004, p. 96)

Online Learning

"Learning experiences in synchronous or asynchronous environments using different devices (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, etc.) with internet access. In these environments, students can be anywhere (independent) to learn and interact with instructors and other students" (Singh & Thurman, 2019).


These six limitations cover some of the critical issues that relate to distance education. There are many more!


  1. Lack of understanding of the field of educational technology.
    1. Example: Five participants of a meeting hear the word "elearning". Each participant has their own understanding of what that word means and what that means for course development.
  2. Traditional educational models are not conducive to adapting educational technologies.
    1. Example: An expert and knowledgeable, but an older professor has been accustomed to teaching through lectures and using knowledge-based assessments. This instructor rarely uses technology in education.
  3. Faculty teach many hours and do not have adequate time to develop courses for elearning.
    1. Example: An instructor has 25 classroom hours (lecture + lab) a week. They only have time to evaluate coursework and student projects.


  1. Students do not have previous experience or training on how to learn online.
    1. Example: A student is supposed to complete a task and upload it to the portal, but it isn't clear where to find the resources or how to ask for help.
  2. Inadequate technology.
    1. Example: The only internet connection available is a 3G cellular modem that drops frequently.
  3. An unacceptable study environment at home.
    1. Example: A family has one computer, but multiple household members need to use the computer at the same time.


There is not a one size fits all solution for using technology to solve the distance learning problem. Furthermore, an identified solution likely contains its own set of challenges. However, educational technology can address (or deal with) some of the current issues related to COVID-19.

This chart shows the various types of elearning, which has implications for course design. Selecting the correct online or blended course design depends on the learner outcomes and course objectives.

Online learning design options (moderating variables)


  • Fully online
  • Blended (over 50% online)
  • Blended (25–50% online)
  • Web-enabled F2F


  • Self-paced (open entry, open exit)
  • Class-paced
  • Class-paced with some self-paced

Student-Instructor Ratio

  • < 35 to 1
  • 36–99 to 1
  • 100–999 to 1
  • > 1,000 to 1


  • Expository
  • Practice
  • Exploratory
  • Collaborative

Role of Online Assessments

  • Determine if student is ready for new content
  • Tell system how to support the student (adaptive instruction)
  • Provide student or teacher with information about learning state
  • Input to grade
  • Identify students at risk of failure

Instructor Role Online

  • Active instruction online
  • Small presence online
  • None

Student Role Online

  • Listen or read
  • Complete problems or answer questions
  • Explore simulation and resources
  • Collaborate with peers

Online Communication Synchrony

  • Asynchronous only
  • Synchronous only
  • Some blend of both

Source of Feedback

  • Automated
  • Teacher
  • Peers

(Hodges, Moore, Lockee, Trust, & Bond, 2020)

The Learner Problems

The most substantial change to solving the learner problems is moving some courses to asynchronous online education because students can complete the activities anytime during the week. However, doing so increases the risk to students who are not self-motivated and could require greater instructor involvement to monitor and help lagging students. Additionally, there are limited support options to help some students adequately.

Preparing learners to study online should happen before they enroll in their first online or blended learning course. This training on how to be a successful online learner could be a part of the student orientation.

The Institution Problem

Solving the problems at the institutional level requires time and investment in faculty development. In the short term, creating videos of some lectures, and putting them online will address the problem that not all students can attend classes at the same time.

  1. Identify courses or course components that do not require interaction with an instructor. For example, students show up for a lecture, listen, take notes, and then leave.
    1. Replace these lectures with video lectures that students watch online.
    2. Students come to the university when interactivity is necessary or to use lab equipment.
  2. Identify knowledge-based courses that the university can offer as a fully-online self-paced course.
    1. Create videos of the lectures (live or voice-over-presentation)
    2. Create a simple but effective structure for these online courses:
      1. PDF version of presentations
      2. Video lectures with transcript
      3. Formative assessments for student self-assessment
      4. Students take a proctored exam at set intervals or after completing the coursework.
  3. Use industry-standard technology and tools to move content online quickly, such as YouTube, Google Drive, or OneDrive to store link course content.

Faculty training and educational technology development are required to address the problem over the long term.

  1. The institution must (1) identify its understanding of educational technology and (2) how it can use edtech to improve learner performance.
  2. Develop a support infrastructure that can assist the faculty as they develop their courses. For example:
    1. Support -- Assist the faculty as they create online or blended courses.
      1. Technical, methodological, and for pedagogical design
    2. Tools -- Provide the required tools to develop and teach their courses online.
    3. Elearning best practices -- Describe how distance learning operates.
      1. Standardized course structures and formats, templates
    4. Training -- Show how to accomplish the task.
      1. Information Technology: How to use the tools to create online courses
      2. Instructional Design: How to use online or blended learning educational methodologies to create online learning materials
      3. Pedagogy: How to teach online asynchronously
  3. Provide adequate time and compensation for faculty to develop their course well.


Friesen, N. (2009). Re-thinking e-learning research: Foundations, methods, and practices (Vol. 333). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95--105.

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review, 27. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning

Januszewski, A., & Molenda, M. (Eds.). (2013). Educational technology: A definition with commentary. Routledge.

Kennedy, S. (2018). Educational Technology and Curriculum. Scientific e-Resources.

Simonson, M., & Seepersaud, D. J. (2018). Distance education: Definition and glossary of terms. Iap.

Singh, V., & Thurman, A. (2019). How Many Ways Can We Define Online Learning? A Systematic Literature Review of Definitions of Online Learning (1988-2018). American Journal of Distance Education, 33(4), 289-306.