Covid-19 has been a disaster, from so many perspectives. The magnitude of personal loss is perhaps matched only by the wilful and reckless arrogance and anti-scientific populism of too many of our leaders, starting with Johnson and Trump's narcissistic policies and attitudes. Universities are embracing the need to provide services remotely, presaging a second great pedagogic transformation. We rather squandered the last one presented to us by the emergence of the digital era, critics like Tom Schrand and AB Fraser contend. Back in the late 1990s, the new digital era led to new teaching platforms like PowerPoint that could have heralded a new pedagogic order because they are capable of so much more than we use them for. However, too often we turned it into ‘shovelware’, churning bulk text, documents and bullet points through those new digital platforms and creating 'Death by PowerPoint' scenarios our students - and we - do not deserve.
The current move online offers an opportunity to ensure digital curriculum delivery is not a second technological wave in which we simply 'repackage our predigital course materials and our traditional pedagogies of passive student learning’. Instead, digital delivery in the virtual realm provides an opportunity to bring pedagogy in line with two key matters: how the brain works, and how the world works. We live in the most multimedia of all eras, and the world beyond academia reflects that. But curriculum design and delivery remain obstinately monomedia, privileging the word over the image instead of conjoining both. Utilizing online delivery to deliver in multimedia modes would bring pedagogic methods into alignment with how the brain is scientifically shown to work neurologically: like the rest of the human body, it works better when fed a balanced diet, in this case, words and images.
This is no whim; it is supported by half a century of cognitive psychology and works regardless of culture, age, gender or location because it mirrors our neurological architectures. This is an opportunity to discuss how virtual delivery can synergise scientific discovery and pedagogic practice to better engage our students and avoid making the same mistakes we did with the last ‘great pedagogic transformation’.
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