Another dot in the blogosphere?

e-déjà vu

Posted on: July 17, 2020

 
Most people probably understand the rationale of fire drills even as they go through the motions of evacuating a building. They also have the hope — and perhaps the expectation — that the practice never becomes reality.

Something similar could be said about e-learning in Singapore before the current pandemic.

For over a decade, most schools and education institutes here have mandated at least one e-learning day (or even a week) under the guise of practice for shutdowns like the one we just experienced.

Unlike a relatively simple fire drill, people had to be prepared for the difficult design and implementation of e-learning. They were not and still are not. So like the fire drills, people did the bare minimum to adhere to policy, went through the motions, and continued with teaching normally when the drills were over.

I am fully aware of the pains of doing this not least because I was a participant of such drills. I had to facilitate such “initiatives”, and when I finally headed an e-learning department, did away with compulsory e-day or e-week.

Why remove them? People had lost sight of why they needed to do this, their efforts were minimal, and the infrastructure then could not handle a full shift online.

Instead, I tried to get my colleagues to design scenarios and solutions they thought met their needs and contexts. They could choose their own day or week, which took a load off the infrastructure. This ownership was slow to build, but I observed people taking things more seriously.

Then disaster struck — not as a pandemic but in the form of change in leadership-at-the-top. A core group of us left what seemed like sinking ship helmed by a team of leaders that had other priorities. Sadly, the empowered e-learning was not sustained.

The e-learning drills were not effective in the mainstream school system either. Why? Most schools transferred “e-learning” design and hosting to third-party vendors instead of learning how to deal with emergencies on their own.

It is easy to observe and make judgements in hindsight. It is much more difficult to eat humble pie and learn from the harsh lessons of not taking preparations seriously. Will we learn? I hope so, but I think not.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

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