Another dot in the blogosphere?


Posted on: March 1, 2021

A few weeks ago, I received a manual from the coordinators of a new academic semester. The manual was a PDF for an online learning platform. I did not think much of this until yesterday during a shower thought: When is this — the 1980s?

There are many reasons why a manual is not relevant or desirable. I offer my top three:

Wrong purpose
A manual should help staff with tasks. It should not be administrative cover, i.e., if something goes wrong, an administrative group can say, “We provided policies and instructions. Why didn’t you read and follow them?”

A manual is outdated as soon as it is published or shared. This is particularly true of online platforms. The content of the manual was largely replicates of instructions from the support site of the online platform. The latter will invariably be more up-to-date than a manual.

Creating a manual reeks of an old school request and/or a reliance on someone else instead of helping yourself. A modern worker needs to learn quickly and independently, and so should be self-reliant on what is logically one’s domain.

A manual impedes automatic behaviours like 1) trying and tinkering, 2) using official online support sites for procedures, and 3) seeking ideas and tips online, e.g., edu-Twitter, YouTube instructional videos, practitioner blogs.

It is not that I do not appreciate the effort of the coordinators. But I think that it is unnecessary work. I also think systemically and in the long term. We should not be living by old school rules when the teaching and learning demands have changed.

Instead of driving manual, we should move on to automatic. Even that analogy is dated. We should be preparing for the pedagogical equivalent of electric and self-driving cars. But I that call will fall on deaf ears.

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