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Learning at-Scale, Affordability, and Access in a Post-Covid19 World

Higher education leaders reflect on and discoveries and lessons learned during the pandemic

The year 2020 will go down in history as an unprecedented time, marked by the public health crisis caused by the SARS-CV-2 (coronavirus) and the resulting disease, COVID-19. In responding to this emergency, many in higher education found themselves expending a remarkable effort to prepare their institutions for emergency remote course delivery. The divisions and units that carried out the online and professional education operations for their institutions received a stronger call to duty than ever before.

Although many of the changes made over the last year were a direct result of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these changes were long overdue and can act as gateways to a total re-imaging of higher education.

While some in these units have been at the forefront of not only online but also at-scale and affordable learning, especially since 2012, the Year of the MOOC, the scale at which has largely been vertical, in which a limited number of programs and courses that sustain a vertical growth of enrollments. Responding to this global health crisis on campuses on the other hand entailed wide collaboration and coordination between both technological capabilities and human talent across our institutions to be able to quickly pivot to a horizontal scale—many students distributed over many courses, taught by many faculty.

In May 2020, Yakut Gazi, associate dean of Learning Systems, and Nelson Baker, dean of Professional Education, put together a volume of stories of responses to this pandemic. This book, "Moving Horizontally: The News Dimensions of at-Scale Learning in the Time of COVID-19," is now available as an open source publication and is unique for a number of reasons: 

  • It attempts to introduce a new conceptualization of our response to COVID-19: horizontal at-scale learning.
  • It is an open-access self-published book that accelerated time-to-market in an effort to preserve the temporal relevance of this information to our community.
  • It includes perspectives, large and small, from American and international universities, some with pre-COVID online experience, and some without;
  • It is one of the first publications that talks about our global response to the pandemic as higher education leaders.

"We hope that readers will find familiar experiences and inspiration in this book and continue on their journey to reform and reimagine their institutions beyond COVID-19," says Gazi and Baker. Under Creative Commons licensing, they have republished the epilogue of the book, which breaks down some of the lessons learned throughout this experience. The epilogue can be read in full on EvoLLLution.com.