Coffee plain and simple?

I like plain coffee in a plain cup. Fuss free.

Photo by Toni Cuenca on

I have enjoyed many conversations with people over the last few weeks on the topic of remote learning. When I am out on my fresh air breaks, I meet many remote learners who are out on theirs. At this stage, we are all like family!

It goes without saying that everyone is different. Loving or hating online learning is a subjective case by case scenario. However, people have surprised me with their comments. For example, I met a freshman student and his friend on my last walk about. Both are very ambitious young men. I asked how they are getting on with their course and whether they have adjusted to remote learning. I expected to hear great things because they have succeeded with their courses. I felt sad to hear them both state that no matter how good their experience is this year, the stress caused by the Covid-19 emergency response has completely turned them off remote learning.

Their attitudes to online learning are certainly not exceptional. I hear it daily in my day job. I question constantly if the emergency response will result in online learning to be a “never again” experience for many people.

The emergency response forced us to leap into the abyss and wade with class groups through muddy waters. We grappled to get our groups to the finish line. Even though the response enabled many people to reach the finish line, there is a lot of damage done to the online industry. Without doubt, there is a complete lack of understanding that an emergency response is not the same as online learning. The impact of the trauma from the emergency response will impact on instructional designers for many years to come. They will have to go the extra 100 miles to deal with this unfortunate linked association. The design community must rise to the challenge or those traumatized people may never actually experience online learning.

The big question is, where and how do we start? Designers and everyone in the field must factor in the impact of Covid-19 in everything they do. We must take an active role to correct the lack of differentiation of emergency response and online learning. Unplanned and chaotic design and delivery of training is not how IDs and content developers do things!

Without doubt, the terminology around new learning is very confusing. Even though I am an adult education trainer, I find myself constantly referring to glossaries to correctly label what I do. For example, in this academic year, I am online learning. In my work, I am delivering both synchronous and asynchronous classes in a 80/20 blend in a virtual learning environment. It is now all remote.

I spent most of this year wondering what blend I was planning for. As the year has progressed, I have had enough of blending. So I am going to make a radical suggestion. How about we do not go the same way as coffee. I am going to tell people that I am “online learning” and I teach “online”. Im going to enjoy my coffee for what it is. It is coffee. Plain and simple.

After that, if anyone is interested enough, I can go into the specifics of the different ingredients, the type of blend and whether its all brewed in advance or live. Who is with me on this?

In case you are not, I am providing you with a glossary of terms.

Fair enough you might not agree with me on the terminology matter. That is perfectly ok. But I am sure you will agree with me on this next point. At the very least, due to the negative impact of the emergency response on many learners, as IDs we must go the extra miles. It is essential to design instruction with this regressed starting point in mind. We need to build in empathy in our courses acutely at the beginning. We must set up our learners to succeed. Seville (2019), in her article, states that we can do this in different ways, including:

  1. Planning assignments which build a sense of community and empathy.
  2. Providing students with opportunities to collaborate and to share feelings with each other.
  3. Modelling empathy and recognizing the challenges students face.
  4. Heaping the rewards and building confidence early on.

We must ensure our learners have amazing experiences with online learning. Indeed, there is only one expression we need all learners to be able to say and that is

I did it!” Indeed, the industry depends on it.


Seville, V. J. (2019) Teaching Empathy in Online Class, ELearning Design and Development, available [online],transforms%20content%20into%20knowledge.%20As%20we…%20More%20

[date accessed: 1/03/2021]

The Ultimate Glossary of ELearning Terms, available

[date accessed: 01/03/2021]

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