How distance learning subverts power and privilege in higher education


[The Library of Trinity College Dublin. Photo by PhotoFra.]

Decolonization my syllabus, Decolonize my curriculum, decolonize my classroom-for some time, the term “decolonization” has been a buzzword on campus, because students and some faculty and staff demand the tolerance and diversity of education . However, the pandemic seems to have initiated a natural process of decolonization by directly challenging the exclusivity of global universities.

After three semesters of distance learning, when many of us are preparing to resume face-to-face teaching, I can’t help but think of Buddhist proverbs: Buddha sat under the tree, but they put him in the temple. Considering the huge campus and its impressive but desolate architecture, I find myself reflecting on how the accessibility of blended learning competes with the authority of these spaces, which are usually homogenous places, gatekeepers of class and privilege .

This is a critical time to make higher education institutions more inclusive by expanding access and encouraging innovative pedagogical technologies. As many prestigious universities that previously despised the concept of digital learning put their content online, the entire dynamic of inclusiveness has changed. Travel or student visa status is no longer a barrier, English as a second language is no longer a challenge, and “correct” appearance, class or race is no longer a barrier to participation. Lonely students of color, single mothers caring for children, disabled or depressed students no longer need to shrink or stand out in class. The level of power over what education is and by whom has been eroded.

It is important to use the lessons of this transition to challenge what Paulo Freire said “Banking system“Education—the goal of professors is to simply impart knowledge to students—is to create an inclusive pedagogy that recognizes the diversity of our students and provides a safe space to invite them to speak. Decolonization is more than just Remove some dead whites from our syllabus, or add more women of color. This is to ensure that everyone’s experience is reflected. This is about the traditional hierarchy of power in decentralized classrooms so that the professors Not the only knowledge disseminator who imposes a single (usually Western) point of view. This is to ensure fair participation among students so that they do not remain silent and passive recipients, whose various life experiences are ignored.

The argument here is not to abandon physical classrooms, nor is it to argue that distance learning is the answer to education fairness. Our idea is to learn from this experience as we prepare to return to life after the pandemic. If we pay attention, here are some insights that can guide us in radical teaching interventions.

How virtual classrooms transfer power and increase participation

Distance learning has always been a good tool for this decentralized strategy because it eliminates some problems Margin. In the Zoom classroom, the teacher is no longer the central authority. Chat provides real-time parallel participation. The ability to get in and out at will balances the power.

Before the pandemic, I, like many people my age, had always believed in lecture halls because of its tradition and sense of history. However, it wasn’t until I started teaching online and noticed the flow of real-time comments via chat that I realized its inclusiveness. Instead of using static conversations of “Any questions?” Finally, I can modify my lecture based on the incoming comments. The Parallel Participation Forum provides students with a space for alternate classroom discussions, initiating debates and critical thinking without teacher guidance, just like what happens in a traditional classroom. The closed camera and private information provide a kind of anonymity and eliminate the consciousness of raising hands to speak. In this sense, distance learning disperses the power levels of the podium and podium, and increases student participation. Now it is up to us to improve our teaching guidance to continue this immersive interactive experience when we re-enter the physical classroom.

Distance learning has also improved the accessibility of some students. During the pandemic, many universities have recorded lectures, which means that students can participate in topics at their own pace and post questions and comments accordingly. Facts have proved that this is particularly useful for those who cannot attend in person or have difficulty with the language of instruction. In June last year, Bethan Moss, editor of Cambridge University Student News, believed that Recorded lectures should be taken seriously As an option long before the pandemic. Moss pointed to the prevalent competence in institutions like Cambridge. From a traditional point of view, students struggling with admissions issues have been unheard of. Articles such as this force education practitioners and university boards to consider incorporating new technologies and techniques into inclusive measures, rather than just as an emergency response. This move towards barrier-free has triggered another kind of decolonization, which challenges control, the pace of teaching, and even language barriers.​​​

When we return to face-to-face teaching, how do we ensure that these changes continue to be incorporated into our practices and policies? Our idea is not to propose one medium rather than another, but to make the most of both in terms of a truly inclusive and diverse student experience.

Yes, Zoom fatigue is real, And the lack of body language means that the entire burden of teaching and learning falls on the eyes. Therefore, in order to minimize the visual burden, in my class, we try to read text physically. I not only focused on brain participation, but also tried so-called embodied learning, where participants tried to use specific texts to make them feel physically. Does it make them nervous? Does it relax their muscles? This resulted in a wholesome participation that I had never seen before. Similarly, in order to keep students focused when the screen is monotonous, we tried a quick meditation halfway through the seminar to let ourselves concentrate. We try to freely write and keep a diary as a way to check ourselves informally halfway through the online course. Initially, this was a way to avoid online distractions, but gradually became the most instructive way for students to participate in the text. When we tried more ways to make learning a wholesome experience, I found myself thinking, why do we have to go through a pandemic to realize that education is about self-knowledge and the subject you are learning?

Overcome doubt and embrace experimentation

In addition to teaching, scholarships also experienced a power shift during the pandemic. Restrictions on field research and archive access have prompted many international institutions and researchers to rely on local scholars, community knowledge, oral history, indigenous knowledge, and self-ethnography. This is a big step towards authenticity and better representation . For some time, there have been calls for people in the liberal arts and social sciences to be more tolerant of scholars from underrepresented communities and countries, especially in disciplines such as anthropology and sociology, which questioned the “power dynamics”.Who will study who. “ The health crisis helps break resistance to indigenous knowledge production, which challenges the imperial approach of quantitative and qualitative research. When we demand decolonization in academia, we need to keep this openness in mind, and we should bring this organic process back to classrooms, research laboratories, and libraries.

So why are we still skeptical of the hybrid model? Even before the pandemic, many educators knew that traditional teaching and research methods must be completely reformed at some point. As a professor of humanities, I have realized the need to adopt a hybrid teaching method that is more in line with the digital age and shortened, over-stimulating attention spans. The advantages of adding students to their digital space far outweigh the outdated arguments against the media; if anything, the segregation effect of the pandemic has prompted students to seek asylum there.

Moreover, despite the condescending attitude that online teaching is not so strict for teachers, it is actually twice as difficult. It takes a lot of originality and innovation to allow students who look like blank boxes to participate in meaningful discussions. On the Internet, we fight for the attention of students. With just one click, we can compete with Netflix and Twitter for space. Coexisting in a learning space that is constantly threatened by more interesting applications is a challenge. Only after the pandemic did we realize that instead of competing with these spaces, we as educators must complement each other. We must go further to be equally invested in the classroom.

At this moment, modern universities are at a turning point. Rather than want to go back in time, we should focus on radical teaching interventions to make full use of distance learning as an accompaniment to the traditional classroom experience. Now is the time to put “interdisciplinary” ideas into practice by experimenting with new methods. It is time to give up the resistance to new and innovative ways of producing knowledge. Now is the time to encourage student-led creative experimentation, community involvement, oral history, indigenous knowledge, and self-ethnography as viable means of educational participation, rather than insisting on imperialism and exclusivity in the name of tradition.

Despite the difficulties, the pandemic tells us that there is more than one way to educate about decolonization. It would be a shame to ignore these lessons of decentralization and tolerance, especially when we find ourselves reimagining the future of higher education due to reasons other than the immediate crisis, such as the wave of student protests against university fees and the rapid pace of technological development.Contrary to the teacher’s fear Replaced by recording with”Netflixization of academia“This is an exciting time to enter higher education. Creativity is the key to the survival of modern universities. As teachers, we must create teaching methods that adapt to the post-COVID world. If we allow this to be a transformative process, it will appear. A larger educational perspective. Let us accept these lessons, get rid of the capitalist perspective of higher education as a means to an end, and turn to an inclusive and diverse learning experience, which is an end in itself. This is the true meaning of decolonization Where.


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