COVID-19 and the push to online learning: Reflections from 5 countries.

Teräs, Marko, Teräs, Hanna, Arinto, Patricia, Brunton, James, Daryono, Daryono and Subramaniam, Thirumeni (2020) COVID-19 and the push to online learning: Reflections from 5 countries. Digital Culture & Education. ISSN 1836-8301


A unique characteristic of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has swept over the entire globe more or less at the same time. Millions of students and teachers have experienced a push to online learning in an attempt to slow down the spreading of the virus. Education technology providers seem to have benefitted from this sudden turn of events: the Internet is suddenly filled with providers offering their services and products as a solution to the situation (Teräs, Suoranta, Teräs & Curcher, forthcoming). The global trends of digitalization and datafication of education seem to have taken a leap forward, as the critical voices are being smothered by the necessity of the situation. Education technology now looks like a saviour of the entire education sector.

However, the situation is far more complex, and the impact of the push to online is vastly different in different contexts. In this reflective piece, academics from five countries; Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Ireland, and Finland share their experience with the “pivot online” as the situation is still ongoing. The reflections reveal a complex set of challenges, consisting on one hand of questions of access, digital divide and equity, and on the other hand on pedagogy, academic practice and policy.

In all five countries, the situation is likely to have a lasting impact on higher education. While we welcome this unique opportunity to develop educational policy and practice, we worry that the urgency of the situation may lead to hasty, techno-deterministic “panic mode” solutions (see also Teräs, Suoranta, Teräs & Curcher, forthcoming). This article is an attempt to look at the “pivot online” and the digitalization of education from a more critical and contextual perspective than the grand narrative of the prevailing “ed-tech speak” that has taken a boost from the COVID-19 situation.

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