Some of the problems we can anticipate post COVID (for learning and working)

As someone who has long advocated for remote working and has worked on distance learning programmes (in various formats) for a while it feels like a hollow victory that the world has finally come to terms with these concepts only through forced circumstances.

So knowing what we know about remote learning and working, what problems can we expect to see post-Covid when the ‘non believers’ want to return to their old ways:

  1. Content management (or lack there of)
    • I’m sure there are thousands of learning pros, knowledge management and IT professionals currently having palpitations about the volumes of “stuff” currently being produced. This will include a lot of video content, either as videos or recordings of webinars/meetings.
    • Short term, they will be putting a strain on many organisation’s hosting arrangements but, longer term, risk becoming a big issue. Questions that will have to be asked include:
      • “How much of that content is exposed in the ‘correct’ places?” (vs hidden via email or other sharing)
      • “How much will be lost when people leave (for example due to auto deletion of OneDrive or other systems)?”
      • “How must has simply been posted once and instantly becomes both ephemeral (for example lost a long way back up a scroll in social media or Teams) but at the same time a permanent record of that meeting or activity which may be needed in the future for audit, court cases or more?”
    • For someone who was had roles particularly focused on digital content, especially in late 2012 and early 2013, I am of course more than happy to help if you are trying to get your head around this! Remember when we used to specifically refer to this stuff as UGC. Oh those were the days!
    • Also probably a good point to say I really do not recommend recording all your meetings – no matter what some vendors might say!
    • The “stop to think” tagline for my Learning Reducer idea is key here – many people have simply not stopped to think how to deliver online. The drive has been a continuation of service to parents, children, employees, etc. rather than thinking about the best way to layout and distribute content that minimises learning load. Universities “pivoting” (as seems to be the term of choice) are kind of okay with this as they will typically have set out resources on a learning management system already and just amend delivery. If this is good practice remains to be seen, not least through research comparing outcomes to previous years.
  2. Ignoring health and safety, worker rights and more
    • In a crisis it is probably fair to expect people to work from home in difficult conditions. However, if that is the new norm for your workers they should be supported with appropriate supplies – not least a decent chair. I gave up a properly ordered chair when I left a role in 2018, it was amazing and I had not appreciate previously how much that contributed to my back problems. Working from home should not (primarily) be a cost saving exercise by cutting office space.
    • The issues have also shown the lack of efficiency in many systems – not least education. If millions can join a single P.E. lesson why do we have 1000s of teachers creating their own resources? The content management mess is unlikely to be fixed in a way that encourages greater sharing and use OER and thus we will not have gained the economies of scale that organisations should have. This is in part teachers fighting against the machine – trying to avoid the inevitable decline in their responsibilities that will come through smarter AI, VR and other tech. They need to position themselves as guiding agents for learners, facilitators as the corporate world would call them, and not content producers – how many will be able to ‘pivot’ to expound rather than deliver remains to be seen but we can expect ongoing debate about the balance of teacher vs tech vs parents/guardians/environment. Whilst the role of the teacher is being appreciated like never before by parents locked away with their children it is also exposing the high volume of baby-sitting that makes up a traditional ‘teaching’ role. How this works out with the restrictions teachers unions have managed to secure (in the UK and beyond) will be interesting to see.
  3. Messy ecosystems
    • An attempt at an audit within my own team shows about 30 different apps, websites and other services requiring logins/passwords. Now, I think we are past everything needing central IT support, however, the consumerisation of IT has undoubtedly led to a mess of SAAS and cloud platforms with resulting difficulties. As some point these will need to mapped out for clarity (if only for succession and handover purposes).
  4. Sorry, the world HAS changed
    • Millions of people are being exposed to a different way of living (the shock of which has surprised me – see my comment here) and much like when the men returned from the wars of the past we will find that many things will have changed. There will be many who expect more flexible work schedules, school children who find the remote experience more useful for their study (more focus, less bullies, etc.) and more. How organisations and educations systems respond will be very interesting.

Some of the positives though will include that many educators who previously avoided tech in their lives have now had to crack on and make do. Whilst their current experiences are no doubt often not based on good practice or the research it should at least be easier to push on with appropriate technology enhanced learning in the future.

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