Shaun L McKay Speaks on The Pivot to e-Learning: How COVID-19 Forced Higher Education to Teach in the Cloud

Shaun L. McKay

September 29, 2020

Shaun L McKay

Shaun L McKay Discusses the Pivot to e-Learning and how Higher Education has Adapted in Response to COVID-19 

While universities have progressed into e-learning over the past two decades, many, including Santa Clara University, had not offered an online course until the COVID-19 pandemic caused an emergency need to host classes. While universities only began offering these courses in March 2020, Dr. Shaun L. McKay examines the lessons learned so far by higher education on e-learning in this article.

Educator Shaun L. McKay Explains the Lessons Learned

  1. What higher education offered on the fly since March does not constitute real e-learning, counsels career educator Shaun L. McKay. An e-learning program and each of its courses require months of planning and preparation. Most universities threw together tools that would enable their professors and instructors to go from sudden shut down to class on the schedule, explained Shaun L. McKay. That forced schools like Santa Clara to move “from a university that offered no online courses to a university that offered only online courses,” it said in a statement quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education. This quick move to online courses qualifies as remote education, but that differs massively from true e-learning. It makes an important first step towards a more permanent move to online education.
  2. It takes time and proper tools to build a true program of online instruction explains Shaun L. McKay. While the two weeks of spring break helped US colleges and universities prepare for the onslaught of university-wide e-teaching, they need more time. The summer months provided some of that, enabling schools to search for more appropriate tools and put better frameworks in place than the ad-hoc methods used to make it through the semester, in which COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic. This preparation provides a fallback if the return to campus gets cut short by a resurgence of the virus or flu season brings a different wave of problems.
  3. Use what you have got and make the best of it, says Shaun L. McKay. The tools schools used already existed, and they had access to them. Some schools already owned the learning-management systems software they used to place the entire catalog of courses online. Rather than reinvent the wheel, they turned to popular video conferencing software like GoToMeeting and Zoom.
  4. What the school next door uses may not work for you, says former university president Shaun L. McKay. Rather than choose for its professors, Texas A&M University let its professors decide on their platform based upon what other professors at the school already used. That limited selection whittled down the choices, but it also gave students no continuity. It let professors quickly choose a program they felt some comfort using, which helped speed them online. The cobbled-together systems provide one reason this is not actually a move to e-learning yet. Each university needs time to study which learning-management system would work best for its curriculum and then implement it with a formal training program for instructors.
  5. Moving to online education does not cost a lot. That shocked many schools in a good way said Shaun L. McKay. These relatively minor expenses and the reduction in overhead let some smaller schools experiencing funding issues make up some of their shortfalls. The hardware and software came to about $40,000 for most schools.
  6. Students matter most, and e-courses allow them to continue the most important aspect of their college experience – the education. In a time of worldwide instability, online education allowed them to have one constant, classes being continued. 

Shaun L. McKay said the emergency turn toward teaching over the Internet could help spur more schools to move classes online. Schools now have a crash course in how to do it, and once the pandemic ends, they can take a breath and do it right, revolutionizing American education.