Educational Empathy

Something that (in my opinion) fails to be considered until later, is the notion of an ‘educational empathy’. We as educators empathise with our students through the struggles of understanding to the application of their comprehension within the classroom. But this is becoming increasingly difficult to design for in online education, the need to empathise is often overlooked as a technical support issue. I’m not so keen on writing a course that requires constant reading, or regurgitating an in-class paper to an online delivery. The need for watchable and interactive media has to be at the first instance before starting to write or design an academic online activity.

Online education sits between printed “learn as you read” media and “in-class” teacher directed lessons. Finding that balance does depend entirely on the technology, but also a new style of language, tone, character and voice. It’s akin to content structure and architecture shaping website design today. Online teaching is a fledgling medium, we’re still finding our way and trialing methods that with the best intentions – taking established classroom (and paper) structures to a digital delivery, this does not work. An entirely new content structure needs to be planned, designed and built.

As educational designers, teachers, tutors, facilitators… whatever, we need to emphasise with the learning process and adopt a framed structure or growing standard to use as part of writing online sources. Creating a fixed narrative that leads a learner through a path of discovery, recondition, understanding and ultimately application should be at the forefront of on online course – the danger is not seeing the wood for the trees! Yes, we see the outcome and levels for achievement, but beginning learners do not, especially if they’re new to online learning. As an educator I believe it’s highly valuable to be in the mind set of a learner (ideally a test cohort) at each stage of course design, a constant iteration or development needs to take place until a baseline standard can be used effectively – if that can ever happen!