Towards a non-classroom university? Decalogue for essential reflection


Among many others in many different fields, one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the need to resort to the development of online learning , given the impossibility of doing it in person. The phenomenon is not at all new, since it had previously registered significant progress at all educational levels. But the current crisis situation has come to accelerate and intensify it and to mark a trend of generalization of face-to-face training in the more immediate future.

The significance of such a process is unquestionable, because it is not just a change in the instruments and supports, but affects the nature and essence of the traditional way of conceiving and organizing the teachings and supposes a disruptive fact that changes the discourse of an education that is no longer tied to a specific location and whose provision is decoupled from restrictions related to space and time.

Specifically at the university level, this also involves profound transformations in the way of participating in education, with changes in attendance and residential and full-time dedication, with extension to training throughout life, and with students They will take courses from different institutions, with different modalities and strategies.

Therefore, the magnitude of a change is evident, evident before the crisis but accelerated with it, which affects multiple aspects of the educational process. In addition to this importance, there is now the urgency to resolve an issue as relevant as how to organize the teachings from the beginning of the next course.

The urgency that this situation imposes should not, however, lead to hasty decisions, without a reflection that is essential and to which I would like some ideas and approaches such as the ten that I present below could contribute.

  • First. The advancement of online is so evident and unstoppable that it does not deserve any discussion. But that should not mean in any way the eradication of the face elements. I think that it is no longer possible to conceive of the development of teaching without the use of new technologies, but attendance is irreplaceable in the educational process.
  • Second. Precisely for this reason, one should try to avoid the risk of succumbing to false dilemmas between face-to-face and online and flee from exclusive positions that place us at one of the extremes, without exploring the “hybrid” territory in which both modalities must necessarily meet. Of course, the hybrid does not consist of rotating face-to-face and online periods , but permanently combining both systems. The face-to-face must use new technologies and the online must not be “remote” and must always be accompanied by “face-to-face”.
  • Third. It is educated by contagion (it is not necessary to flee from the virus) and, therefore, the environment and the places of contact and relationship are essential in the training process. We have to worry, of course, about “teaching more”, but above all about “educating better”. The teachings undoubtedly have a valuable ally in technologies. Education also requires a relationship environment.
  • Fourth. It is very evident that new technologies offer enormous opportunities for educational renewal. But they also carry obvious risks, such as conceiving that digitization is doing the same as always, but through the computer, without asking about the “what” and “how” of the teachings, to modernize and adapt its methods and content , because those constitute the most essential elements of educational renewal.
  • Fifth. The supports are essential, but you have to know what to do with them. This is the fundamental leadership that the teacher must exercise, so as not to simply be dragged along by these supports and go behind them, but to know how to orient and lead them.
  • Sixth. Consequently, teachers will always remain the basic piece and the decisive element of the training process, which can never be dispensed with and for which an environment and conditions are required to guarantee its accessibility, presence and proximity.
  • Seventh. But the teacher’s roles and functions have to be redefined, to simultaneously combine the role of teacher, guide, prescriber, companion, inspirer and even influencer . Furthermore, what the teacher teaches about himself will be fundamental, because education is knowledge, but also intellectual styles and ways of thinking and conceiving the world.
  • Eighth. This entails greater dedication and new tasks for that “weak link” in the chain that is usually teachers, and confronts them with new tasks and more extensive, diverse and complex tasks, which require additional efforts and undoubtedly require better organization and very wide endowment of resources.
  • Nineth. Perhaps now this popular statement that knowledge has no place is truer than ever. Knowledge has started an unstoppable process of delocalization, and for this reason they come to the fore and emphasize the importance of the elements that only the most valuable teachers and teachers can offer. I believe, therefore, that the teaching profession of the best teachers must be vindicated and that master classes should not be eradicated but those that are not.
  • Tenth. The online and digital media and methods constitute an element of indisputable and enormous potential for teaching, particularly for the advancement of personalized programs supported by instruments such as the data big or artificial intelligence. But I trust that we know how to handle them with good sense, restraint and responsibility that prevents the University from going from being a “place” (of relationship) to reducing itself to simply being a “place” (on the web).

Author Bio: Juan A. Vázquez is Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Oviedo