Debunking the Misconceptions Created from COVID-19's Shift to Emergency Remote Learning

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Emergency remote learning vs. online learning. COVID-19 turned the education world upside down, forcing faculty members to quickly transition their courses to an online format using Learning Management Systems (LMS) and web conferencing. Now that these new teaching habits are formed, how do we ensure students receive a quality education using synchronous sessions and best online learning practices? In this session, we will discuss these misconceptions and brainstorm alternative teaching strategies. 


Blair is currently an Instructional Designer (ID) on the Online Course Development Team at UNC Charlotte. Blair has been working in education for 8 years. Starting off as a middle school math teacher, Blair fell into instructional design and hasn't left since 2015. Using her experiences with curriculum design as a teacher and her love for technology, Blair has found her true niche in instructional design. As an ID, she has worked with faculty in both higher education and K-12 to create student-centered and active online courses that align with high-quality standards. Blair's mission as an Instructional Designer is to provide research-based best practices to faculty and build courses where all students can succeed. This mission has propelled her to become the research lead on her team. Blair is currently working on her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University as an online student. Her dissertation topic involves integrating active learning strategies in an online STEM course and its relationship with a students' STEM identity. Blair is also a graduate of the Online Learning Consortium's Institute for Emerging Leaders in Online Learning (2018), Michigan State University (2015, Master of Arts in Educational Technology), and University of Michigan-Dearborn (2012, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education).
Lynn Wahl is an Instructional Designer in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She partners with faculty in the redesign or development of blended and online courses. Lynn is passionate about leveraging technology and QM design standards to create innovative and successful student learning experiences. Lynn received her M.Ed in Instructional Technology from Idaho State University and her M.A. in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Extended Abstract

In March 2020, there was an instant shift to online learning due to the current pandemic, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This shift occurred quickly, leaving many institutions with just a weekend to prepare and very little support (Svrluga & Anderson, 2020) Reflecting upon this time, it is important to distinguish between a true online course that is built with instructional design support and the intention of being delivered fully asynchronous and emergency remote learning, which is a temporary solution to provide students with access to instructional materials (Hodges, et. al, 2020). In the shift to emergency remote teaching, students were not given the opportunity for problem-posing learning nor knowledge transformation (Freire, 1968/2003; Boyd, 2016). Instead, students were presented with a Massive Open Online Education (MOOC) style of education, full of lectures and highly assessment driven (Boyd, 2016; Hodges, et. al, 2020). This massive shift meant that students were viewed as vessels to be filled with information and “left the student in the role of passive recipient rather than active creator of knowledge” (Boyd, 2016, p. 174-175). Ironically, initial online courses also focused on a lecture-based, teacher-centered pedagogy and were the cause of early online learning attempts flop (Boyd, 2016; Freire, 1968/2003; Leonardo, 2004). The research shows that this style of learning is not conducive to student success and critical thinking, especially in online learning (Freire, 1968/2003; Boyd, 2016, Leonardo, 2004). 

In my own experiences as an instructional designer, this quick shift caused faculty to remove active learning from their courses and focus on lecture-based, synchronous options. As institutions move from reactivity to proactivity and continue their focus of developing fully online programs, it will be essential to distinguish this emergency remote teaching due to COVID-19 from online learning. In my role this past year, I have personally experienced the repercussions of the misconceptions created by quickly moving face-to-face courses to an online format with little to no instructional design support. In this session, we will discuss five common misconceptions and collaboratively brainstorm alternative online teaching pedagogies to ensure active learning and student success. Misconceptions addressed include:

  • Myth #1: I can’t do group work online.

  • Myth #2: There are no “aha” moments in online learning.

  • Myth #3: My students and I must meet for 3 hours twice a week for them to learn the content.

  • Myth #4: Good discussion can’t occur in the online classroom.

  • Myth #5: I can’t teach as much content online as I do face-to-face.


Boyd, D. (2016). What would Paulo Freire think of Blackboard: Critical pedagogy in an 

age of online learning (p. 165-183).

Freire, P. (1968/2003). Pedagogy of the oppressed.

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., & Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review.

Leonardo, Z. (2004). Critical social theory and transformative knowledge: The functions 

of criticism in quality education. Educational Researcher, 33(6), 11-18. doi:10.3102/0013189X033006011 

Svrluga, S. & Anderson, N. (2020). Amherst College switches to online learning, as universities nationally scramble to respond to covid-19 outbreak. The Washington Post.