An evolving Manifesto for Teaching Online

In 2011 a group of academics published a short, provocative, and thoughtful Manifesto for Teaching Online.  They updated it in 2016, and now this year MIT Press brought out their work in book form.

On June 10th the Future Trends Forum hosted two of the authors from the University of Edinburgh. Siân Bayne and Jen Ross, both part of UE’s Centre for Research in Digital Education, starred in a brilliant and transnational conversation. I was so impressed by the depth of thinking, by the resources shared, and by the questions we did and didn’t get to, that I wanted to expand on the session here.

To begin with, here’s the full recording of the hour:

Across the session several topics loomed large.  For example, we explored how digital media changes the structure of academic authorship.  Our guests recommended James Lamb’s post on Remixing the nature of authorship for more on this.

A provocative question asked us to consider how universal Universal Design for Learning actually is in terms of culture, situation, and more.  On Twitter Ed Webb observed:


Longtime friend of the Forum George Station recommended Andratesha Fitzgerald’s Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning as well as Mirko Chardin and Katie R. Novak’s Equity by Design: Delivering on the Power and Promise of UDL.  Rocky also shared a Fitzgerald presentation:

George supplied another video with Fitzgerald:

Also recommended was Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education, by Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling.

So many questions kept the discussion racing along.  So many, in fact, that we couldn’t get to them all in a jam-packed hour.  I’ve copied them here, organized loosely by theme, and stripped of authorship, since I wasn’t able to get approval from each commentator.

Some questions looked ahead to ways of improving online education, appropriately:

We have heard that student engagement was a huge issue with online instruction. I think that it can also be a challenge in traditional modes. Is this an area you’ve been exploring?

Do we need to push for a better integration between (online) learning / teaching design and design + ethics approaches such as value-sensitive design, values in design or responsible design?

Can we/should we let go of things like courses, classes, semesters, universities, etc, given that we don’t suffer the constraints that made them necessary in the first place? If not, why not?

Some focused on the Manifestos’ texts with specific suggestions:

Would framing things often titled “Best Practices” as “Evidence-Based Practices” help??

Several wanted to explore implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital teaching:

The experience of teaching on line during the pandemic should not be allowed to lie fallow. What do you think are the most important lessons learned that all instructors should reflect on in F2F?

How to mitigate a potential backlash against online teaching & learning as we’re moving into a gradual “reopening of HE institutions?

Good thoughts to chew on – and the comments box awaits you, should you like to reply.

In the meantime, check out the manifesto in its various forms.  My thanks to our guests and participants.


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4 Responses to An evolving Manifesto for Teaching Online

  1. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Look for online education to exacerbate the “savage inequalities” in US K-12 as well as the US College Meltdown.

  2. There’s a lot of great stuff I’m looking forward to digging into in more detail when I have a little more time. I had a chance to meet Sian at a conference in Italy on MOOCs several years ago, and their “manifesto” served as a starting point for me in thinking about my own practices teaching online and my research about MOOCs a few years ago.

    Also a bit in the self-promotion department: I’m doing a snowball sample survey of faculty in the US who taught online during Covid:

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