Monday, January 27, 2020

Educational Institutions Could Offer Blended Learning in Response to Novel Coronavirus

NUS  eLearning Week Video, 2014
NUS eLearning Week Video, 2014
This is to suggest that Australian educational institutions be prepared to implement blended/e-learning, if some, or all, students are not able to attend campus, due to the Novel Coronavirus, bush-fires, or other natural disasters. In addition to allowing students to continue their study, this would have positive mental health benefits, allowing the students to keep in touch, and have something to keep them occupied. There is a precedent for this in Singapore's "e-Learning Week" (Chandran, 2010).

Australian universities, vocational educational institutions, colleges, and many secondary schools, already have e-learning tools used to supplement classroom teaching. However, teachers may need extra support for this, some administrative procedures may need to be changed, and institutions may need wavers for some legal requirements. In particular visa regulations limit the amount of e-learning international students can undertake, and the regulations assume students are in Australia.

Singapore e-­Learning Week

One public health measure for the 2003 SARS outbreak was the closure of educational institutions. In response, Singapore  Polytechnic, and the National University of Singapore (NUS) implemented an “e-­Learning  Week” (Chandran, 2010). This was designed to prepare the institutions for possible future closure due to quarantine, or other public health conditions. NUS mentions "severe haze" as one reason for closing a campus, which has occurred in Australia. NUS provided a short video, explaining the 2014 e-learning week.

Since the first e-learning week in 2006, the availability of tools, and the understanding of their use has increased. Teaching formats, such as the "flipped classroom" lend themselves to the provision of a blended mode of teaching which can become pure online delivery, if required. With this approach, there is no need for an abrupt change in teaching mode: those students who can get to class can have a class, those who can't use the online option.

eBook with Videos


Many teachers are reluctant to adopt e-learning due to the time it takes to prepare materials. However, research shows that slick broadcast-quality videos are not required. Students learn just as well with a video recorded by their teacher sitting at their desk on a $50 web camera, or no camera at all (as NUS points out). An approach I have used is to prepare an e-book of notes, and then produce videos from that using synthetic speech and slides. What is most important, as with a face-to-face classroom, is to have activities for the students, working together, and to provide them with feedback on how they are doing.

Victorian Educaiton Pandemic Plan

Victoria's Department of Education and Training has a Pandemic Influenza Incident Response Plan (2016), which includes in the containment strategy:
"If required, schools may be closed on advice of the Chief Health Officer, DHHS. In these circumstances:
  • inform teachers of their obligations during school closures 
  • for students at home, provide access to educational materials including online learning." (page 28)

However, the plan does not appear to have been tested.




Chandran, R. (2010, May). National University of Singapore'sCampus-Wide ELearning Week. In Global Learn (pp. 2062-3302). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). URL

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