College & Teaching Will Never Be the Same (Again)




As new institutions moved to online learning and digital technology platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, media sources, education scholars, and administrators quickly started to discuss how this moment would change education. Already in March of 2020, Mike Silagadze, CEO of Top Hat, wanted to tell us, “How COVID-19 May Forever Change the Way Professors Teach.” It is no coincidence that this perspective came from the CEO of an educational technology vendor. Much of ed tech history involves marketing and promises about the future, coupled with a new product’s indispensability. Historian Audrey Watters catalogs the “selling of the future” in education – robot teachers, zeppelin classrooms, direct content uploads to the brain, and more. My goal is to speak conceptually and offer a perspective to temper this enthusiasm of transformation. Narratives, particularly technological ones, have been frequently introduced about how education, college, and related institutions are going to be unrecognizable or obsolete based on intervention X, Y, or Z. These stories are frequently overwrought, informed variously by a fever for the new, the economic ambitions of technology companies, and institutional branding. My goal is not to reject lessons of pandemic instruction but to reframe conversations about its long-term, "disruptive" influence on higher education. What can we learn from this moment that should stick in perpetuity and how might we be misled?