“Needs Must”? Critical reflections on the implications of the Covid19 ‘pivot online’ for equity in higher education

D Belluigi*, L Czerniewicz, S Khoo, A Algers, LA Buckley, P Prinsloo, E. Mgqwashu, C Camps, C Brink, R Marx, G Wissing, N Pallitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Higher education institutions (HEIs) across the globe have turned to online technologies in a bid to address the unprecedented disruption to their educational function, created by physical restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators, learning professionals, administrators, managers - all have had to muster the courage and determination to salvage what their infrastructure and means have allowed.

"A certain shift in mind-set has occurred. Over-simplified and over-generalised perhaps, but a clear directive was given that ‘this has to be done online’, in consequence of which the stance changed from ‘this can’t be done online’ to ‘how can this be done online?’ This was the watershed moment. Even the fiercest opponents of anything technology have been engaging in the shift to online."

While such commitment has been generative in actions within the initial period of negotiating the practical problem-solving of the ‘pivot online’, any self-congratulation and relief should be tempered with critical consideration of the ways in which emergency measures impact on equity in HE.
This article offers reflections-in-action by 21 contributors from 18 institutions whose scholarship and/or practice in academic development (broadly conceived) spans 7 countries[1]. As individuals, we were drawn together through networks of existing concerns about equity[2]. Informed by critical traditions of scholarship and practice largely underpinned by a political ethos of social justice in the micro-curriculum, the thematic analysis in this paper outlines contributors’ critical deliberations during the initial “firefighting” of this “watershed moment” where the “equality debate now overlaps much more with the digital transformation debate”.

The piece makes key assertions about what matters for equity at this pivotal moment: the conditional, spatial and institutional matters of context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDigital Culture and Education
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020


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