Dr. Joshua Eyler is everywhere IHE. A quick search for “Eyler” on IHE revealed the following highlights:
Google returns with 191,000 hits for “Joshua Eyler” – although at least half of them must be other “Joshua”.
To continue the trend, I wanted to reunite with Josh to get his thoughts on teaching and learning in this very strange time of higher education.
Q1: Since you wrote How Humans Learn, you have moved from Rice to the University of Mississippi. Tell us about your role at Ole Miss, before, during and perhaps planning after the pandemic?
I am the Director of Faculty Development at our Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning and also Director of ThinkForward QEP, a university-wide initiative designed to help students develop better critical thinking skills in introductory level courses.
Before the pandemic, my job was a combination of workshops, consultations, committees, etc. – everything we usually do in the field of educational development. Once the pandemic hit, however, I was part of our Keep Teaching team (made up of colleagues from our CETL, Academic Innovations, Outreach and IT). While close collaborations and working with faculty remained central to what I did on Keep Teaching, I also helped design and lead the Emergency Transition Workshops for the distance learning and a campus-wide learning community on resilient pedagogy, I wrote the Temporary Pass / Failure Policy for Students, and – in short – I was asked to complete many young and old ad hoc projects.
I think over the next few months my role will start to look more and more like it was before the pandemic, but I will continue to advocate for higher education to reflect, learn and use the lessons of the pandemic. . to carve out a more equitable future.
Q2: In How Humans Learn, you criticize many aspects of online education. Has your thinking changed since you wrote the book? In the aftermath of the pandemic, how do you think the role of e-learning will evolve in predominantly residential institutions?
This is a BIG question, and for which I have only a few fragments of answers. First of all, to clarify, my skepticism about e-learning in the book was primarily aimed at cookie-cutter and model-based approaches to online courses, and not the innovative teaching that many many people are doing in this area. Second, I also want to note that just because a course is taught in person doesn’t automatically mean it’s super interactive and engaging. This means that the conditions are right for engagement, but it does not mean that active learning necessarily occurs.
Okay, now that I have this out in the open (phew!), I have to say that I still support what I wrote about sociality and learning. What matters most is social presence and the creation of environments where students can interact and engage with the instructor and with each other. It is obviously possible to do this work in online spaces, although it is extremely difficult and I don’t think we have a research consensus yet on the role of the screen in mediating these interactions. Plus, a lot of what we see and hear in higher education is that students and faculty want to be together in one place again, which many people have deeply missed during the pandemic.
On the other hand, e-learning has in some cases been found to be more equitable for certain groups of students (students with disabilities, for example) and less equitable for others (those who do not have easy access to Internet, for example). So there isn’t a coherent narrative of how higher education will go with all of this. My best guess as to what will happen with e-learning in residential institutions in the future are as follows: a) there will likely be more hybrid courses than we have seen before; and b) people will incorporate the technologies they discovered or refined during the pandemic into their face-to-face teaching.
Q3: “Are you writing another book?”
The answer to this question is yes! It is tentatively called Fail Our Children: How Grades Obstruct Success and Emotional Well-Being. This is an overview of the many issues with traditional grading practices common in education systems, and I write it for parents and educators of all skill levels. I started thinking about this when I was writing the “Failure” chapter of How humans learn, and he grew from there.