A global scan of Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)

Fatima Rahiman

Higher education institutions worldwide are grappling with measures to save the academic year in the midst of increasing and ongoing lockdowns in the Covid -19 pandemic. With students now being remote from the campus, academics are being forced to change their traditional teaching practice. The rapid switch to fully online learning is touted widely as the means of mitigating the impact of the virus with some academics demonstrating the  creative potential of online learning in this difficult time.

This enthusiasm for online learning, however, is not without its detractors. Expert voices  are critically cautioning against a rushed approach given the ill-preparedness of academics to embrace  remote instruction, combined with the issue of the digital divide in our context and its consequent inequities which have the potential of compromised quality teaching and learning. There is also the fear held by some teaching and learning specialists that this mode of teaching could result in a less than favourable experience for both students and educators.


Stepping Online

Attempts to mitigate these concerns are shared equally widely on the web. These attempts include recognition that this current mode of emergency remote teaching is only a temporary measure and that the distinction between emergency remote teaching and effective online learning needs to be appreciated. The latter requires careful learning design involving expertise and considerable time – a luxury in the time of this current pandemic. Other posts serve to comfort academics that their priority right now is not a well-designed course but rather ensuring that a connection with students is established. UCT has shared a KISS (Keep It Simple for you and your Students) strategy (low-tech remote teaching principles),which suggest ten principles and a number of Dos and Donts.

Further attempts to ease the burden on academics include several courses, tips and articles aimed at assisting academics who are new to online teaching, to teach efficiently and effectively in this crisis, with helpful information and embedded resources embedded for just-in-time online teaching. Some examples are:

While conventional examinations are inappropriate in the face of this pandemic, alternative types of assessments are proposed. A recent UNESCO Webinar focussing on the issue of examinations and assessment concluded the principle of fairness should be central in the exploration of options such as curriculum trimming, having an extended academic year, or engaging in online assessments in mitigating the challenge of lockdowns in the Higher Education sector.


The silver lining of the pandemic is not limited to helpful shares by learning designers on the Web. It has also added to the plethora of OERs (open education resources) already available across the web. These resources are available under an open licence which allows for the reuse and sometimes adaptation of materials, obviating the need for academics to generate content from scratch.

Saides OER Africa Initiative offers an easily accessible learning pathway to finding open content  as well as a link to OERs originating in Africa. In addition, the use of hashtags such as, #online learning #OERs on social media platforms like Twitter, will also yield a veritable minefield of reusable content.

Recently, Saides Siyaphumelela initiative has been collating OER for use by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). They can be found in the Resources Tab on our Siyaphumelela site by searching under Category for the terms OERs and/or Covid19 responses.

OER Africa, has recently hosted a series of webinars for the African Association of Universities focusing on  Emergency Remote Teaching during this time of Covid-19. 


The pandemic has also given birth to new terms such as Panicgogy. This interesting combination of panic and pedagogy describes the affective aspect of teaching and learning. This includes being sensitised to students' limitations in this sudden leap to online learning, but also involves the need for academics to avail themselves to students beyond the institutions LMSs. They can do this through social media apps and other student support mechanisms available at their institutions such as counselling services etc. to forge social connections. They are encouraged to establish connections for students to reach out to each other too – a crucial undertaking in the time of this crisis which claims lives and livelihoods. Academics, in turn, are engaging amongst themselves in dealing with their own panic as evidenced by this crowdsourced initiative of resources on Teaching with Care.


"The real skill that Panicgogy requires is sort of critical compassion, if you will, the ability to look at the situation as it really is. Figure out what's going on, how you can operate within that, and how you can be compassionate in that as well." (Kamentz, A, 2020)

Integral to this panicgogy is the notion of reflective teaching, aimed at fostering a critical consciousness (an educational concept developed by pedagogue Paulo Freire to promote the application of critical thinking skills in examining one's reality and thus building agency) and critical compassion through providing meaningful learning experiences. These concepts hold, at their core, principles of collaboration, communication and understanding” between teacher/academic and learner/students. This approach highlights  the need  to engage more deeply with transformative, critical digital pedagogies in this time of crisis especially if  we wish to move online with equity.

In our next article, we will discuss other concerns around the move to remote teaching include privacy and student data issues, accessibility, and the digital divide.