Earlier this spring we published a new series, Field Notes: Pandemic Teaching. Across six multi-vocal installments, more than six dozen educators from five continents shared their perspectives on the sudden, massive move to online instruction that followed the global spread of the coronavirus. Their collective responses constitute what we hope will be an ongoing resource as institutions struggle with the difficult questions of when and how to reopen their campuses, and how best to fulfill their obligations to students, and to the larger society.
For the series, we sought brief statements — first-hand observations and personal reflections, offered quickly, in the early days of the crisis. Now we want to continue our investigation of online teaching. It’s clear that the challenges will persist, and become yet more pressing over the coming months. Some are practical, involving the costs and logistics of going digital. But others are more conceptual, political, and philosophical, having to do with the importance of campus community, the pastoral duty of schools to provide for their students’ wellbeing, and passionate convictions about the nature of learning and the transmission of knowledge.
Already we’ve seen think pieces on whether the pandemic will be a black swan event, an opportunity for university administrations to push a permanent move to distance learning, or for proponents of Artificial Intelligence to promote business ventures in which human teachers are supplemented (or replaced) by virtual instructors. We’ve also seen critical articles in which students and faculty deplore the deprivations — sensory, intellectual, social — of video-conferenced classes.
Will the crisis intensify the ongoing commodification of higher education and the precarity of contingent faculty? Will it deepen the digital divide and other inequities? Will it marginalize those — faculty and students alike — who approach learning as a close and improvisatory collaboration, and who see the classroom as a “rehearsal space for democracy — a place where students learn to speak and listen with civility to peers whose perspective on the world differs from their own”? On the other hand, are there elements to be appreciated in this extraordinary climate? Will the crisis push universities to make their programs more equitable and accessible while also helping students to conceptualize their practices for an increasingly digital world?
As a journal of public scholarship on the built environment, we are especially interested in the particular challenges faced by schools of design and art: how to virtualize studio-centered programs? How will the current adaptations inflect our understandings of studio and seminar instruction, in which the tools might be digital but the teaching is individualized and immersive, grounded in time and place, rooted in embodied encounters that allow for serendipitous discovery?
Our series authors engaged these issues as they were emerging, in the midst of immediate mandates to leave campus and teach remotely. Now we are seeking substantive articles that will further explore the ongoing challenges as the fault lines of the crisis — and the frontlines of debate — come into sharper focus in the next few months.
This call will remain open for at least several months. We welcome proposals or finished manuscripts. For more information, please read our Submission Guidelines.