It’s time to stop talking about face to face learning. Unless of course we mean the kind of social connection that is encouraged when two people can see and respond to each other’s faces. That connection can be great for learning. But you don’t need to go to a classroom to get some face to face activity. Skype, webconferencing and snap chat are just some of the ways face to face is embedded in the online world.

Mostly when we say ‘face to face’ we mean the component of a course that is in a physical location. Let’s call it a local component. We could call it the classroom component or a workshop component but really these can be online too. I’m suggesting that delivery can now be divided into one of two options- it is online or it has a specific location. It’s online or it’s local. And I guess in the case of live streaming, it can be both.

The other thing that people sometimes mean by face to face is ‘wetware’. I love this term, though I’m not sure where it comes from. Wetware is like hardware or software, but applied to biological life forms. Humans are moist. Face to face in this context means that bodies are present, not pixellated.

Local components – physical location or wetware – will always be popular. But these are increasingly only one aspect of a course. Soon all classes will be connected, mostly because students expect their local course to have some basic online components. The shortest list of these should include:

  • a course schedule
  • contact details for facilitators
  • the learning outcomes
  • descriptions of assessment tasks, and a mechanism to submit them
  • links to supports such as library services, study skills guides and technical help
  • key course resources, readings and links
  • discussion forums

The online space is where students can go before a class – to review their learning outcomes, engage with resources and prepare for activities. After class they can revise materials,  discuss their assessments and access support.

Face to face can be online. It’s all blended now.

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