Stop normalising pandemic practices!

Robin De Rosa tweeted out a link to an article, and her comment tells you all you need to know about the article. But, as I was waiting to see the dentist, I thought I’d read it anyway.

The article is effectively an interview with a Marketing Professor, it reads like the journalist sent a series of questions by email for him to answer. Some of them were actually answered, some of them were answered in such a way that no matter what the outcome this “marketing thought leader” would be proved right. Read it if you want, but I’m not linking to it.


Robin DeRosa tweet that reads Is there a vaccine against Galloway? Covid-19 may be Big Tech's gateway to higher education

What I want to talk about is the headline takeaway:

“Covid-19 may be Big Tech’s gateway to higher education”

I do not know what this means. Given the article is based on someone’s knowledge of marketing, rather than knowledge of the education or technology sector, maybe it refers to tech sponsorship? University of xx is now brought to you by Microsoft? Community college of xx in association with Dell? Seriously, does anyone actually think that big tech isn’t already a major part of the higher education landscape?

“Covid-19 may be Big Tech’s gateway to higher education” is not a great headline. I think what the article is trying to get at is that during the pandemic technology companies are seeing opportunities to sell, to embed themselves, to leverage the situation to their advantage. But the major players are already there, every Edtech company, Microsoft, Zoom – they are all part of the education landscape, they are more visible now, but they have been there for a while.

But I am grateful for the article, because it made me think about the current situation with technology companies. During the pandemic we have all used more technology, we have become more digitally connected. Technology companies are invested in making that change stick. I anticipate a host of case studies about how different companies saved education during the pandemic, and every sales division in every technology company has probably been, from early in the pandemic, looking for the ways to make the technology practices during the pandemic, become everyday practices. So expect to see stories, testimonies and brochures full of phrases like:

“We implemented this technology to help during the pandemic, and discovered it saved us time, money and students loved it!” followed by a special “5 year deal”.

It’s been 12 months since the start of the Pandemic, and for most of that time, most of us, have been in a situation of “working in an emergency”, “teaching in an emergency”, “learning in an emergency”. We have seen staff at all levels in colleges and universities go above and beyond, implementing policies, processes and technology to get us through the Pandemic.

Technology companies that sold you products to get you through this emergency are invested in you maintaining the emergency practices you have with those tools and systems. At least until they have a new product to replace them and sell to you.

I don’t have a new strategic plan, or pithy piece of advice to end this post. But I do want people to remember that pandemic technology practices don’t have to be everyday practices when we are out of this. The systems that got put in place, the practices that we developed during an honest to god global emergency, must not dictate practices and processes when we this is over!

We need to stop and reflect; yes, there will be things that have worked and will continue to be good and useful. But not everything, Senior leaders in institutions need to take some time, reflect on what is happening. Interview students and teachers, see what worked, see what didn’t. The pandemic response can give us a strong foundation to build back better, but it should not be seen as the blueprint for continuing on the same course.

Don’t let marketeers tell you otherwise!



  1. I think its very much a live issue. Both from the aspect of comodifying the transition from education to training, and data protection.
    In all the rush to new tools and modalities, I’m seeing very little in terms of peer reviewed research as to what constitutes best practice. I’m seeing far too much promotion of tools by educational technologists who are only familiar with one ecosystem, and one set of sale’s blurbs.

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