WINNIPEG -- A team of researchers from the University of Manitoba is looking into the transition from in-class to online learning through the COVID-19 pandemic, and wants to hear from teachers.

With the increased use of remote access technology, the researchers hope to use the data and lessons learned from teachers to better understand the effects of online learning and how it can be used successfully.

“What we’re seeing right now is not online learning, it’s emergency remote teaching,” said Shannon Moore, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba’s faculty of education.

“As researchers, what we want to ask is how is this going to be used to advance the project of learning after COVID-19.”

Moore is part of a three-person team that includes University of Manitoba professors Bruno de Oliveira and Joanna Black. Together they want to provide an opportunity for teachers’ voices to be centred, something Moore feels has really been dismissed.

“Through this process a lot of the decision-making process has been imposed on teachers, without any discussion of their experiences teaching online,” said Moore.

The researchers plan on recruiting seven teachers from three age categories: early years, middle years and senior years. The first step will involve focus group discussions within each category to learn about the teachers’ experiences in remote learning. One-on-one interviews, using themes learned from those earlier discussions, will follow.

Teachers have been doing a great job so far, according to Moore, but says research out of Ontario shows online learning only works for some students some of the time. Those who succeed tend to be students who already perform well academically and have access to at-home resources.

Moore says education is more than delivering content, it requires building relationships, connections, deliberation and discussion. Digital literacy and access to resources are other factors that can affect outcomes.

Moore did note that research on remote learning is limited. Whether online learning is advancing education inequalities, having an overall negative impact on students and deteriorating in-class interpersonal relationships are all questions that need answering if online learning continues, or is expanded post-pandemic.

“We are worried that after COVID the infrastructure will be set up to advance more online learning in our province without asking the question ‘does online learning actually align with what educators feel is the purpose of education?’.”

The research project has just begun with teacher recruitment in progress.