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The Manifesto for Teaching Online

The Manifesto for Teaching Online

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is how the original authors described the Manifesto for Teaching Online:

Although there are many ways of reading the manifesto, one intention is that it be seen as productive in thinking through the design of online education and assessment – something that teachers might find useful and generative. It is intended to stimulate ideas about creative online teaching, and to reimagine some of the orthodoxies and unexamined truisms surrounding the field. Each point is deliberately interpretable, and it was made open so that others could remix and rewrite it.

Thoughts on the Manifesto for Teaching Online

There’s a fair amount of this that I don’t understand. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a teacher, or maybe I’m taking it too literally. There’s a bit more of an explanation here:

In any case, I’ll go through it point by point with my reactions:

  1. Online can be the privileged mode. Distance is a positive principle, not a deficit
    These seem like two separate points to me. The first point doesn’t really make sense to me, as students could be physically present on campus but still able to access the online version. The second point is one that I could interpret as meaning online learning can be better for work-life balance.

  2. Place is differently, not less, important online
    I assume this relates to the Teaching Spaces. People need reasonably convenient spaces where they can access the course materials without being disturbed, making it possible to teach and learn.

  3. Text has been troubled: many modes matter in representing academic knowledge
    I don’t understand ‘Text has been troubled’: perhaps it means that not everyone can read or listen to it, or understand its language. If they are listening to it, perhaps that is speech, not text. However, text has still been successful in transmitting information far beyond the lifetimes of its authors. In any case, as I interpret this, ‘many modes matter in representing academic knowledge’ means that more use should be made of multimedia course materials, such as audio, video, maps, diagrams, infographics, animations etc, in addition to text.

  4. We should attend to the materialities of digital education. The social isn’t the whole story.
    I don’t understand this point either. Materialities are physical objects. Perhaps it is a reminder to be aware of the limitations of the technology the students will have available for accessing the course, perhaps restricting the amount, speed or timing of data that can be transmitted. Perhaps it is a recommendation to make course materials printable, or available on physical storage devices such as DVDs or USB drives.

  5. Openness is neither neutral nor natural: it creates and depends on closures.
    I don’t know what this means at all. Questions need answering?

  6. Can we stop talking about digital natives?
    I think this means that you don’t have to be young to use technology effectively.

  7. Digital education reshapes its subjects. The possibility of the ‘online version’ is overstated.
    I interpret this as meaning online education should be more than just taking a campus based course and putting the course materials online. Obviously the facts won’t be different, but in some way the approach taken to the subject changes.

  8. There are many ways to get it right online. ‘Best practice’ neglects context.
    The best thing to do depends on the situation.

  9. Distance is temporal, affective, political: not simply spatial.
    Students and teachers are likely to be interacting with the course asynchronously. They may not be as emotionally engaged as students who are physically present on campus with their fellow students. They may live within different political systems, with different rights, responsibilities, and points of view.

  10. Aesthetics matter: interface design shapes learning.
    I strongly agree with this: the interface needs to be easy to learn, simple enough to use, clear in directing users towards appropriate actions or information, and appealing, to keep users motivated and successful in learning the subject through their discovery of the course materials.

  11. Massiveness is more than learning at scale: it also brings complexity and diversity
    I think this is a reminder that the more students are enrolled on an online course, the more different circumstances, viewpoints and potential difficulties will be encountered. In addition, the management and interaction with so many students will be more complex.

  12. Online teaching need not be complicit with the instrumentalisation of education.
    I looked up the definition of instrumentalisation: The treatment of an idea as an instrument that functions as a guide to action. I still don’t understand what this means. I hope teachers do, because I think a manifesto should be easier to understand than this.

  13. A digital assignment can live on. It can be iterative, public, risky, and multi-voiced.
    I see these as simultaneously cautionary reminders and great opportunities. On the one hand, once something is available online, it is very hard to make it unavailable again. On the other hand, for better or worse, it can also be reused, adapted, reworked, augmented, edited collaboratively or incorporated into the work of others.

  14. Remixing digital content redefines authorship.
    It does, in terms of the techniques used, where this is allowed by intellectual property laws. For example, we have collaborative wikis, music sampling, video editing, memes, etc. The general concept is not uniquely new to digital content, eg we have previously had photo-montages, collages, screen printing, analogue music mixing, songbooks, compilation CDs, abridged novels, translations, short story collections, etc. We also have completely new examples, such as the uses of artificial intelligence and video editing to generate deep fake videos and computer generated images of people.

  15. Contact works in multiple ways. Facetime is over-valued.
    I don’t know if facetime is over valued. I think it’s a good thing, but there are certainly lots of other ways to be in contact: phone, email, post, text messages, webinars, online forums, wikis, Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeetings, etc.

  16. Online teaching should not be downgraded into ‘facilitation’.
    Facilitation sounds like something that could be provided by someone working in technical support, without much subject knowledge or any teacher training or qualifications. Surely teaching would involve more dissemination of information, answering and following up on questions, informed assessment and feedback after assessments.

  17. Assessment is an act of interpretation, not just measurement.
    Assessment implies some kind of informed judgement based on knowledge of the students, their progress and the subject, something that would go beyond automated test scoring.

  18. Algorithms and analytics re-code education: pay attention!
    Perhaps this is a warning against shifting priorities too far towards things that can be quantitatively measured.

  19. A routine of plagiarism detection structures-in distrust.
    This is interesting. Tools have been developed to detect plagiarism, but this sounds as if they have some counterproductive effects, perhaps on the students’ morale, or the relationship between the teacher and students. Someone has to make a judgement on how to balance these issues.

  20. Online courses are prone to cultures of surveillance. Visibility is a pedagogical and ethical issue.
    This is another interesting issue that seems to be similar to the previous point. It would be interesting to hear about some more specific examples of this.

  21. Automation need not impoverish education: we welcome our new robot colleagues.
    I assume the robot colleagues are taking on some of the more routine aspects of managing courses with very large numbers of students, perhaps answering frequently asked questions in chat, directing students through course materials or marking multiple choice assignments. It would be interesting to see more about this too.

  22. Don’t succumb to campus envy: we are the campus.
    They mean that the people involved do most of what makes a course successful.



Hey, that’s my old phone!


The Near Future Teaching Project


  1. Michael Gallagher

    Annabel, Michael Gallagher here. Very well done! I am not going to jump in to the details but this is as thorough a reflection on the Manifesto as one could hope to expect. I suppose the next phase of this reflection would be to suggest alternatives, or even teaching or design practices that might begin to align with your discipline (and your values). Very well done and please do keep up the good work here.

  2. Its a great and very informative topic interesting article, this is important for learn thanks for sharing, greeting from online education near me.

  3. great article about online teaching. Thanks for sharing and stay blessed

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