Introduction to the Special Issue on the COVID-19 Emergency Transition to Remote Learning

Shanna Smith Jaggars


The COVID-19 pandemic began in December 2019, and within three months had spread across Europe, the United States, and almost every other nation in the world. To help contain the deadly virus, countries across the globe closed the doors of K-12 schools and colleges. Students residing on university campuses were sent home. School administrators and instructors scrambled to devise plans for teaching and supporting their students from their own homes. Depending on their local context, their experience and training, and their students’ desires and needs, some teachers turned to teaching by correspondence, some to asynchronous online learning, some to synchronous remote class sessions, and some to a unique mix of these elements. Administrators, teachers, and students may have expected these emergency distance education practices to be temporary – a few weeks at most – but many were required to continue with remote teaching through the spring of 2021. More than a year after it began, the pandemic may at last be coming under control as vaccines are distributed across the world, and teachers and students are cautiously looking forward to a return to “normal” schooling conditions in the autumn of 2021. However, lessons from this extended period of universal remote learning will influence student instruction and support practices for many years to come, for both online and in-person courses and programs.


The articles in this Special Issue provide a rich portrait of the teaching and learning challenges which characterized the initial emergency transition in Spring 2020, and detail the approaches of administrators and teachers as they attempted to overcome those challenges. Along the way, these studies provide lessons in terms of how to better prepare for future public emergencies, as well as how to improve student success more generally, in both online and in-person settings. Throughout the issue, readers will also see a multitude of challenges related to the “digital divide” – or the fact that students have unequal access to reliable high-speed Internet and other academic technologies, due to underlying inequalities in household income and regional infrastructure.


COVID-19,Emergency Remote Instruction,Special Issue

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