Virtual School Meanderings

December 22, 2020

State of the Nation Special Report – Understanding Pandemic Pedagogy: Differences Between Emergency Remote, Remote, and Online Teaching

Yesterday we noticed this entry on the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada project website… Announcing Special Report – Understanding Pandemic Pedagogy: Differences Between Emergency Remote, Remote, and Online Teaching.

In the spring of 2020, the term ‘emergency remote teaching’ began to emerge to describe what was occurring in education at all levels, despite the more commonly used term “online learning” dominating media descriptions of the instruction offered to students forced to remain at home. Hodges et al. (2020) described emergency remote teaching as an attempt not “to re-create a robust educational ecosystem but rather to provide temporary access to instruction and instructional supports in a manner that is quick to set up and is reliably available during an emergency or crisis” (¶ 13).

As the new school year began, most education jurisdictions across Canada offered some combination of face-to-face, hybrid, and/or online instruction for students, including pre-existing online learning programs. Yet both designed and established online learning programs and the remote teaching offered by classroom teachers were still described by many as “online learning”, ignoring the clear differences between both instructional methods.

This report is a collection of revised works from other scholars, primarily focused on the higher education context, adapted for the K-12 sector. These works include a recent article that was published in EDUCAUSE Review entitled “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning” (Hodges et al., 2020); as well as a number of blog entries from PhilOnEdTech blog (Hill, 2020; Kelly, 2020a, 2020b; Moore & Hill, 2020). Throughout the report, we have attempted to identify each of the sections that relied upon these sources.

Soon the COVID-19 threat will diminish, yet when it does we should not simply abandon remote teaching and return to our prior classroom-only practices without ensuring that we preserve the lessons of 2020 for future public health and safety issues. For example, in recent years school campuses have been closed due to natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the polar vortex (Baytiyeh, 2018; Mackey et al., 2012; Samson, 2020; Watkins, 2005). As such, the possible need for remote teaching – in both emergency situations and more planned contexts – must become part of a teacher’s skill set.

This report argues the importance of avoiding equating emergency remote teaching with online learning. It is clear from most schools and teacher’s experience with emergency remote teaching that much more planning and deliberate attention be provided to teacher preparation, infrastructure, education policy, and resources to be able to maintain quality instructional continuity during a crisis. This report offers recommendations for how schools can be better prepared for future crises that incorporate both home-based and school-based learning opportunities mediated through online learning environments. While it is clear that schools remain a good place for children to be supported in their emotional growth and learning, with proper planning and good communication, homes and communities outside of school walls can be as well.

The report can be accessed at:


Baytiyeh, H. (2018). Online learning during post-earthquake school closures. Disaster Prevention and Management, 27(2), 215-227.

Hill, P. (2020, March 31). Revised outlook for higher ed’s online response to COVID-19. PhilOnEdTech

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. EDUCAUSE Review, 3

Kelly, K. (2020a, April 9). Traversing the edge of chaos: Phase 1 and 2 preparations for post COVID-19 world. PhilOnEdTech

Kelly, K. (2020b, April 10). Traversing the edge of chaos: Phase 3 and 4 preparations for post COVID-19 world. PhilOnEdTech.

Mackey, J., Gilmore, F., Dabner, N., Breeze, D., & Buckley, P. (2012). Blended learning for academic resilience in times of disaster or crisis. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(2), 122-135.

Moore, S., & Hill, P. (2020, April 28). Planning for resilience, not resistance. PhilOnEdTech

Samson, P. (2020). The coronavirus and class broadcasts. EDUCAUSE Review, 3

Watkins, R. (2005). Distance education’s role in university disaster planning. Distance Learning, 2(6), 31-33.

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