As we complete our second issue of Undergraduate Education for the IAFOR Journal of Education, I am acutely aware of how much the educational environments have changed over the last two years. Many of us had expected that 2021 would bring positive changes, leaving the pandemic behind us. Yet we are still in the clouded midst of a worldwide pandemic, where colleges and universitas are struggling to think of innovative ways to reach and engage our students now and into the future. Many questions rise to the forefront: How has technology helped or hindered our efforts? Will the classroom forever be changed? Or, is COVID-19 a “blip” in our academic journey that has forced us to reflect more fully on how and what we do as educators? These questions bring forth real concern and contemplation for teachers, professors, and students.
During these complicated times, I am reminded of bell hooks pioneering book, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (hooks bell, 1994). Here she writes that “the classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy” (12). When she wrote this collections of essays, she wanted educators to think about the “renewal and rejuvenation of our teaching practices” (12). Nearly thirty years later, we hear the echoes of her words as we confront the challenges before us in our own classrooms today. Everyday educators are rethinking and reimagining new ways of reaching out to our students who – at the same time – are experiencing new obstacles to their learning. Whether it is access to reliable internet connections or insecurities about their own personal well-being or mental health, our students must confront a new set of paradigms as they embark on their journey of learning. Educators also must deal with similar complicated issues. In some cases, the proverbial academic bubble that we once found our Universities and Colleges in has now popped. While remote learning or web-based teaching does not replace this “radical space of possibility” found in our in-person learning spaces, I still believe that we continue to do what we have always done: create spaces, places, and curriculum to meet our students and all of their complexities where they are so that they can excel in all aspects of their lives.
As a group we build on the work of researchers and academics who came before us and collaborate with current colleagues who work with us now. As such, I hope the information found in this issue will help us reflect a little more about how and what we do. While we still value traditional academic spaces, our world now has porous boundaries that reach all areas in this world. As such, I am pleased to introduce you to five studies that embrace new ideas by thinking about distinct ways of connecting with students in undergraduate education, linking ideas from across these borders.
These five articles represent a plurality found in our global undergraduate education landscape today. It is my sincere desire that you will find them insightful and useful for you and your colleagues. As we move forward, we strive to always realize our overriding academic objectives: creating a positive, intellectual, and fulfilling undergraduate educational experience for our students.
Joseph (José) McClanahan
Editor, IAFOR Journal of Education: Undergraduate Education