These are the notes for the first of four webinars on "Engaging students in the online environment", starting Wednesday, 20 January, 11 am AEDT Sydney time (Tuesday, January 19, 5 pm MST in Edmonton). Please register now for the first webinar and send your suggestions.
What have we learned from teaching online in 2020 due to COVID-19?
In early 2020, like many in higher education, I had to flip to teaching online at the Australian National University. First I had to help teach 100 tutors how to teach, including some tips on online teaching. Then I had to adapt my "Learning to Reflect" module for 200 computer project students. During the year I also mentored and coached hackerthons online, including for the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces. In reviewing my 196 blog posts from 2020, here are some of the lessons learned:
Provide Online Social Contact for Students and Staff: As an online student I had experienced crushing loneliness. After evacuating the campus in 2020 and being isolated at home alone, that experience reoccurred. Video based events for staff and students proved very important. These had to have some form of work focus to give a sense of legitimacy, but it was more the sense of coming together which was important.
ASCILITE ML SIG video meeting
Be prepared for emergencies: My last job at the Department of Defence had to been prevent and if necessary, respond to a global emergency due to Y2K. Having helped with disaster management systems since then I have a better idea of what is needed. The Australian National University (ANU) had suffered several natural disasters in the previous decade (including a hailstorm in January, a flood and bush-fire) and so had procedures in place. While these were not specifically for a pandemic, they were a good start.
Hail at ANU, January 2020.
Image credit: ANU
Learn Online to Teach Online: When asked if I could teach international students online, I was able to confidently say yes, as I had been an international student, learning how to teach online. Not only had I learned the theory, I had experienced it myself and so had some idea what the students would be going though. It was this confidence which was important, rather than the details of techniques. The ANU put in place a team last year to help academics with teaching and that proved invaluable as the core of the COVID-19 teaching response.
Tom Worthington MEd (DE),
Athabasca University 2017
Design New Courses for Online Delivery and Adapt for F2F: Existing learning management systems, such as Moodle, proved very effective. Existing course content was able to be easily adapted for online delivery. The lesson for the future is to first prepare to deliver online and then add options for face to face. Also have flexible classrooms which can be quickly reconfigured for different teaching styles, and seating densities. An example is the award winning Marie Reay Teaching Centre at the Australian National University.
Marie Reay Teaching Centre,
Australian National University