:sync: Pivot and the Pandemic: Professional Learning During the Time of Covid-19

Authors: Orna Farrell, James Brunton, Eamon Costello
Institution: DCU
Country: Ireland

Topic: Applications of Open Education Practices/Open Pedagogy/Open Education Research
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Sustainable OER
Session Format: Presentation

Abstract

This case study explores the experiences of the #Openteach open online professional learning course based in Dublin City University (DCU) that accidentally coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim of the #Openteach project was to provide a flexible and evidence based approach to support professional learning for those who teach online. The release of the Openteach course coincided with the COVID 19 pandemic in March 2020. Due to the fact that #Openteach was an open and free professional development course about teaching online, the numbers that signed up rocketed in a matter of days from 120 to 450. The sudden pivot online by the Irish education sector, thrust many educators into teaching online for the first time.

In an earlier phase of the project a literature review called Teaching Online is Different: Critical perspectives from the literature was completed in order to identify online educator roles and the associated competencies for effective online teaching (Ní Shé, Farrell, Brunton, Costello, Donlon, Trevaskis, Eccles, 2019). Concurrently, we conducted a needs analysis report of the target population, online students and online educators (Farrell, Brunton, Costello, Donlon, Trevaskis, Eccles, Ní Shé, 2019). These reports were used to guide the development of the professional development resources for the #Openteach open online course. The course was designed following the ABC Learning design approach which resulted in a ten hour fully online professional development course and focused on five key aspects of teaching online: social presence, facilitating discussion, collaboration online, live online teaching and supporting online students (Ní Shé, Farrell, Brunton, Costello, Donlon, Trevaskis, Eccles, 2019).

The case study draws on qualitative and quantitative data collected from course participants. Data was generated via online focus groups, an online questionnaire and course data. Findings indicate that for those who were teaching online for the first time, the #Openteach course provided them with reassurance, support and encouragement during a challenging time. Further, a number of challenges related to the rapid pivot online were reported in the data by educators. These challenges included problems relating to working from home, poor broadband, underdeveloped digital competencies, time management issues, caring responsibilities and workload. The case study concludes with a consideration of whether a larger scale adoption of the open flexible and online approach to professional learning can better support access to professional learning for all educators.

References
Farrell, O., Brunton, J., Costello, E., Donlon, E., Trevaskis, S., Eccles, S., Ní Shé, C. (2019). An investigation of effective online teaching: a needs analysis of online educators and online students. Dublin: #Openteach Project.
Ní Shé, C., Farrell, O., Brunton, J., Costello, E., Donlon, E., Trevaskis, S., Eccles, S. (2019). Teaching online is different: critical perspectives from the literature. Dublin: Dublin City University. Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3479402
Ní Shé, C., Farrell, O., Brunton, J., Costello, E., Donlon, E., Trevaskis, S., Eccles, S. (2020) DCU Case Study: Using ABC to Design an Online Teaching Course for Open Online Educators. ABC to VLE Case Study.

Keywords

teaching online, professional learning, Covid-19