Three New NIDL Research Projects Investigating Online Education in Response to Covid-19

The NIDL team is looking forward to leading and contributing to three new research projects over the next few months investigating how the higher education sector has responded to the Covid-19 global health crisis. Two of the following projects come under the umbrella of Dublin City University’s new dedicated Covid-19 Research and Innovation Hub established in response to the global pandemic. The Hub is leveraging DCU’s research expertise, in collaboration with national and international stakeholders, with a view to developing solutions that can be implemented and deployed within a three to six months time frame.

photo-1516321497487-e288fb19713f

Beyond the Covid Pivot: Towards Transformative Online Learning

The first project led by the NIDL involving a team from the Ideas Lab and Open Education Unit, with the DCU Student Union as an Associate Partner, along with discussions underway with other stakeholders, focuses on the student online learning experience. The basic tenet of the research is that learning online is not the same as learning in a traditional classroom, it requires a different set of skills to master. With the recent pivot to online learning in response to Covid-19, the ability to learn effectively online has never been more important.

UNESCO Covid-19Looking forward we need to develop the capacity of students to become effective online learners. We also need to look back to understand and learn from the experience of students so far. This project will, therefore, develop and conduct research on a ‘Learning How to Learn Online’ MOOC on a major platform to support students as they adapt to a greater focus on learning online in higher education settings.

The study will research students’ experiences and perceptions of barriers to learning online in response to COVID-19. These insights from the key-face of the student learning experience will inform future institutional decision-making, help the sector to better harness the potential of online education, and most importantly provide improved online learning experiences for students.

Moving Large, Face-to-Face Classes Online 

This project led by Dr Ann Marie Farrel in DCU’s Institute of Education, with a significant NIDL contribution from members of the Teaching Enhancement Unit, investigates online teaching in large classes. Since March, teaching usually carried out in the face-to-face context has moved very suddenly online. This has been a particular challenge for those teaching large class cohorts and for the students comprising those cohorts.

photo-1566683777581-1a8051f226c9The overall aim of this project is to inform the practice of (i) academics teaching large groups and (ii) those supporting academics in the large class teaching/learning context as we move forward into the next phase of our response to the requirements for social distancing and more creative and innovation forms of teaching online. 

The move to the online environment since March will be evaluated; data from supports provided since March will be analysed (e.g. support requests, PD workshops and seminars since campus closure) and surveys will be used to gather data on the student and staff experience. The intended outcomes of this project will provide guidance for designing learning experiences in the online context, taking diversity of large classes into account.

An Investigation of Affect in Online Teaching during COVID-19

We Need Your HelpThis internationally focused NIDL project asks how have you been feeling while teaching online? It calls on all higher education educators in Ireland, Europe and globally to share their affective experiences of teaching online in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The research seeks to better understand affective and, in particular, educators’ emotions  during their experiences of teaching online in order to learn valuable lessons and help inform support strategies moving forward.  

As this study has already been approved by the DCU Ethics Committee, we would really value your participation and wider promotion of the research. We are aware that everyone is extremely busy at the moment but understanding educators’ experiences during these challenging times is more important than ever as we plan for the upcoming semester, and beyond. Therefore, please have your say by taking around 5 minutes to share your insights and valuable experiences through our anonymous survey.

You can read more about this research and complete the online survey after giving your informed consent by clicking on these embedded  links. 

The Future of Blended Education in a Post Digital World: Timely Online Course

Even before the current COVID-19 health crisis, “blended learning” was one of the most discussed and researched teaching approaches or modalities in higher education. As

Greater reliance on blended learning may be what a post-COVID-19 higher education landscape will turn to for a variety of reasons, so a better conceptual understanding is much needed (P.1).”

So what is blended learning? How is blended learning best facilitated in higher education? Why does blended learning matter? How can we advance blended learning practices?  What is the future of blended learning? If you are looking for answers to these questions, the upcoming course “Making Blended Education Work” on the FutureLearn platform might be for you. 

EMBED MOOC.jpg

This free online course developed as part of the EMBED project is designed for people involved in leading the design, implementation and research into blended learning in higher education. It covers topics relevant to institutional leaders, learning technologists, practitioners, and researchers who are interested in blended learning related research and implementation strategy. The course, which the NIDL was pleased to co-author with our EMBED partners, starts through FutureLearn on 11th May. 

One of the first questions we explore in Week 1 is the thorny issue of the definition of blended learning. There are many variations on the concept of blended learning at different ends of a definitional spectrum, and in this respect the course makes an important distinction between blended learning, blended teaching and blended education. https---cdn.evbuc.com-images-46484625-196748398131-1-originalBy the time participants get to the final week of the course they will have an opportunity to critically reflect on some of the different perspectives and underlying assumptions of the Blended Education Maturity Model, as we challenge educators to question the future of blended learning in a post-digital world. This discussion will be facilitated by Mark Brown and Mairead Nic Giolla Mhichil from the NIDL where they will also ask how might blended learning take on a different face or new significance in the post COVID-19 era?

Whether the course is able to fully answer these questions will depend on your own perspective. As

“Perhaps blended learning is best considered an evolving process. Instructors change their blends during a semester, or from year to year, depending on several factors. One semester the blend works well—the next semester, much less effectively. So how does one answer the question, “Does blended learning work?” The question creates a recurring problem because of blended learning’s complexity and emergent properties where the whole is more than the sum of its parts” (P.17).