A Planful Move to Teaching Online: Useful Resources for Educators

A wealth of useful guides, resources and blog posts for moving to online teaching in a more planful manner have been produced over the past few days. A great effort by many educators! We have been trying to keep up and keep track of many of these resources by reading, reviewing and listing them on a new “Swiftly Moving Online” NIDL webpage. Hopefully this compilation of resources will help more people to become aware of the many helpful tips, ideas and suggestions available to educators to plan and successfully pivot to online teaching and learning.

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Understandably, our NIDL team at Dublin City University (DCU) was busy last week preparing for the potential scenario of having restricted campus access. Accordingly, we offered several online professional development workshops for staff using Zoom and refreshed and/or updated many of our previous online teaching resources. We have included links to some of these resources at the start of this new page to provide examples of what one institution is doing in response to the current crisis, although more specific staff and student guides appear in Loop — our VLE.

photo-1521175776577-f8e0c1e5ecb7As previously announced, we will be offering a webinar for educators new to online teaching on Monday 16th March at 12 noon (GMT) in partnership with the European Association for Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU).
Our
#OpenTeach team will also be offering a free online course starting on Monday 23rd March as part of an Irish National Forum funded project. We have also produced a Padlet wall to help collate and share top tips for teaching online, which we hope other educators will contribute to over the next few days. 

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In terms of the list of external resources, we hope some of the quality checklists are helpful with the team at Quality Matters in the U.S. having produced emergency online teaching guides for both schools and those who teach in higher education institutions. In Ireland, the National Forum has shared a Google doc which contains a list of community sourced resources for Irish educators. Also, in Ireland, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) has also been quick to respond to the current situation by adding a special Distance Learning page for schools to their website.

Our own list of general teaching online resources contains more than 25 links to a range of tips, toolkits and takeaway guides from around the world. One weakness which we hope to address is the current limited number of guides and resources for students new to online learning. By the middle of last week, DCU quickly prepared a “Keep Learning” guide for students and also reminded people about our suite of free online courses in Discover DCU along with our “Who Can I Ask?” tool for online learners who may be in need of wider support.  We are also pleased to be able to offer our 24/7 online study coach and assignment writing service through Studiosity to our DCU Connected learners and targeted campus-based students.

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Additionally, we share a number of more specific guides and examples of business and academic continuity plans from various sources. Moreover, the resource includes a growing number of free online courses available to educators on the topic of online teaching, including two normally restricted courses opened up by Epigeum and an EdX course on Pivoting to Online Teaching which starts on Wednesday 18th March.

Lastly, this resource bank lists a number of blogs, news stories and opinion pieces related to the so-called “Great Onlining of 2020”, which we reported in a previous blog post some commentators describe as a black swan. Time will tell what the current crisis means for the long-term future of education but many people agree that “online learning” has changed forever. Mindful of this claim, our team aims to keep updating the webpage with additional resources as time permits and as they are published over the next few days and weeks. In the meantime, we trust this a useful resource and contribution at such a difficult and challenging time.

Spotlight on Continuity Plans: Renewed Focus on Online Education

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has placed renewed attention on the value and potential of online education, particularly in terms of planning to keep teaching to campus-based students. In this regard, there is increasing reason to believe that online education is about to go mainstream.

In China, for example, with the opening of schools pushed back to March, millions of students have been asked to go online to continue their study. Accordingly, it’s estimated that China’s online education market is expected to more than triple by 2023 to a value of around $100 billion (Forbes, 2020). While there is a long history of distance learning, with more recently the MOOC movement having established itself as an evolving feature of the global higher education landscape, the focus is now on how to harness the potential of online education to fully support campus-based students should the need arise. Indeed, on Friday Stanford University announced that from Monday March 9th classes will not meet in person and where feasible teaching will be moving to online formats.

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With the situation in most countries evolving on a daily basis, it’s important to plan for different scenarios. In Ireland, for example, most universities already have plans in place should they be needed to offer online classes and exams in case of campus closures (Irish Times, 3rd March 2020). This is certainly the case at Dublin City University (DCU) where through Loop and the DCU Connected platform we have a long history of online education.

photo-1513492365349-8ba97c199501.jpegBeyond Ireland, there is evidence from around the world to suggest that over recent weeks universities and educational institutions have been reviewing and updating their business continuity plans,. From a brief analysis of many leading university websites along with a published table of related continuity plans, it would appear that some institutions are better prepared than others. With this observation in mind, the examples below from five U.S. universities help to illustrate the different types of things to consider in terms of quickly scaling up for online education. They offer examples of how best to support people and present key information in order to keep teaching if campus access is restricted. 

As already observed, the level of preparedness and type of information available to staff and students appears to vary greatly across universities. Therefore, the following guiding principles may be useful in helping to update your own institution’s Continuity Plan and in deciding what key messages and types of information you wish to communicate to your staff, students and wider community:

    • Plan ahead for all scenarios
    • Ensure everyone is plugged in
    • Prioritise to cover the essentials
    • Focus on already familiar online tools
    • Offer both self-directed and real time options
    • Promote awareness of open educational resources
    • Keep it simple but don’t be afraid to go a bit further
    • Ensure people know where to reach out for help
    • Build an online community to share good practice
    • Manage expectations and keep your students informed

Coincidently, later in the month the #OpenTeach project team in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at DCU is offering a free online course for anyone wanting to learn more about how to teach online. The #Openteach course which takes approximately 10 hours to complete starts on March 23rd and continues through to the start of April. 1OpenTeach.jpgThe course aims to:

#1. Demonstrate awareness of teaching and learning pedagogy associated with online learning.
#2. Facilitate online communication and discussion forums that engage
students in learning.
#3. Create a supportive community of learners using online teaching
pedagogy.
#4. Develop and facilitate online collaborative activities that support
student learning.
#5. Design online teaching activities that encourage student
participation and learning and reflect on personal learning from this
activity.
#6. Use digital tools effectively to support online teaching.

You can register here to sign up for this free online course. If you want some reading before the course starts, then we suggest you download and familiarise yourself with our recent report which offers useful tips and suggestions for effective online teaching and learning.

Finally, online learning is not restricted to just students and with many educational conferences scheduled over the next few weeks and months, this draft workbook on how to successfully host an online academic conference in the backdrop of the Coronavirus may be useful. Already a number of high profile events have been cancelled, including the ASCD conference and American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference which both typically attract upwards of 10,000 delegates. Currently online options are being explored to ensure virtual conversations and meaningful professional dialogue can continue.

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The upside, as some educators have begun to speculate, is that these revised plans and cancellations in the face of the current health situation may be the “black swan” for online education. Indeed, they may well spark a boom that no one could have foreseen or predicted as recently as the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning that DCU hosted in November 2019 in Dublin.