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).
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#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.

Large turnout for Welcome Day for new DCU Connected online students

If you work in academia this is the most important time of the year, with the new Semester starting and new students arriving, life on campus is mega busy! Last Saturday was our Welcome Day for our new DCU Connected students. The weather was kind to us, it was a beautiful Autumnal day and the Glasnevin campus was looking at its best. We had an amazing turnout of new students – this year around 400 participated in the Welcome Day and there was a real buzz to the place.

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The Welcome Day is an important opportunity for our new online students to meet their programme chairs and tutors and to talk to other students. It is a way for them to feel part of DCU right from the outset – to feel “connected” wherever they study! We have students from across Ireland, and beyond, and of course not everyone was able to attend the Welcome Day. For this reason we also have a virtual equivalent suite of welcome resources for those students unable to join us.

4.jpgSaturday’s welcome included students studying our online Springboard+ courses mostly funded by the Irish Government, and we were delighted to also welcome our six new University of Sanctuary scholars. The NIDL team is very proud of our work in providing Irish refugees and asylum seekers scholarship opportunities to pursue higher education through DCU Connected. The Welcome Day, along with the Graduation Ceremony is one of the few opportunities we have to meet our students face-to-face

After refreshments and registration, we had a series of short talks introducing students to some of the services and supports available to our online students. Professor Gráinne Conole, the recently appointed Head of the Open Education Unit in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) started, providing an overview of the online learning environment, Loop and associated online resources designed to support student success.


1.jpgOf particular note is a new learning development service we are providing our online students this year from a strategic partnership with Studiosity, which offers two major features integrated within Loop: (i) a 24-hour formative feedback service to students on their draft written assignments, and (ii) the ability to connect outside of normal business hours with a study coach or subject expert via chat to provide just-in-time advice on learning activities and assessment tasks. We will evaluate this service over the course of the year to better understand how we can fully integrate new online tools and resources, such as Studiosity, as part of the DCU Connected experience.

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We were delighted that Vito Maloney Burke, the DCU Student’s Union President, was also present to welcome our new students. He gave an engaging and enthusiastic talk on what the Student Union could provide for DCU Connected students. Of particular note is the fantastic new Student Centre, the ‘U’, which was officially launched last Thursday by President Michael Higgins and DCU’s own President.

Student Support and Development (SSD) had prepared lovely welcome packs, which included lots of goodies, including a very nice diary. Annabella Stover, Deputy Director of Student Support and Development (SSD) and Karina Curley (Student Learning) then outlined the various services SSD provide.

This includes Discover DCU – a series of 8 interactive online courses to help new students get orientated with DCU. They outlined how SSD provides three levels of support: personal, professional and academic. SSD has a presence on both the Glasnevin and St Patrick’s campuses, and support and advice are available both face-to-face and online. Annabella also announced a new 24/7 online counselling service available to all DCU Students. In addition, students can access medical support, there is both a nurse and doctor on campus. There is also careers advice, which includes support for writing CVs/job applications, career fairs and access to an online job vacancy facility. Other services available to our online students include disability and learning support, writing and study support, and a writing centre.

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After this formal opening students had the opportunity to learn more about their specific programme of study and to meet their course chairs and tutors and chat with other students. These sessions provided an overview of the modules, an indication of the amount of study time required, pointers to useful resources and support, and an opportunity to hear from existing students.

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It was a fantastic day, it was lovely to see the students so enthusiastic and excited about starting their new courses. It also provided us with an opportunity to talk to the students and to reassure them on any concerns they may have had about their course and studying online through DCU Connected. We look forward very much to engaging with our DCU Connected students via Loop – our online learning environment – and to see them develop and progress through their programme of study.