"Too Hard, Too Busy": A Case Study in Overcoming These Barriers to Online Teaching

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The adoption and integration of online learning and teaching in higher education is becoming increasingly important in our rapidly changing digital society. While many teachers and academics acknowledge the importance of adapting their own teaching practice to this new approach, knowing how and where to get started can be a daunting task for many. There is an overwhelming amount of professional development information regarding online teaching available to educators through workshops, the Internet, books, technical demonstrations and academic papers. However time-poor teachers often find it difficult to invest time and effort into attending workshops, or analysing available theory and research (McIntyre 2011) to derive online teaching approaches relevant to their own situations. Similarly, many teachers first embarking on a new online initiative can find it an isolating and frustrating experience, with limited peer support (Bennett, Priest and Macpherson 1999) and practical pedagogical guidance while ‘learning the ropes’ or preparing course curriculum. So what approach can be taken to firstly connect with these teachers at the ‘coalface,’ and then support them through their initial investigations and subsequent development of online teaching practice? In 2009, COFA Online at The University of New South Wales won funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Competitive Grant Scheme for a project called Learning to Teach Online (LTTO): Developing high-quality video and text resources to help educators teach online http://bit.ly/d18ac5. The project’s aim was to produce a set of resources to enable more educators, particularly those with no online experience, to successfully adopt and develop online teaching practices, and to reach a diverse audience of teachers across different disciplines and institutions throughout the world. This paper discusses the strategies adopted by the LTTO Project to ensure the resources focused on pedagogy and were perceived as pragmatic, easy to use and readily adaptable. It also outlines how the adoption of social media as a dissemination method facilitated easy access to the resources by a wide audience of teachers both with and without online teaching experience, and promoted greater awareness and uptake across disciplines and institutions around the world. It demonstrates, through summative and formative evaluations, how this approach effectively encouraged teachers to get started with their online teaching and stimulated their interest in further research on the topic.
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Watson, Karin
McIntyre, Simon
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