Teaching through the pandemic: eLearning professionals in the spotlight
Dan Jagger SFHEA is a manager in the Faculty of Science and Engineering eLearning team. In this post Dan reflects on the challenges faced by him and his team of eLearning professionals as they adapted to supporting Blended Learning over the past 18 months.
Anyone who has worked at this University for a period of time will know that in an institution of this size, change doesn’t happen fast. Unless of course we’re thrust into a global pandemic and then all bets are off.
I can’t be the only person who feels like the past 18 months have been a huge blur. I remember the initial meetings with faculty leadership in a corner office of the Schuster Building trying to establish what was happening, what we needed to do and how we could do it – that was March 2020. And then seconds later… it was Summer.
In between, my team had rebuilt the FSE Teaching Academy website to support the shift to Blended (or let’s be honest… fully Online) Learning, we were literally figuring out solutions one minute and then delivering support sessions the next. The pace we were working at was frantic.
It was clear that the technologies and tools we had used to support on-campus teaching wouldn’t always translate well to fully online learning. We needed to adapt and in places improvise; one of my favourite moments was discovering how staff had created DIY visualisers to use within their online lectures – cardboard, Duplo and gaffa tape were never put to better use.
Over the summer, thanks to the incredible generosity and support of the University’s Alumni programme, the eLearning teams had the opportunity to purchase additional equipment to increase our ability to support online teaching and learning activities. In FSE eLearning we spent the bulk of this on camera equipment, which enabled us to capture some brilliant Laboratory activities. You can’t replace every element of ‘real life’ Lab activity with online tools but hopefully this sort of content plugged a gap in the short term and will be useful for students in the future.
The University eLearning teams also embarked on a recruitment drive to ensure we had the human resources in place to support the massive increase in blended learning support. Typically, there were hundreds of applications to sift through and I took part in over 40 online interviews. FORTY online interviews … It feels surreal thinking about that now. How crazy it must be for these people to join an organisation in the midst of all this chaos, never having met their new colleagues in real life or even set foot on campus. But still, I’ve been delighted with how this has all worked out; our new recruits in FSE have played a vital role in supporting our staff and students.
In fact… I don’t think I could be prouder or more thankful for my team and how they have handled the whole situation. Not only the quality, consistency and professionalism of their work but the incredibly positive attitude and fantastic good humour shown throughout these unprecedented times (can’t write about the pandemic without using that word). I’m sure we’re not the only team in the University now able to complete a full conversation using only animated gifs.
And so… here we are approaching the end of another academic year, a full year of online learning. After a bit of rest and recuperation we start again in September with yet another significant change in our teaching and learning approach, this time adjusting to Blended Learning proper (fingers crossed).
They say that the only constant in life is change itself and as a team leader and manager I’ve attended my share of courses on Managing Change. I wonder if the often discussed ‘change curve’ should now incorporate a few barrel rolls and a loop-de-loop. It’s been a wild ride.