by DARCI TAYLOR
Our focus, and rightly so, over the last few weeks, has been to rapidly transform teaching and learning materials designed for on-campus delivery to on-line, so that our students can continue studying in times of almost unfathomable complexity and uncertainty.
As a teaching support staff member who works with academics building on-line teaching capacity, I have seen how anxiety-provoking moving into the digital space can be. So, the monumental shift that has taken place during this short time has awed me – staff have just got on with it, motivated by a genuine care to do the best for their students.
Despite this time of rapid change, I would like to pause for a moment and reflect on what this transition means for some teachers, many of whom have built their pedagogical identities around face-to-face teaching. In the COVID-19 world, cues usually used to judge their effectiveness as teachers (things like facial expressions signalling “aha moments”) may seem like they are missing. Or it may be that inexperience in teaching on-line means they just do not recognise them (for instance, peer-led discussions, thumbs-up and smiley emojis from students who are self-managing because of well-designed activities and guiding narrative).
Moving to teaching on-line necessitates grasping three threshold concepts: changes in course preparation and design; developing on-line presence; and accepting different types of teacher-student relationships. Threshold concepts represent troublesome knowledge; creating a sense of liminality that can be unsettling. Presently, staff new to online teaching are grappling with these concepts while simultaneously putting them into practice amidst the biggest challenge facing higher education, if not the world. This achievement should not be underestimated.
Teaching on-line will feel different, but ultimately it makes for better teachers. Teachers are being forced to think outside the box in uncertain online spaces, to re-think how key concepts are usually taught and how students demonstrate their learning.
To dedicated educators everywhere – be kind to yourself, access the support available, remain true to your pedagogical identity (even if this looks a little different now) and keep up the good work.
Senior Lecturer, CloudFirst Redesign
Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University