by Chris Campbell, Kathryn Coleman and Melissa Cain
Since April 2020, we have been conducting an international survey on COVID-19 remote teaching. From our study of 635 teachers across all sectors, 105 respondents were in the higher education/ tertiary sector; 40 from Australia (all HE), 42 in the USA, with others from New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Singapore, Fiji and Europe. 10 per cent of our 105 respondents were already teaching on-line pre-pandemic. In 16 open-ended questions we asked teachers to tell us how COVID-19 had affected learning and teaching for them and their students.
Are academics coping?
Short answer: They are but feel the pressures of Zoom as their new classroom. The shift on-line “has enabled a kinder, more empathetic working relationship with my student cohort”. They tell us that they are building their skills on-line, juggling normal teaching duties while supporting student anxiety.
Importantly, academics highlighted that they are adaptable, flexible and they are able to grow: for example
“I am a fantastic teacher! I am a leader, and was able to retain over 80 per cent of my course enrolments by effective communication, quick response to course redesign and effective use of technology to enable an equal experience (some students have indicated a better experience) than a face to face class.
Many academics love teaching and teach well. One stated, “I have had to learn to be adaptable. I have learnt that making my instructions more explicit than they were already is achievable”.
They also value understanding and relating with students: “I have more patience than previously imagined. I read student submissions twice before grading. I reach out more, even though I have adult learners”.
However, some staff prefer face to face teaching with one commenting “even though I am not particularly fond of teaching on-line, I can adapt quickly and according to my students, do it well enough to satisfy them. [However] I find teaching on-line much more tiring, and less rewarding than face to face”.
From the survey responses it is clear that academics are adaptable, resilient and found innovation within their new teaching spaces. They can make teaching on-line work: “I have a new confidence about teaching on-line and I know I can make the experience as engaging as it can be within the limitations”.
There are lessons for everyone from this study. These include that academics value kindness, including “a pedagogy of kindness”, and that “care can be extended on-line or in the classroom”. Academics are also “flexible and forgiving”, with one commenting that “I am very adaptable and really care about my students, and there are many ways to reach students”.
Overwhelmingly it is clear once again that “academics are adaptable–we are living this and doing this for better student engagement”.
If you are in lockdown or experiencing change in your teaching due to COVID-19, a link to the survey is here.
We also report on the digital tools the team used for doing this educational research.
Chris Campbell, Learning Futures, Griffith University firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathryn Coleman, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne email@example.com
Melissa Cain, School of Education Brisbane, Australian Catholic University firstname.lastname@example.org