The Learning to Teach Online concept focuses on developing capacity amongst teachers in all sectors, to effectively design and deliver education using online technologies. It comprises a series of three pedagogically focused professional development initiatives at UNSW Australia. All are based upon the concept of interdisciplinary support communities sharing knowledge, strategies and experiential wisdom:
â¢ (2004-2008) The Art & Design Fellowship Programs helped to improve the online teaching practice of 75 academics, leading to the creation of 50 fully online UNSW undergraduate and postgraduate units.
â¢ (2009-2011) The Learning to Teach Online project (LTTO) [tinyurl.com/lttoproject] evolved the concept of the local programs into a series of open educational resources (OERs) that continue to be accessed since the project's completion. To date, these have been viewed over 367,000 times from 146 countries; linked to by 153 institutional websites in 19 countries; and embedded in 133 postgraduate or professional development programs in 23 countries.
â¢ (2014-2015) The LTTO MOOC [coursera.org/course/ltto] was the next evolutionary stage designed to help educators develop their own teaching strategies by applying the knowledge gained from the LTTO OER. In 2014, the MOOC attracted over 28,000 enrolments from teachers in 192 countries. Its second offering began in July 2015, and has been incorporated into the US Governmentâs ConnectEd Initiative [bit.ly/1Aj98Dw].
Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson developed the fellowships and LTTO project, with Simon and Dr Negin Mirriahi developing the MOOC. This evolutionary approach exemplifies the strategies used to extend a successful face-to-face professional development program (with limited capacity, flexibility and academic access), into online, flexible and openly accessible resource and curriculum. This application demonstrates how the project team adapted to, and maximised the potential of, the rapidly changing dynamics of online education and technology, to continue to improve the teaching practice of an ever-increasing number of teachers around the world.
Digital literacy is the knowledge of how to use digital technologies effectively for valued social, economic and political practices. However, a significant proportion of educators are not proficient with the digital literacies that contemporary work and social practice demand, and have difficulty in using technology effectively in their own teaching. Despite many students growing up using digital technologies, they often do not know how to use them effectively to learn. Increasingly students are looking to their teachers to help them develop the digital literacies and collaborative skills they need; but for academics lacking such skills, supporting their students in this way is difficult. Over the years this issue has become increasingly critical, as online technologies are more widely adopted into university teaching.
Throughout all iterations of our professional development initiatives, the specific objectives have been to address first hand the types of problems and anxieties teachers can suffer when faced with the prospect of moving into unfamiliar online teaching practices; and the challenges institutions face in trying to provide adequate support for this change. Collectively, the programs have been pedagogically focussed, readily accessible, practical, adaptable, widely disseminated, and encouraging of the sharing of professional expertise.
In our programs, we gave careful consideration to adapting the way that professional development was delivered, so that it could evolve within the rapidly changing dynamics of online education and technology. They were designed to be effective for any discipline or education sector, and to be shared outside of the bounds of our own institution, to benefit an ever-increasing number of teachers around the world.
The remainder of the application details the approach, engagement and impact of each of these professional development initiatives (the Online Fellowship Programs, the LTTO project, and the LTTO MOOC), as we successively extended their reach and impact around the world.
Online Fellowship Programs - local impact
The online fellowships were a series of 8, six-month face-to-face programs developed for academics in our local faculty, which ran between 2004-2008. They were built upon the concept of peer support within a cross-disciplinary community, focusing on pedagogy and not technology. Each fellowship comprised monthly workshops and an online support environment. Over 75 academics (from several UNSW faculties) joined the fellowship community and learned how to write, teach and evaluate 50 online undergraduate and postgraduate fully online and blended courses.
The Learning to Teach Online Project (LTTO) - innovating professional development
Between 2009-2011, the fellowships developed into the successful Learning to Teach Online (LTTO) project tinyurl.com/lttoproject. The intent was to improve perception and adoption of effective online teaching practices within higher education globally. The free OER comprises a suite of 32 video and PDF episodes exploring key pedagogic strategies or principles; and contains links to further information and scholarly resources exploring the particular online teaching concept being discussed. The resources are disseminated via YouTube bit.ly/1DBdrru, an iTunes U collection bit.ly/1hgRQMS, and an iTunes U Course bit.ly/1DK68Au.
The Learning to Teach Online Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) - global curriculum
The success of LTTO inspired its evolution into the LTTO MOOC in 2014 coursera.org/course/ltto. We wished to improve the potential impact of the LTTO concept by embedding the content into a free online course for educators around the world. This offered more structured support to help teachers put the ideas shared in LTTO into practice in their own contexts. The 8-week curriculum was flexible, enabling participants to determine their own learning pathway based upon their unique goals. The MOOC was broken into eight modules, each exploring fundamental strategies and pedagogical principles of online learning and teaching practice.
Online Fellowship Programs
The fellowship programs resulted in 50 undergraduate and postgraduate fully online art and design courses, special cross-disciplinary collaborative projects, and blended learning initiatives. Evaluation data from all of the fellowships showed that 100% of participating academics believed the program positively affected their enthusiasm for, and perception of, online teaching.
The LTTO Project
LTTO extended the notion of the local pedagogically focused community of practice found in the smaller face-to-face fellowships. Through interviews and case studies, it shared the knowledge of different academics, academic support staff, librarians, and learning and teaching professionals - from 18 different disciplines within 18 institutions in 3 countries. Digital dissemination using Web 2.0 tools was a primary consideration in the design of LTTO, to facilitate information reaching a larger number and greater diversity of people. LTTO achieved over 367,000 views from 146 countries; 153 links to the project from institutional websites in 19 countries; and 133 instances of resources being embedded in postgraduate or professional development programs in 23 different countries (as of July 2015).
The LTTO MOOC
The initial offering of the MOOC received over 28,000 enrolments of teachers from all education sectors in 191 countries. Over 10,000 of these were from emerging economies. During the course, 18,024 of these were active participants. The majority (54%) had a Masters degree or PhD, and 80% of participants were employed full or part time in the teaching profession. Throughout the course over 3,000 participants regularly engaged in the course forums, with evidence of peer mentoring and discussion between teachers from around the world in different sectors and disciplines, taking place in a supportive collegial environment.
Online Fellowship Programs
The rigour and pedagogy-driven approach of the fellowship programs was recognised by the Australian University Quality Agency (AUQA), and a Carrick Australian Award for University Teaching in 2006. Participants also highly felt the programs greatly improved their own teaching, "I have found that the type of alignment of content and assessment required by participants of the fellowship program has assisted considerably in my face to face teaching activity. I have re-evaluated this alignment for all of my teaching and implemented more appropriate lectures, tasks and assessment criteria." Fellow. Quote from Fellowship evaluation.
The LTTO Project
LTTO was widely used in a range of sectors around the world including higher education, K-12, private and vocational training. Members of the US academic organisation MERLOT peer reviewed LTTO twice [bit.ly/13LA7bw], with an overall rating of 4½ / 5, and 5/5 stars. It also won the 2012 MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources (USA), and 2011 Ascilite Innovation and Excellence Award (Australasia)
The LTTO MOOC
Feedback from the post-MOOC survey revealed that 96% of respondents felt the LTTO MOOC increased their interest in online teaching; 93% felt they achieved personal growth and enrichment from participating in the MOOC; and 90% found the MOOC relevant to their career. In addition, the MOOC had significant impact outside of the higher education context. It was the only Australian course to be included in US President Obamaâs 2015 ConnectEd program of continuing education accreditation [bit.ly/1Aj98Dw]. It was also included in the Trinidad and Tobago government's Knowledge TT program to enhance local learning opportunities [bit.ly/1LtJGhQ]. The second offering of the MOOC began July 6 2015.
Positively impacting teachers’ confidence, and their ability to develop their own online teaching practice regardless of their motivations, discipline, or sector, both at local and global levels, has been the primary driver for all of the iterative initiatives.
The professional development strategies outlined in this application, illustrate a progressive evolution and adaptive adaptive approach to the changing dynamics of online education and available technologies.
The next stages of this evolution include evolving the MOOC to being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a week as an on demand course, rather than an instructor facilitated course of a set duration. This will enable educators to participate in the MOOC whenever they wish, at their own pace. Support for participants will come from community teaching assistants. In addition, we are experimenting with ways of providing more contextual face-to-face community support for MOOC participants, by blending the best of large open courses with smaller face-to-face community support in different institutions (UNSW Australia, The University of Sydney, and industry training company ‘Learning Café’ initially). This new hybrid course – called a GROOC (a MOOC for groups) will explore how the LTTO MOOC can be better integrated with existing professional development opportunities, to offer participants the most holistic and personalised learning experience possible.