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Education in the Time of COVID-19 #028 – RELIEF Centre

By CEID Blogger, on 16 June 2020

Teaching Online: Be Ready Now!

by Future Education Team  at the RELIEF Centre

COVID-19 has meant teachers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, like other teachers around the world, had to move their teaching online with little support or preparation. The Future Education team of The Economic and Social Research Council  (ESRC) RELIEF Centre responded to various requests from teachers and educationalists in Lebanon by rapidly co-designing a Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC) to support teachers in different sectors, with a focus on teachers who work in contexts of mass displacement in Lebanon. The MOOC, entitled Teaching Online: Be Ready Now!,  gives teachers the tools and knowledge to design their teaching-learning process online. This two-week MOOC was co-designed and co-developed by the Future Education team and academics and students from the Lebanese University (LU), Lebanon’s only public university. The Director of CERD, the Lebanese Centre for Educational Research and Development, which is the government body responsible for Teacher Professional Development, provided a video for the MOOC to show support, and the MOOC has been added to the Jordan government’s site for recommended online Teacher Professional Development (TPD) courses.

The MOOC development methodology follows the Future Education team’s co-design approach that began by asking the LU faculty and alumni, and the alumni of previous Edraak MOOCs (Community Based Research, Educators for Change), to identify their immediate needs and experiences with teaching online. LU students and faculty created video tutorials on digital tools, filming themselves using smartphones, to share tips and experiences in the course. Then course participants contributed suggestions of tools for other teachers using discussion forums and online pinboards, providing data and ideas that feed into and refine our Future Education research.

Example of a pinboard (on Padlet), where teachers propose their suggestions for what it means to move teaching online.

The first run of this MOOC was on 26th April 2020. Over 21,000 educationalists enrolled in the MOOC during this first run from across Arabic speaking countries. The course runs in Arabic on the Edraak platform, providing 4-6 hours of study a week. The mass engagement of teachers alongside positive feedback they shared, both on the platform and with their peers through their networks, encouraged the Ministry of Education in Jordan to adopt the MOOC and promote it through their site. This site provides training programmes for teachers to develop their technological and pedagogical skills, and to facilitate the distance learning process(es). We will also keep running the MOOC once a month. The next run will start on 15 June 2020.

WordCloud: an example of the interactive tools the participants use. In this wordcloud, the participants reflected on their feelings towards teaching online.

During the two-weeks, educationalists participating in the MOOC engaged with topics related to challenges faced when teaching online, and how to use digital technology to overcome those barriers and create an interactive space for learning. The MOOC provides teachers with numerous strategies that they can use for moving their practice from the classroom environment to an online environment. This introduction to such tools and strategies gives the teachers the experience of a carefully designed asynchronous course that supports interaction, collaboration and social learning and uses the digital methods.

At the end of the course, we asked participants to complete a questionnaire to assess the quality and impact of the course and the majority of questionnaire responses gathered from 1105 educationalists were positive, giving responses such as:

‘I think distance education, gives teachers an opportunity for upskilling. Now we think of ways to ensure that technology is serving our educational purpose’.

‘This course gave us an opportunity to experience new applications which we were not aware of. Now it is time we think of integrating technology into the classroom and move towards blended learning approaches in the near future (when the COVID 19 crisis is over)’.

Teachers also expressed their concerns, mentioning all the challenges they are facing when making the leap from the classroom environment to an interactive online space. However, we found through this MOOC that engaging teachers as reflexive online learners in a peer-supported community is an efficient and effective way to induct them into this wholly different way of teaching. This reflexive method where they themselves get to engage with the various tools and reflect on their experience, showed them that not everything needs to be taught through Zoom or other platforms where teaching is a one-way stream and highly didactic and where high internet speed is needed.  The teachers who participated in the MOOC were able to see that their interaction during the course provided them with a chance to discover that there is creative joy for both teachers and learners in this new digital world, along with the many technical difficulties.

‘I will use pictures, videos and music in my classroom when we are back to school. I will integrate audiovisual material, story telling and other mediums to convey the information to the students and make them part of the teaching process’.

‘I will ensure that my use of technology for education will support the learning of my students who have special needs and in creating effective differentiated classrooms’

In addition to the interactive methods we use throughout the MOOC, the participants are supported by a live online seminar to interact with the course’s team to address their questions. The course aims to create a community of practitioners and subsequently learn from their experiences. We are supporting each other in the process of transitioning to teaching online and, ultimately, to returning to a truly blended learning classroom that optimises the combination of both digital and conventional methods. This is our vision and through interacting with the teachers we realise that we all share this vision.

The Future Education Team at the UCL Institute For Global Prosperity RELIEF Centre works on co-designing the appropriate education and learning opportunities for communities impacted by mass displacement.

Opinions expressed on the CEID Blog are only those of the author, not the Centre for Education and International Development or the UCL Institute of Education.

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