Prior to the transition to the new LMS, they had looked at the barriers to faculty adoption and had previously delayed the transition due to anxiety about the change. Other barriers included time and access to effective support and development. Julie emphasised the importance of having a clear vision about why the change was necessary and noted that the focus was about improving teaching and learning across the university.
To support the transition, Julie’s team created a scaffolded series of workshops with in-person and self-paced learning, supported by one-to-one consultations with experts, express and just-in-time support sessions as well as 24/7 support via chat and phone. This was provided by the LMS supplier for times when the in-house team were not available. To design their development programme, they borrowed heavily from existing online learning principles with demonstrable success in improving teaching and learning. Their guiding principles were:
- Organize and contextualise the learning – faculty were given a sequenced path for the workshops to gradually improve practice and develop skills, supported by resources and templates.
- Provide opportunities for practice and feedback – practice and feedback was built into both the live and asynchronous training sessions with support from experts.
- Use exemplars and models – they used a demo course to demonstrate the full functionality of the LMS and focussed on what faculty would be doing in the classroom. In addition, a variety of templates were provided for faculty to use. They also developed video testimonials from early adopters talking about their use of the LMS.
- Use multiple means for sharing content – their development programme consisted of both synchronous and asynchronous, with use of multimedia alongside text and provided both expert to peer and peer to peer support.
- Curate technology tools for maximum impact – they emphasised a core set of tools to prevent faculty from becoming overwhelmed by all the options and ensured that these were integrated into the LMS.
Julie concluded by saying that whilst they weren’t intending to prepare faculty for online learning, their approach did start to develop core skills that prepared staff for a readiness to teach online, and this helped provide a much smoother transition.
Informal approaches of helping peers to support wellbeing and development in lockdown (and beyond)
Sarah Sherman and Julian Bream, Bloomsbury Learning Exchange
Sarah Sherman and Julian Bream from the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange (BLE) started by introducing the BLE – a partnership working across six London universities to support staff in the acquisition, development, and support of digital learning.
Considering the impact of the pandemic, Julian noted that staff responded to acknowledging what had happened and identified two key experiences - Zoom fatigue and lockdown fatigue – with a focus on emotional labour as people adapted to the new situation alongside trying to do their work. In recognition of this, the BLE reorganised their support to make it less formal and provide ways to bring people together through regular drop-ins, webinars without agendas. The aim was to establish an open, safe and comfortable online space. In addition to platforms like Zoom, Teams and Blackboard Collaborate, they also experimented with other platforms like Wonder, GatherTown and Spatial where people can move around more.