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A study of emergency remote teaching (ERT) during COVID lockdowns reveals key best practices for preparing deans, faculty, and students for effective online learning.

This is a case study on how academic leaders at one higher education institution navigated 2020 to 2022 when the Covid-19 pandemic kept the education process in virtual mode. Internationally, the academic literature was replete with reports on the inadequacy of Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) and the need for higher education institutions to adopt practices which represented planned online education.

In fact, many academicians contended that ERT was a misrepresentation of online education, hence the need to transition from ERT to planned online education (Hodges et al., 2020). Even though the situation of forced migration of classes was initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to offer quality education was essential to maintain accreditation standards (Patchoros & Wenzler, 2021).

My single case study, therefore, gauged the initiatives of academic leaders to ensure quality in the teaching and learning process by advancing the practices of emergency remote teaching (ERT) to more acceptable online education practices.

The perceptions of the two-year online experience for students, faculty members, and academic leaders were also evaluated in the research.

Summary of the Research Questions & Findings

The main question which the research sought to answer was: How did academic leaders navigate the transition from emergency remote teaching to planned online education during the period, 2020 to 2022, of the Covid-19 pandemic, while supporting faculty and students in the teaching and learning process?

As a result of applying content analysis as the method of data analysis, the following themes emerged to reflect the answers to the research questions, as well as to present a synopsis of the collected data:

  • unreadiness of all categories of participants for exclusive online education,
  • inadequate provision for students,
  • acceptable provision for faculty,
  • adoption of online pedagogical practices,
  • adjustment of all groups of participants to the online environment,
  • desire of students to return to the physical campus,
  • support from leadership to faculty, and
  • support from external stakeholders.

Key Prerequisites to Effectively Develop Online Education

The conceptual framework which guided the study is comprised of four facets: (1) Assistance for higher education instiutions from external stakeholders, (2) Transformational leadership by academic deans, (3) Development of competencies for online instructions among faculty and (4) Supporting student learning in online education.

Both the literature review and the findings of this research served to confirm that the integration of these four principles lead to the development of effective online education.

Figure 1:  The Conceptual Framework

External Stakeholders Who Contribute in Key Ways

The importance of external contributions into higher education was confirmed by Arnold et al. (2020) who posited that in Estonia, the government began investing in infrastructure such as internet service and devices for teachers, as well as professional training in digital competencies since the year 2015. Therefore, tertiary education in this country experienced a “smooth switch to remote learning during the early days of the pandemic crisis” (Arnold et al., 2020, p.19).

The Need for Transformational Leadership

As you read through the best practices below, you’ll see that effective online education requires a wide range of undertakings in the institution, and this requires transformational leadership. Antonopoulou (2021) stated that transformational leadership promotes shared leadership among academic professionals whose skills are required to manage this extensive undertaking.

Furthermore, the pandemic presented an outstanding challenge which compelled educational leaders to be supportive, innovative, creative, and risk-takers, which are characteristics of transformational leaders. Those qualities can be developed and nurtured whether teaching in crisis mode or not.

Other aspects of this framework are discussed below.

Best Practices for Preparing Faculty for Online Education

The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework illustrates the key competencies for instructors to function effectively in the online environment: technological knowledge, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

According to the TPACK model,

  • Technological knowledge relates to the selection of the most suitable digital tools for various lessons and the instructor’s ability to facilitate the use of the tools among students.
  • Pedagogical knowledge pertains to an understanding of how students learn, as well as, appropriate teaching strategies to convey subject matter to students.
  • Content knowledge refers to academic knowledge of subject matter.

With an understanding of the interaction of these three components, educators are able to increase learning outcomes with most students (Koehler et al., 2013).

Best Practices for Orienting and Supporting Students for Online Education

For some remote learners, the absence of a physical teacher means the absence of extrinsic motivation (Tichavsky et al., 2015), and this is where orienting students in self-regulated learning (SRL) becomes critical.

Tsai (2013) postulated that SRL entails intentional efforts on the part of the student to manage learning activities and it can be accomplished with three approaches: “cognitive strategy uses, metacognitive processing and motivational beliefs” (p.715). Tsai added that the possession of SRL skills can mean the difference between success and failure in online education.

As education leaders evaluate the post-pandemic virtual courses in their intuitions, the first criteria should be the use of a well-structure learning management system, which McMullen et al. (2020) described as inevitable for effective online education.

Secondly, the promotion of active learning in order to engender a community of inquiry has been found to increase performance for online learners (Gautam & Gautam, 2021).

Next is the establishing of clear learning outcomes which are necessary for effective collaborative learning in higher education (Heller, 2022).

The role of faculty as facilitators instead of the traditional manager of the classroom is another expectation in the online environment where university students should be coached as independent learners (Bates, 2019; McMullen et al., 2020; Heller, 2022).

As new technology tools for education continue to rapidly develop, ongoing professional development will continue to be relevant to keep faculty up-to-date with contemporary practices.

 

Conclusion

After two years of experience in the virtual mode, the preference to operate remotely in comparison to the physical campus environment was measured and the research found that 60 % of faculty expressed a preference to continue facilitating all courses in the virtual mode in the post-pandemic era.

Noteworthy is that in spite of the preference of faculty members to operate in the online environment, the data also reflected that some classes fell short of the high-quality pedagogical practices which are recommended for remotely operated university courses.

It is against this backdrop that academic deans must continuously ensure that post-pandemic remote education is in keeping with the recommended standards.

Also critical is the continuous effort to narrow the digital divide, thus removing inequity among twenty-first century students, all of whom require exposure to a technology rich environment in order to be equipped for a highly digitized labor force.

Making high quality online education accessible to all students can be viewed as contingency planning for the next crisis to impact the education sector.

Thorough discussions and practical implementation of the findings in this case study are found in the references below. The author’s full dissertation on this subject is available here.

 

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References

Ali, W. (2020). Online and remote learning in higher education institutes: A necessity in light of COVID-19 pandemic. Higher Education Studies, (10)3, 16-27. https://doi.org/10.5539/hes.v10n3p16

Anderson, J., & Mccormick, R. (2005). Ten pedagogic principles of e-learning. INSIGHT Observatory for New Technologies and Education. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47343091_Ten_pedagogic_principles_for_E-learning

Antonopoulou, H., Halkiopoulos, C., Barlou, O., & Beligiannis, G. N. (2021). Transformational leadership and digital skills in higher education institutes: During the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging Science Journal, 5(1), 1-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.28991/esj-2021-01252

Arnhold, N., Brajkovic, L., Nikolaev, D., & Zavalina, P. (2020). Tertiary education and COVID-19: Impact and mitigation strategies in Europe and Central Asia. Europe & Central Asia: Tertiary Education. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341781394_Tertiary_Education_and_COVID-19_Impact_and_Mitigation_Strategies_in_Europe_and_Central Asia

Bates, A.W. (2019). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning (2nd ed.). Tony Bates Associates. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/teachinginadigitalagev2/

Creswell J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). Sage.

Gautam, D. K., & Gautam, P. K. (2021). Transition to online higher education during COVID-19 pandemic: Turmoil and way forward to developing country of South Asia-Nepal. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning, 14(1), 93-111. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIT-10-2020-0051

Heller, R. F. (2022). The distributed university for sustainable higher education. Springer. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-981-16-6506-6

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B. Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. EDUCAUSE Review.                    https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning 

Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., & Cain, W. (2013). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)? Journal of Education, 193(3), 13-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/002205741319300303

McMullen, A. L., Bursuc, V. A., Doval, C., Grant, S., Grossberg, J. D., Jones, I. M., & Willey, S. (2020). Strategies for effective online teaching in higher education. Business Education Innovation Journal, 12(2), 40-48.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Nguyen, A., Tran, L., & Duong, B. H. (2023). Higher education policy and management in the post-pandemic era. Policy Futures in Education, 21(4), 330-334.

Patchoros, G., & Wenzler, G. (2021). Satisfying program-level outcomes by integrating primary literature into the online classroom. Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology49(3), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.2967/jnmt.120.261750

Shattuck, K. (2014). Assuring Quality in Online Education: Practices and Processes at the Teaching, Resource, and Program Levels. Stylus Publishing.

Tai, J., & Ajjawi, R. (2016). Undertaking and reporting qualitative research. Clinical Teacher13(3), 175-182. https://doi.org/10.1111/tct.12552

Tichavsky, L. P., Hunt, A. N., Driscoll, A., & Jicha, K. (2015). “It’s just nice having a real teacher”: Student perceptions of online versus face-to-face instruction. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2015.090202

Tsai, C. W. (2013). An effective online teaching method: The combination of collaborative learning with initiation and self-regulation learning with feedback. Behaviour & Information Technology32, 712-723.

World Bank. (2020). Remote learning and COVID-19: The use of educational    technologies at scale across an education system as a result of massive school closings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enable distance education and online learning. United Nations –ESCAP. https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/266811584657843186/pdf/Rapid-Response-Briefing-Note-Remote-Learning-and-COVID-19-Outbreak.pdf

 

Author

  • Grace Eversley-Jacott

    Grace Eversley-Jacott received her Ed. D. from the University of West Indies. She is a tertiary education professional who served many years ago as a high school teacher and school principal in the country of Suriname, South America. She then became a part-time university lecturer and residential life director. She is a department coordinator at the University of Southern Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago and a member of the institutional review board (IRB) where she contributes to the reviewing of research proposals of post-graduate students. She is also concerned with the appreciation of cultural diversity in education and the promotion of student centeredness.

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