(Audrey Watters in her keynote conference speech at the 2014 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in. San Diego)
The above quote from Audrey Watters highlights the central role that educators play in shaping the learning environment for our students whether it be face to face or online. Online learning has its origins in what was traditionally known as distance education. Distance education has been defined as “the practical subset of education that deals with instruction in which distance and time are the criterial attributes; that is, student and teacher and other students are separated by distance and/or time” (Yacci, 2000, p. 1). Today many providers of distance education have become fully online where all teaching and learning materials are made available to students online, generally via the institution’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Contact between the student, the educators, and the university is mainly electronic, educators provide asynchronous communication via VLE’s, emails and other messaging systems, and teaching is provided synchronously over the web, perhaps with recordings available for those students unable to attend. Additionally, technology is often used to enhance teaching through the provision of interactive tasks and technology supported learning materials such as videos and screencasts. Online learning is still distant, in that the student and teacher are separated, however what the term means can depend on both the institution involved and the course being pursued by the student, in other words the context.
“online teaching and learning means teaching and learning that takes place over a computer network of some kind … and in which interaction between people is an important form of support for the learning process. …. It includes both synchronous and asynchronous forms of interaction as well as interaction through text, video, audio, and in shared virtual worlds” (Goodyear, Salmon, Spector, Steeples, & Tickner, 2001, p. 68).
This book focuses on fully online courses, where “all course activity is done online; there are no required face-to-face sessions within the course and no requirements for on-campus activity” (Sener, 2015).
This four minute Educause video gives a nice overview of some key concepts related to teaching online, it was created in 2013 by: Joanna Dunlap, Assistant Director for Teaching Effectiveness, University of Colorado-Denver and Patrick Lowenthal, Instructional Designer, Boise State University
Online Teaching and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The #Openteach project was conceived prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, to meet a locally identified need for professional development for our DCU cohort of adjunct online educators. At the time, online education was a niche but growing area in Ireland. The Covid-19 pandemic changed this context radically, shifting online from the periphery to the mainstream. The pandemic has impacted on 1.5 billion students worldwide and precipitated a move to emergency remote learning (Bozkart et. al., 2020). Since March 2020 in Ireland, higher and further education has largely been delivered online to 233,973 students without prior experience of online learning (Bozkart et. al., 2020). Additionally, the pandemic has thrust 17,521 higher education staff into teaching online, the majority without previous experience of this mode of education (Bozkart et. al., 2020). The chaos of the pandemic changed the path of of the #Openteach project. The course suddenly became a support not just for our staff, but for educators from across Irish and international higher education institutions.