Online learning takes a leap ahead in the Bahamas
While there’s no doubt the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought confusion, and sometimes outright tragedy, to families across the globe, it’s also clear there have been compelling stories of resilience and resolve that have produced positive outcomes.
One of these positive outcomes came when COVID-19 threatened to disrupt the training of 22 Bahamas Technical Vocational Institute instructors as they were preparing to learn more about adapting their in-person curriculum to deliver online training for their students.
Instructors learning online about how to deliver education online?
“It was serendipity,” sums up Dr. Schontal Moore, The University of the West Indies, who was the Commonwealth of Learning consultant training the instructors part of the team preparing the instructors’ curriculum.
“Sometimes to truly grasp something, one really has to live it,” she adds, drawing from her own experience as a Language Education & Literacy Studies Lecturer. “It’s a gift they each received, to walk in the shoes of students and to experience learning from the other side. And good online students typically make excellent online instructors.”
The shift was understandable and done out of an abundance of caution for everyone’s health. But it wasn’t without a little concern amongst the instructor cum learners early on in the process, who expressed themselves as everything from “unsure” or “anxious but confident” to “apprehensive” about the path ahead of them.
Comfort builds confidence
As their comfort with the technology-mediated learning began to grow after a few sessions, so did their interest in optimizing their lesson plans for their online learners in the months to come. Questions started bubbling to the surface including:
- How many teaching/learning resources can be included within a unit of work?
- How many synchronous sessions, and how long in duration should the schedule be, for a class of technical/vocational-minded-students?
- How can cognitive, social and teaching presence within my course space be optimal for student engagement, content acquisition, and skills development?
- How do I improve the aesthetics and pragmatics of my Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) course space to make it visually appealing for students entering?
As the BTVI instructors worked through these, and other, questions, their online learning comfort levels eased and they found themselves enjoying the experience.
“It’s wonderful to witness so many driven and intelligent instructors bring their individual talents into such a collaborative setting,” said BTVI instructor Barbara Cooper. “Especially for some that have never ventured into online learning. I look forward to the many successes after this training.”
With the course structured for 30 hours over 10 weeks, the group continued to meet weekly, contemplating questions, embracing challenges, working with, and learning from, each other. As part of the training, Dr. Moore used a VUSSC course called Developing and Teaching Online Courses (DTOC).
The end result according to Dr. Moore?
“Every single faculty member is a far better virtual instructor than before because of his/her personal experience of being an online learner.”
For information on how to design and deliver online and blended courses, go to the COL’s Resources on Online Learning.