Developing Online Teaching in Higher Education – Book Review

Supporting educators to develop skills in online teaching, to use a planning term, is a wicked problem. Academics and educational developers alike know that the solution is not to put on a generic workshop and hope for the best.

Newly released Developing Online Teaching in Higher Education (Forbes & Walker, 2022) gathers together tested ideas and analysis that address this problem from nine different countries. The chapters are grouped into cross-institutional, institutional, and personal perspectives. This collection of approaches does not shy away from challenges and failures encountered in developing and delivering continuing professional learning for online teaching during the pandemic. Rather, the authentic narratives and associated analysis illustrate a choice of directions academics, faculties, and institutions could pursue, benefiting from the experiences provided in the book. The editors, in the final chapter, note that despite the diversity of disciplines and perspectives represented, clear themes emerge that transcend the differences. They conclude that successful, sustainable continuous professional learning and development should be:

  • Online, situated, and flexible
  • A balance of digital competencies and pedagogies
  • Collaborative and social
  • Active and creative
  • Continually evaluated
Forbes & Walker, 2022

Pulling Together

Members of the Co-Design Research Group at the School of Business contributed two chapters to this book. Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the work the group does in co-designing the educational experience in the School of Business, but may not be aware of how some of this work contributes to continuing professional development of academic teaching skills. The chapter ‘Co-design as Professional Learning: Pulling Each Other in Different Directions, Pulling Together’ (Vallis, Wilson, Tyrrell and Narayan, 2022) examines the experiences of both educational developers and Unit Coordinators working together, captured in formal interviews after the co-designed subject has been delivered. Professional development is a by-product of the co-design process, with analysis showing that all involved in the process not only develop their teaching practice, but become more reflective practitioners.

Findings suggest there are multiple ways that co-designing in multidisciplinary teams can support professional learning

Vallis, Wilson, Tyrrell and Narayan, 2022

The authors detail the complex relationships and tensions that must be navigated in a successful co-design process and make five recommendations for maximising professional learning through co-design.

Share Sessions

The second contribution describes an initiative explicitly designed for professional learning and development during the pandemic. ‘Share Sessions: A Solution to Cross-Disciplinary Academic Professional Learning and Development in Higher Education’ (Zeivots, Wardak and Huber, 2022).

This model of support mindfully structures a Community of Practice by inviting academics to regularly share their experiences and successes in short presentations in a supportive, informal environment, facilitated by educational developers. Participants were interviewed to evaluate the impact of the initiative, and the informality of the sharing environment was one of the keys to its success.

The informality of these discussions was highlighted as beneficial in comparison to presenting more formal research-based findings

Zeivots, Wardak and Huber, 2022

The other two main drivers of success were social. The sessions were seen as excellent opportunities to connect with colleagues across the faculty during lockdown, and academics enjoyed exchanging ideas, helping colleagues learn, and improving reflective practice. They also liked to feel that they were sharing challenges together. The chapter details the challenges and successes of Share Sessions and recommends the structure of the sessions as a sustainable and practical way to build community and support professional learning in any discipline.


These two chapters are representative of the nuanced approaches taken to continuing professional learning throughout the book. Co-design is one way that support can be built in to normal teaching practice, so if you are a reader who is a unit coordinator in the School of Business, let us know if you’d like to undertake some work together.

References

Forbes, D., and Walker, R. (2022) Conclusion: Continuing Professional Learning and Development (CPLD) for Online Teaching: Diverse Perspectives and Common Themes. In D. Forbes & R. Walker (Eds.), Developing Online Teaching in Higher Education (pp 213-219). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-5587-7

Vallis, C., Wilson, S., Tyrrell, J. and Narayan, V. (2022) Co-design as Professional Learning: Pulling Each Other in Different Directions, Pulling Together. In D. Forbes & R. Walker (Eds.), Developing Online Teaching in Higher Education (pp 133-146). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-5587-7

Zeivots, S., Wardak, D., and Huber, E. (2022) Share Sessions: A Solution to Cross-Disciplinary Academic Professional Learning and Development in Higher Education. In D. Forbes & R. Walker (Eds.), Developing Online Teaching in Higher Education (pp 147-158). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-5587-7

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Exit mobile version