What’s pandemic teaching all about?
I think that I must be a rare species amongst my academic colleagues… I have just LOVED online teaching in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
That might be a strange thing to say given the general outpouring of distain from the majority of my teaching pals. But for me, when COVID-19 hit the education sector hard in 2020, I really enjoyed the challenge of adopting to the ‘new normal’.
I’m not really sure what it was though. I’ve been teaching at The University of Queensland for more than 10 years and up until 2020, I’d only ever taught ever face-to-face.
The uni immediately shut-down in late March for one week to give the current semester’s lecturers a chance to breathe and shift immediately to the online delivery of courses. For me personally, I must have put in three or four 80+ hour weeks consecutively getting stuck in. After almost a month of slogging, my commitment dropped to around 60 hour weeks until mid-year when I then turned back to my own research.
It was an extreme workload, but I strangely didn’t feel a lot of stress. No doubt I was benefited by not having to be in the digital classroom but just worked behind-the-scenes.
We got through Semester 1 (ending in June), with my own teaching ramping up in Semester 2 (approximately July-November) where I was in-charge of two courses: first year intro to Earth Science (‘Planet Earth: The Big Picture’) and second year Palaeobiology.
For several years, I’ve been working with my teaching buddy Dr Kevin Welsh, one of the top lecturers at the uni. Together, we’ve been driven to develop digital resources that could be used in the online teaching environment such 3D models of rock and fossil specimens, drone-captured videos of field sites, and high-res and magnified gigapixel imagery of various samples among others. But these digital resources were only ever intended to supplement the physical teaching experience, not replace it.
Facing the music
When COVID-19 struck our university hard in March 2020, I hunkered down. I was lucky to not actually be in the classroom at the time, so I temporarily put aside my non-teaching commitments and concentrated on developing new resources for digital learning and assisting colleagues in the process. Kevin and I never had enough digital materials to teach any one course, let along any single class, so we were challenged to adopt what we already had, as well as add additional resources through the development of new materials.
Through interactions with colleagues in Semester 1, as well as talking to several students in previous cohorts of both of my courses, I felt I was well-adapted to take on COVID-19 in Semester 2 of 2020.
I had a good grip of what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps most importantly, this was fed from the students themselves who were kind enough to share their own thoughts.
I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I grew a lot of new grey hairs. Yes, I was devoid of sleep at times. But the shift to the online world of teaching is something that I thrived in.
How though? Well, that is the inspiration for the development of PandemicTeaching.com: To relay the challenges, the wins, and the failures of my own work in the transition to online teaching.
Let’s get through this together
I certainly sympathise with anyone who’s had it tougher than me and simply hates what COVID-19 has done to the teaching sector. But I hope that this blog will inspire those of you out there to not give-up hope, to take on the new challenge, and make your own pandemic teaching the best that it can be.
At PandemicTeaching.com I’ll outline what has worked (and what hasn’t), share tips and strategies for new approaches to bring into the online classroom, and hopefully we can get through this thing together.
So welcome to Pandemic Teaching. I hope you’ll find it useful. And please feel free to reach-out if you need.