UOW's Learning Teaching Curriculum team. Photo: Paul Jones

UOW wins AFR Higher Education Award for Learning Experience

UOW wins AFR Higher Education Award for Learning Experience

Preparing to Teach Online program enabled smooth transition to remote learning during COVID-19 pandemic

The University of Wollongong (UOW) has been named winner of the Australian Financial Review 2020 Higher Education Award for Learning Experience in recognition of the University’s rapid and effective transition to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the wider UOW effort to switch to remote delivery, and working to extremely tight deadlines, the University’s Learning, Teaching and Curriculum (LTC) division developed Preparing to Teach Online – a comprehensive self-paced online program designed to support staff with their transition to online teaching and delivered via the open-source learning platform Moodle.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Theo Farrell said winning the award was a fantastic achievement and due to an extraordinary effort by the LTC team.

“This AFR award recognises the amazing work of our Learning, Teaching and Curriculum team in designing and delivering an innovative training program that enabled UOW academic staff to make the transition to online remote delivery,” Professor Farrell said.

“The speed with which this program was developed and rolled out was staggering. Over a two-week period in late March, LTC delivered 80 webinars to train over 1,700 staff in online teaching. Since, online program resources have been accessed over 150,000 times by our academics.

“I’d like to recognise, in particular, team leader Dr Alyce Mason and Head of LTC Leanne Cambridge for their leadership of this effort.

“This is a huge win for UOW and one that we can all be proud of.”

The program, developed by LTC’s Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Education Specialists and Academic Development Lecturers, covered the essential elements needed to ensure a quality online learning experience for UOW’s students.

It provided staff with guides, videos, exemplars, and resources to assist them in preparing their subjects for remote delivery.

Feedback from staff was very positive, with one writing: “I just wanted to say that the Preparing to Teach Online Moodle site is absolutely fantastic. It is a life-saving resource that has given shape and articulation to my online teaching plan for subjects.”

TEL Education Specialists Manager Dr Alyce Mason said the development team designed the online modules in a way that began with the consideration of the student perspective.

“It featured real-life student perspective videos and walked staff through the key steps for successful online teaching,” she said.

The team drew on an Online Teaching Survey completed by 557 UOW staff to develop the Preparing to Teach Online program. Using analytics from the survey and a range of other sources, they identified five key areas that aligned with both the support needs of UOW staff and the delivery needs of the University for online teaching and learning.

“For each of these areas Preparing to Teach Online offered an online training module that provided a clear pathway of what to do in a meaningful order, so staff could focus on the practical application of steps for transitioning and developing their subjects,” Dr Mason said.

The program content was regularly updated in response to the changing environment and staff needs, while a showcase mechanism provided staff with an opportunity to share and highlight best practice.

Head of LTC Leanne Cambridge said she was extremely pleased with the achievements of the whole LTC team, noting that staff from multiple LTC units provided support for the training initiatives.

“What they accomplished in just a few weeks was remarkable,” she said.

“As with all areas of the University, COVID-19 changed the focus of our services and it was good to see everyone coming together to meet the challenge and support one another in these unusual times.”