It’s now been six months since the University ‘pivoted’ online in response to COVID-19, and since the first realisation that learning and teaching would look very different for the foreseeable future. The University’s decision to switch to a blended model of teaching presented many challenges, and in response over 200 colleagues from across the University pooled their expertise to tackle the problem head on.
One collective outcome of this huge collaboration was a Digital Education Support Service to help academic staff prepare for their online teaching. The service brought together learning technology experts from across the University into a single team, who have been working proactively with schools to advise and support education teams in their preparation for blended delivery. The team have also been collectively delivering training in all of the main digital learning tools, including Learning Central, Panopto, Zoom and Collaborate. Much of the training has been delivered in live synchronous sessions, as well as via asynchronous virtual workshops that staff can work through at their own pace, with an opportunity to book a slot with an learning technology expert to discuss specific challenges they may be anticipating.
In addition, a digital education “service desk” providing telephone and email support was set up, with colleagues volunteering from the Programme Management Office (PMO) and our Library Services to respond to requests for support. Service desk volunteers can signpost to online resources as well as direct queries to either technical support provided by IT services, or to a learning technology expert for advice around teaching practice and pedagogy. Since it’s launch at the beginning of August the service desk has dealt with over 200 requests for help and as expected, demand is increasing rapidly now that term has started.
Our next steps are to get through the start of term with as few bumps as possible. Then, as soon as we can, take stock of where we are, learn from what has worked well, and what hasn’t, and plan for a long-term sustainable service to support digital education into the future, whatever that may look like.
One final thought to conclude. COVID19 has thrown up so many personal and institutional challenges, but if we can take one positive from the last six months at Cardiff, it’s the way in which colleagues across the University have stepped up to meet the challenge, working collaboratively across all roles, grades and disciplines and together have solved seemingly unsolvable problems.
Written by Tony Lancaster, Digital Education Manager