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Uplifting a Russell Group university’s online teaching and learning offering in response to COVID-19

COVID-19 significantly impacted university operations, with universities worldwide taking the decision to close and suspend teaching, or rapidly transition courses online. A UK Russell Group university identified a need for assistance to ensure students could benefit from an improved and relevant online learning experience during the pandemic.

A key focus for the institution was consistency across all online courses and to do that, they wanted to create and deliver exceptional learning and teaching standards which were distinct to their values and USPs. They appointed Curio to support the development of staff online teaching and learning capabilities, using several means to encourage knowledge transfer and building for the duration of nationwide lockdowns and ongoing remote learning.

Project objectives were to:

  • Ensure the high-quality teaching and learning experience that took place on campus could be transferred effectively to an online environment
  • Increase confidence levels of staff during their transition online
  • Determine the University’s best practice for teaching online
  • Provide a shared foundation for what makes a quality online learning experience

Our aim throughout the process was to meet academics where they were and develop a shared foundation of what makes a great online learning experience, not to provide a fixed or rigid adherence to a learning design model. Recognising that academics and schools were at different stages of maturity with online and had different levels of exposure to good practice, the focus here was on praxis, showcasing exemplars of gold-standard practice, faculty examples, and global cutting-edge research on why this works.

In addition to workshops across schools, we provided a 1:1 support service for academics to use for further troubleshooting and support once they began the process of re-designing their modules for online teaching in Semester 1, starting September 2020. Through an online booking portal academics could meet with an expert within 24 hours. Curio was able to match requests to expert learning designers, educational technologists, and expert online teachers to either resolve the request immediately or for more complex requests, work with academics to scope out a suitable response.

As staff used the service and began to feedback on the support provided, Curio responded and adapted quickly to the evolving needs of the schools. This ranged from recording instructional videos for specific tasks and tools, writing guides to be shared university-wide via IT services, and bespoke training sessions for specific areas of concern.

Through the series of workshops, bespoke 1:1 support and training sessions, we helped the University to minimise disruption to students, at the same time as supporting knowledge sharing relating to online teaching and learning design. We ensured that staff could continue to deliver high-quality teaching and learning throughout the pandemicU

about the writer

Tom Whitford

Lead learning designer

Tom Whitford is an experienced educator, academic, learning designer, strategist, and has worked with leading UK and Australian universities. His research interests span innovative approaches to online teaching and learning, instruction and pedagogy, and effective learning design. This research has been featured at conferences of local and international significance. He provides feedback and reviews a variety of global academic publications and trade journals. Tom has been the recipient of numerous teaching and learning grants focusing on innovations to classroom teaching in the business discipline, as well as school awards for teaching excellence. Learn more about Thomas
Talk to Thomas about:
  • Curriculum advice
  • Data, analytics and learning
  • Digital media production
  • Learning design
  • Learning technologies
  • Online teaching and learning
  • Strategy
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