By Sandra Flynn
Module Leader at Centre for Project Management, University of Limerick
I first came across OpenTeach in October 2019 as I browsed through the World Conference on Online Learning programme scheduled to take place in Dublin early in November. I knew that if I were to attend it would only be for one day and while the attraction of listening to George Siemens live on the Thursday as keynote speaker proved strong, it was the Monday schedule that appealed most with one session in particular jumping out at me – CP041: Plugging the Gap in CPD for Part-Time Online Teachers, with Orna Farrell. I was interested in finding out a little more so after some research on Twitter (where else?) and the OpenTeach.ie website, I reached out to Orna through a Twitter private message. That same evening (a Saturday night after ‘Casualty’ on the TV) I had registered for WCOL, booked rail tickets and accommodation, and signed up for the OpenTeach course forthcoming in the Spring of 2020!
My online teaching experience started in 2011 when I was lucky enough to be involved in the design of the module I would subsequently lead following the launch of the fully online MSc. in Project and Programme Management at the University of Limerick. I undertook my first online courses on e-moderating and e-tivities (popular terms back then), and in the years that followed I kept up to date as best I could with the occasional MOOC and the odd text on the topic of teaching online. Not an easy thing to do whilst also working full-time in industry.
I really looked forward to the OpenTeach course for two reasons. Firstly, it was Irish based and any of the courses I had previously taken were offered by universities in the UK, the US and Australia so this would be something new and likely expand my teaching network. Secondly, it was a short course, just two weeks in duration and I felt I could squeeze the required 10 hours from somewhere. The course did not disappoint on either count. The participants were considerably greater in number than anticipated and I suspect that for a number, online teaching was a new experience (understandable owing to the timing) rather than an opportunity for professional development for existing online teachers. It is to the credit of the OpenTeach team that they managed the discourse between participants and provided timely feedback on our contributions to the activities in the form of engaging dilemmas. They even found time to engage in our #OpenTeach Twitter activity adding a further social presence dimension to the course. Personally, I was delighted with the opportunity and experience which reaffirmed for me that teaching online is indeed different!
Thank you all.