By Ishaq Al-Naabi, Language Lecturer, University of Technology and Applied Sciences, Oman
Causing a massive disruption to higher education, COVID-19 has forced higher education institutions to shift rapidly to online instruction for their students to continue their education. This sudden shift to online instruction posed various challenges, such as creating online content, learning new instructional tools and implementing online pedagogies (Crawford et al., 2020). While some institutions have been offering some online courses, most institutions in Oman faced difficulty in redesigning their face-to-face courses to online courses and administering online courses.
Previous research indicated that planning, development and evaluation of a fully online course take six to nine months before the course is ready for delivery (Hodges et al., 2020). Teachers become experienced in teaching an online course after two or three iterations. Redesigning courses in the emergency remote teaching during COVID-19 did not follow a systematic course design. Eventually, this could question the quality of online courses offered during this emergency period.
Although higher education institutions recruit e-learning specialists to help in implementing online learning, these specialists are often experienced in administering courses in learning management systems with basic knowledge of course design and online pedagogy (Moravec, 2020). Even if they have some knowledge in course design, the rapid shift to online instruction left them unable to provide sufficient support to teachers. This has made the shift to online instruction stressful for both institutions and teachers.
Considering Al-Naabi et al.’s (2021) online course design model (see figure 1), course leaders were not able to follow the complete process of online course design. First, they were not able to conduct environment analysis nor needs analysis of their students, the instructors and the situation. Additionally, the goals and objectives of the courses remained the same. The teaching principles on which the face-to-face course was designed and the teaching methodologies followed were also not touched. In most cases, the assessment did not change to suit the delivery mode. There was no evaluation of the courses and the time did not allow experts on the subject matter and course design to review the courses. The only step considered was the format and the presentation of the course, which is only one step of course design.
As higher education institutions continue to offer online courses during the pandemic and post-pandemic, there is an urgent need to professionally equip faculty with the needed skills to plan, design and evaluate online courses. For future emergencies, institutions should plan their courses in a way that allows the shift to online delivery in a rapid and stress-free condition. A blended learning mode can help in the transfer to a fully online course and this can provide both teachers and students with some skills in online teaching/learning. In addition to online course design skills, teachers should be competent in online pedagogy. They should know online teaching and learning strategies so that they can successfully and easily administer the courses and can contribute positively to students’ learning. Institutions should deploy some evaluation measures to measure course design and course delivery during emergencies.
Although this journey was stressful for institutions, teachers and students in Oman, they were able to continue the teaching and learning process. Additionally, they have gained a good knowledge of online pedagogy and now they are prepared for better online teaching during emergencies.
Al-Naabi, I., Al-Barwani, T., Al-humaıdı, S., & Neısler, O. (2021). Online course design: Taking a right turn! Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 22(1), 120–132. https://doi.org/10.17718/tojde.849892
Crawford, J., Butler-henderson, K., Rudolph, J., Malkawi, B., Glowatz, M., Magni, P., & Lam, S. (2020). COVID-19: 20 countries’ higher education intra-period digital pedagogy responses. Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching, 3(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.37074/jalt.2020.3.1.7
Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review, 7. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning
Moravec, J. (2020). International education in the era of COVID-19: Making learning visible. Social Education, 8(April), 38–42.