The Demands of Preparing to Teach Remotely during COVID-19: Perspectives of higher education teachers amid the pandemic

Lynch, Ronan and Morris, Peter (2021) The Demands of Preparing to Teach Remotely during COVID-19: Perspectives of higher education teachers amid the pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has instigated a truly seismic shift in the way that education has taken place since early 2020, not just in Ireland, but globally. This shift to teaching predominately in a blended, online, and/or remote mode, prompted the need, for the majority, for an urgent and comprehensive upskill to teaching in an altogether new domain.

This article provides comparative insights into two studies that relate to teaching in a blended, online, and/or remote mode: the first study (2019) is from the pre-COVID-19 era, and the second (2020), amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The first study was born from a gap in knowledge into the experiences of higher education teachers who teach in the blended learning mode. This gap was highlighted by Torrisi-Steele and Drew (2013) whose review of over 800 articles found only one article on blended learning academic practices. Quite simply, there was very little known about such experiences from a teachers’ perspective. Thus, the first study provides a brief snapshot at a case study analysis, which described and evaluated the experiences of higher education teachers at a third-level institute in Ireland with blended learning. This qualitative descriptive study, comprising of 12 participants who took part in three separate focus groups, describes several means by which pejorative aspects of teaching in the blended learning mode can be ameliorated and/or remediated, primarily through planning, resourcing or delivery methods. The second, and more recent study, focuses on the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the teaching population at the same third level institution. Given the unheralded changes in education since the emergence and proliferation of the pandemic, the second study expands upon the original small sample size, owing much to the greater numbers now teaching in the space. In this second study, a questionnaire completed by 70 participants, focused on their experiences in relation to the five recommendations extracted from the first study. These recommendations centre on the following aspects of blended, online, and remote teaching: (i) planning class; (ii) classroom techniques; (iii) the learner; (iv) supports; and (v) the teaching space. This article details findings that specifically relate to the first section detailed, that is, planning class. The initial findings point to a polarising effect: certain aspects of planning class have increased, some dramatically, while other aspects have lessened, some detrimentally. Some light is cast on these aspects relating to preparation, thought, contingencies, time, flexibility, engagement, interaction, spontaneity, and well-being.

This article explores the experiences of higher education teachers with blended, online, and remote learning at a third level institution in Ireland and provides a comparative analysis of said experiences from two eras, one pre-COVID-19, and another, amid the pandemic. This article primarily focuses on the aspect of planning class. The findings aim to provide valuable insights into the field before and during the pandemic, and afterwards. These findings should prove useful for policy and development in higher education, both nationally and internationally.

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