Online Teaching and Learning Approaches, MOOCs - Summary of the webinar

During the Covid-19 crisis, European Higher Education Institutions had to rapidly move the teaching and learning onto online platforms. This experience has made us realise how important it is to be able to rely on the best approaches to adapt course material to online teaching. During the webinar, four experts shared their experiences: 

  • Moira Maguire, Head of Learning and Teaching and Gerry Gallagher, E-Learning Development Coordinator from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland
  • Ruth Kerr, responsible for Internationalisation at Federica Web Learning, the University Centre for Innovation, Experimentation and Diffusion of Multimedia Learning at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy
  • Alessio Cavicchi, Professor of Agribusiness, Rural Development and Branding at the Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, University of Macerata, Italy

Moira and Gerry explained that for the next academic year, teaching is expected to be based either on a blended form of offline and remote instruments or fully online. To prepare for this, Moira and Gerry are working on designing online teaching methods and alternative approaches to student assessment. Online assessment was a hot topic during the webinar and many participants asked the speakers to elaborate on it. Moira recommended that it is best to avoid the traditional exam route with questions based on rote learning and requiring descriptive answers because exam conditions cannot be replicated at home. She suggested to ask questions that require more interpretation and to give students more time to answer them.

Gerry explained that in switching teaching from offline to online mode, providing students with a mix of learning tools such as live lectures, recorded videos, voice recordings and regular chat sessions proved to be very useful. It is also important that the mix consists of both synchronous and asynchronous content delivery. Such combination provides ample possibility for students to interact while it also allows them to listen or watch the lectures in their own time. In this context, to keep the attention high, it works well to combine interviews, videos, and short extracts from relevant sources. Relevant Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be used to complement the suite of course materials.

MOOCs are online modular courses in a variety of topics, taught by academic staff from the best universities in the world. These courses are accessible to people free of charge and available in different languages. Ruth Kerr explained that the Covid-19 crisis triggered a significant resurge of interest in MOOCs, reflected in massive increases in their use on the Federica as well as other global platforms. Ruth highlighted that high-quality online teaching can rarely rely on improvisation and that the success of MOOCs during the Covid-19 lockdown needs to be read in the light of their success before the lockdown. The Federica Web Learning Centre in Naples was launched in 2007 with the mission to disseminate open multi-media learning and provide a space for continuous learning (available in different languages). Federica is currently ranked as one of the most resourceful multi-media learning centres in the world. 

A question from the audience enquired whether a MOOC-based Orientation policy can help to reduce student dropout rates. In her reply Ruth explained that MOOCs were being used to bridge the school-university gap in three ways: giving school-leavers a taster of the content and complexity of the degree course in which they wish to enrol so they make a more informed choice;  offering preparatory or booster courses in modules that prove a stumbling block for university entrance or first-year exams e.g. mathematics for engineering; and providing courses in self-awareness and life-skills to support students throughout their studies. It will take time to analyse to what extent the policy impacts on the wider picture of student dropout rates.

The contribution from Alessio Cavicchi focussed on exploring the potential of MOOCs. Through the example of the Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective MOOC-

He illustrated how this MOOC, although originally created to facilitate stakeholder engagement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was used as a learning tool in different contexts:

  • The MOOC complements the content of the courses entitled “Food Economics and Marketing” and “Place Branding and Rural Development”, which are based on experiential learning in the Marche region, with interactions between farmers and students.  The MOOC offers a wider cultural frame and a broader contextual vision 
  • As a scaffolding tool in the Siena Summer School on Sustainable Development, Italy
  • As a tool to facilitate internationalisation in small Mediterranean universities which have not yet fully developed a broader outlook
  • The MOOC was also selected by the EC to be used in the virtual Erasmus programme exchange, a pilot project aiming to move the Erasmus experience online, through weekly discussion meetings and sharing of lectures from participating universities

An online poll launched during the webinar revealed that it was followed by over 150 participants, mainly educators and students. The participants were very active in posing questions through the dedicated Q&A webinar space. The questions reflected the challenges that students and educators had to face during the Covid-19 lockdown and revolved around the best ways to organise online assessment, including time constraint exams, the open book exam approach and what to look out for when adapting the lecture format from offline to online lectures.

The recording from the webinar can be watched here.

  • Webinar summary
  • Webinar presentation
Submitted by:
Zsuzsa Javorka
Submitted on:
08 Jun 2020
Related event date:
21 May 2020