A moving experience
Of all the things we do, learning design workshops were probably the last things we wanted to consider moving online; if it had been thought to be the better option, we probably would have already made that change long before lockdown.
But when it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to hold on-campus workshops, at least for the foreseeable future, and with workshops already booked, we knew we had to make the move online, and quickly.
Fortunately, when it came to ABC workshops, we weren’t alone. Others were moving these online, both at Edinburgh and other universities, and we were able to benefit from the lessons already being learnt and the overriding principle that all were finding: keep it simple!
Working together with School learning technologists, we created a generic ABC workshop environment, using supported learning technology that was familiar, and available to all staff. Running ABC ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops over the past year has enabled us to share this model with nearly a hundred colleagues across the University, meaning they are able to create an online workshop to redesign courses for themselves. Although largely motivated by the need to support redesigning courses for the rapid move to hybrid, we continue to run sessions to help spread the word about ABC as a potentially useful method for any team to design or redesign a course, be it on-campus, online, hybrid or blended.
ELDeR, our programme design workshop, was previously held over two, intense, days. The same principle of simplicity applied, so again we emphasised supported tools that were familiar to participants, meaning that once they entered the workshop they were able to engage with the activities as quickly as possible.
Because ELDeR is so much longer, and working online for too long can be tiring, we interspersed short synchronous sessions with longer timed sessions, so participants had time to take breaks when they wished or cope with unexpected interruptions. We also spread the workshop over three days, to shorten the days and to allow colleagues to be able to deal with other responsibilities.
There have been some advantages to the move online, for instance, we’ve held multiple ELDeR workshops with participants in two or more countries. Of course, even some synchronous working has its challenges; our participant in New York was happy to accommodate an extra early start, not so sure we would all have been quite so eager!
We probably all miss some aspects of being in the room together, but we all appreciate that we’ve been able to make adjustments and keep running learning design workshops, despite the changes to working arrangements. And we’ve been gratified to find feedback from online ELDeR participants is consistent with that we received with on-campus workshops; participants find it is a good use of their time to achieve their goals, and all would recommend it to other colleagues.