COVID-19 fast-tracked the digital education implementation plans for academic staff and universities around the world. The question no longer is if you will teach online, but how effectively will you teach online? The University of Malta has been preparing academic staff to effectively deliver digital education options to learners for several years. One initiative taken to support academic staff has been the online course Designing, Delivering and Evaluating Online Study-Units . Eighty seven (87) academics representing 17 faculties and departments have successfully completed this course. Recently, this course was awarded Honorable Mention in the international Best eLearning Course Competition sponsored by the International eLearning Association www.ielassoc.com.
The course was designed for academic staff who have little or no online teaching experience, to develop the confidence, knowledge and skills required to effectively design, deliver and evaluate digital education events. The course is organised into convenient modules: Introduction; Content; Delivery; Support, Structure, Community and Outcomes to align with the EU Digital Education Quality Standard Framework http://project-digit.eu/index.php/digital-education-quality-standards/
Academic staff apply their learning in practice guided by an interactive RoadMap with hyper-links to what they are expected to read (Read Its!), do (Apply Its!), and discuss (Discuss Its!) in each module. Learners are further supported by videos, eDocs, learner profiles, resources, discussion forums, announcements, and eSamples sharing former learner assignments.
The first session is a workshop (offered face-to-face and online) to get acquainted, ensure learners can navigate the VLE, communicate expectations, develop learner profiles, discuss course organisation, offer support and answer questions. All other modules are held completely online to accommodate busy schedules and to experience what it is like to be an online learner. This course requires a weekly commitment of 5-6 hours, and it has a 2 ECTS value. The 9-module course will be offered in 5 EU countries in February 2021.
Academics who successfully complete the course are invited to become eLearning champions for their department or faculty, and enroll in a brief follow-up train-the-trainer course (three modules requiring three hours each) being offered for the first time in November 2020.
The University of Malta is currently leading an Erasmus+ project, entitled Digital Education and Timely Solutions DIG-IT in collaboration with La Sapienza University, Rome, Cyprus University, Cyprus, University of Primorska, Slovenia and JAMK University, Finland. In addition to designing the EU Digital Education Quality Standard Framework and Companion Evaluation Toolkit, the 9-module Designing, Delivering and Evaluating Effective Online Study-Units Course and the Train-the-Trainer course, the DIG-IT project is also designing healthcare apps to deliver training on (1) ECG Interpretation and (2) Management and Leadership for nurses in collaboration with Saint James Hospital.
The Designing, Delivering and Evaluating Online Study–Units Course was designed and is taught by Prof Colla MacDonald, Mr James Cilia, and Ms Naomi Mifsud. The DIG-IT project is managed by Prof Colla MacDonald and Dr Maria Cassar who are members of the Distance Education Committee chaired by Pro Rector, Prof Saviour Zammit.