Experiences of University Teaching Staff during the Transition to Emergency Remote Teaching
Etäopetus opetuksen laatu Oppimisympäristöt

Experiences of University Teaching Staff during the Transition to Emergency Remote Teaching
Apulaisprofessori  at Turun yliopisto

The forced transition to the emergency remote teaching (ERT) due to the COVID-19 pandemic “forced” the teaching staff at the universities to convert their teaching to completely online forms. Remote teaching continued in the 2020-2021 academic year in many Finnish universities. The study focused on the first experiences of university teaching staff (N=198) in transition to ERT at a multidisciplinary university in Finland in spring 2020. Participants responded to a survey of three open-ended questions and four scales asking the changes in their teaching due to the transition to ERT, difficulties they faced in this process, the programs/software they learned and/or used, and views about their future teaching after this process ends. The open-ended questions asked about the support channels they used, and the most challenging and the most positive issues during the transition to and implementation of remote teaching.

Data analysis showed that 56.6% of the participants had at least some experiences of remote teaching before the transition to ERT, whereas 43.4% of them did not have such experience. 79.6% of the participants  had very short time to prepare for remote teaching and they have learned a new software (95%) and/or improved their knowledge of a software (96%), and 72.8% thought that these were at least somewhat difficult. 92% of the participants used Zoom and 91.4% used Moodle in their teaching. They spent more time than earlier to conduct remote teaching (86%), find online resources (77.8%) and give feedback for students’ work (80.3%). Spending extensive time by the computer was tiring for them (84.4%). Participants adapted their teaching materials (90.4%) and assessment methods (77%) for remote teaching, and had difficulties in the process (75.2% and 65.7% respectively). They observed that students did not ask their questions (77.8%) and interacted less with each other (78.8%). Identifying students’ learning needs was at least somehow difficult for most of the participants (91.4%).

89.9% of the participants agreed that they could make such a transition in their teaching when needed and 87.4% agreed that they would use some of the online tools in the future. They felt more competent in using the technology (71.2%) and would allow distance participation in their teaching in the future (68.5%). However, only 46% would use online exam options.

Participants without previous remote teaching experiences felt that they had short time to prepare for remote teaching more than those with experience (p<.05) but they improved their knowledge and skills of software more (p<.05). Yet, it was more difficult for this group to learn new programs for remote teaching (p<.05). Participants with previous remote teaching experiences were more willing to use online tools in the future compared to the ones without such experience (p<.05).

The results showed that university teaching staff had to adapt their teaching largely and had several difficulties during the transition to ERT. More results will be presented during the forum to provide insight into the support systems and training programs for the university teaching staff, and inform future studies.