Preparing to teach online before and during emergency pandemic teaching: staff perceptions and future directions


  • Alison Clapp Newcastle University



staff development, online teaching, innovation champions, education technologists, mentors


Online teaching, using internet-based resources with students at a distance, could be described as an innovation when compared to the traditional in-person teaching carried out by universities. This makes Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory useful for examining the factors that enable this mode of teaching to be used, including staff development.  Teaching online requires different techniques to teaching in campus-based courses to provide good student engagement. Transition to online teaching can be a daunting experience if development of online teaching skills and knowledge is poor, or absent. This study aimed to investigate practices and perceptions of efficacy in staff development with surveys, utilising staff replies to suggest future provision of staff training, in terms of Rogers’ theory. The study objectives were to elucidate from staff what training was received prior to their transition to online teaching, their opinions on its effectiveness, other specific training they consider necessary and timeliness of current provision. Two groups were surveyed. The pre-COVID-19 group (22 staff), the innovators, taught online distance masters students in a UK medical school Graduate School. The COVID-19 emergency teaching group (27 staff) normally taught in-person masters courses and could be considered Rogers’ late adopters. Thematic analysis of comments revealed that for both cohorts training was hit and miss, with some feeling adequately trained and others struggling with the new mode. Clear knowledge of who to ask for help, with education technologists as innovation champions, provided confidence in teaching, as did the availability of exemplars of good practice. Barriers to teaching confidence came from lack of support and time for training. Future training provision with technologists acting as innovation champions and support from them and early adopters as mentors is suggested, with staff working relationally together.


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Original Research