RESHAPING FACULTY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR BLENDED LEARNING
University of Florence (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:In the last year, due to the Covid-19 crisis, universities at global level had to radically (and quickly) transform their teaching activities. All face-to-face academic practices were moved fully or partially online, prompting a rethink of the entire educational process. Teachers had to redesign their courses for online delivery and include videolectures, digital educational contents, e-tivities, assessment tools, discussion forums etc. This situation brought most universities to provide teachers increased support not only in terms of provision of equipment but also through new or reinforced training programmes of faculty professional development. In this regard, this study aims at investigating the impact of the several training actions promoted by the University of Florence in 2020 on teachers’ digital skills for blended and/or digital learning. These actions were mainly undertaken within the context of the DIDeL project, the strategic initiative launched by the University of Florence in 2016 for faculty professional development on e-learning. Given the limitations imposed by the pandemic, DIDeL was completely reshaped for online delivery and centered not only on elearning as a complementary activity but also on blended learning as a possible solution for the reopening of the academic year. A cycle of 12 webinars was offered online between June and July 2021, consisting of events focused on different topics related to educational methods and technologies as well as on technical aspects. After each event, a questionnaire was administered to get feedback from participants on the new modality of offering training: of the 830 participants, 399 replied to the questionnaire. Results show that the remote mode did not lower the positive levels of satisfaction expressed in the previous years: the average value of appreciation was at 4.49 out of 5. Methodological and EdTech webinars were particularly appreciated as they dealt with the fundamental challenge of rethinking teaching after the emergency semester, to integrate interaction and social exchanges into distance learning. As for the technical training, the general level of satisfaction was also good, but the open answers showed that teachers would have needed more practical training, through workshops and individual exercises. These results suggest that while contents related to educational methods and technology are suitable for online delivery, technical familiarization still requires face-to-face approaches. In this regard, one can conclude that future faculty professional development initiatives should be reshaped in a blended modality to take benefits from both online and face-to-face training.
Keywords: Professional development, Higher education, Faculty, Innovation, Covid-19.