Creating an online environment in response to a global pandemic

The country is in lockdown! Tertiary institutes have closed and have two weeks to move their teaching online. Their systems, processes and learning materials are no longer valid yet they are responsible for the education of hundreds of learners.

eCampus NZ responded by creating an interface to our digital learning repository so educators could access the resources and integrate them into their teaching practices. We also developed a resource that supported educators in their shift to online learning.

The challenge

Our eLearning design team had to create a free, interactive resource that could be distributed to every tertiary institution in New Zealand and would support educators to move online.

There was no time to develop a formalised project charter or to follow the usual design process of scoping, needs analysis and stakeholder consultation. The resource had to be intuitive, succinct and readily available to be applied in an emergency situation. It needed to be accessible on a variety of devices. In addition the resource had to be developed and released within eight days.

The response

The resource focused on three key concepts:

  • Wellbeing – Placing the learner and educator’s wellbeing at the centre of any shift to online learning. The lockdown would increase anxiety and enforce a period of solitude for some so wellbeing was considered of paramount concern to the designers.
  • Cultural Responsiveness – New Zealand educators have a professional responsibility to be culturally responsive in all that they do. The resource needed to place Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view) at its centre.
  • Empowerment – Educators ability to adapt to new technology would vary greatly so the resource needed to empower those with minimal support or experience in using online technology for learning.

A lean design model was used to develop and deploy the resource within eight working days. The project team consisted of a lead instructional designer who had the subject matter expertise required, two instructional designers, eCampus NZ technicians, and marketing support for outreach material and communications.

The resource included a strategy for users to follow in adapting to an online environment, information graphics, tutorial videos and Whakatauki (Māori proverbs) paired with empowering narratives.

The results

Development, release and communication of the availability of the resource was completed within the eight day timeframe. A remarkable achievement for those involved in the project!

Partner institutions were informed of the resource through communications with the executives and the resource was released to teaching staff through internal channels. It was also made available to the public through a marketing and social media campaign.

In the first week of release, the resource was accessed over 200 times and 700 times during a six-week period. Forty tertiary and training organisations accessed the resource during the first six weeks and confirmed the demand from organisations for support in adopting online courses.

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