This paper sets out to explore reflective teaching portfolios of university staff, focussed on their engagement as students in a fully online professional development programme in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. As facilitators and designers of this online programme, where the staff are our students, we were interested in learning from staff reflections of their experiences of being online students and observing how learning in this environment transforms patterns of learning and behaviour as staff became immersed in SoTL.
80 university staff completed two modules of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at University College Cork, Ireland, during the 2015/2016 academic year. While this programme has a long history of being delivered face-to-face, 2015/2016 was the first year it had been offered fully online via Blackboard, the university’s virtual learning environment.
For this paper, qualitative data was collected via 20 randomly selected, anonymous, student reflective portfolio entries, which detailed their learning as online students. These are submitted as part of a final teaching portfolio submission which invites them to reflect on their engagement as students in the online teaching and learning programme. The entries were analysed using a thematic framework approach (Ritchie & Spencer, 2002).
This paper outlines some of the issues that arose from the reflections. For example, there is a palpable sense of vulnerability in the reflections, but also a sense of community when sharing ideas within small cross-disciplinary discussion groups. For one student this reflective online process with peers became both “confessional box and cathartic release”. Our results emphasise the value of tracking and capturing reflections as ‘artefacts’ and the transformative nature of the learning. The results also highlight some of the challenges which exist when staff operate as students in an online space and how both person and practice can transform in order to meet these challenges.