This paper explores the findings from a study on the institutional response to the emergency pivot online at University College Cork, Ireland using the INTERPEARL personalised learning framework. The Pandemic Pedagogy project identified three enablers for staff in the move to online teaching, i.e., clear communication, practice focused training, and an enabling environment. These themes align with the dimensions that comprise the INTERPEARL personalised learning framework, namely person, process, practice and environment. Also evident was an increased emphasis on student voice in decision making regarding online learning.
During the online pivot, a collaboration between our Centre for Digital Education and the University Student Union led to staff training in online learning being closely aligned with the expressed needs of students. Students wanted clear organisation of content on the VLE, they wanted certainty from their timetable and found long online recordings challenges. While they appreciated the flexibility of recorded lectures, they also wanted regular informal interactions with lecturers (Curtin, 2020).
These insights provided justification for the extension of some institutional approaches such as requiring staff to record lectures. Despite some resistance this approach was found helpful for most students, particularly students registered with disability services or those with English as a second language. Increased choice was also offered to students through the provision of different modes of engagement, i.e., in person, synchronous online, asynchronous. Teaching was redesigned with a focus on enhancing student engagement and cultivating a culture of care (O’Neill, 2021). The decision to not implement remote proctoring for assessment also took student feedback into account.
The student voice has never been so strong and so persuasive and further initiatives based on students as partners are emerging based on these successes. These align with the learning from the pilot of the INTERPEARL framework in Cork which uncovered the benefits of empowering students to decide the focus of their tutorials and the transformation power of critical reflection in shaping professional practice (Alisauskiene et al, 2021). The pivot online is in some ways a proof of principle for Personalised Learning, and we should ensure the benefits are maintained and challenges overcome as we exit from the world pandemic.