In order to learn from this unique experience and further develop our learning activities both online and offline, we systematically collected perceptions of working and teaching from all teachers at Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus. Altogether 34 teachers answered the survey, which accounts for 65 % response rate. The survey included both open-ended and closed questions.
Teachers experienced the transition to online teaching in rather different ways, depending on how familiar the teacher was with online learning. Only 32% of the teachers considered themselves as experienced online teachers already before the transition and the rest learnt by doing as there was no other alternative:
“It is a survival instinct. You got to do what you got to do. Professional integrity – you succeed or die trying! There was no transition. Just hit the road running.”
”It was quite a leap to the unknown. I participated right away in a couple of good online facilitation workshops and got some tools and eagerness to start experimenting.”
Most of the teachers interacted frequently with students online, facilitated video conference sessions, as well as individual and group coaching sessions. All in all, attitude towards online teaching was more positive after the remote teaching period. Consequently, the majority (80%) of the respondents would recommend online studies also when we go back to normal. Almost all teachers agreed that they had learnt new skills during the distance education period while taking a huge step in online education competences. The results showed a need to discuss and develop online pedagogy and online communication, even though teachers perceived that learning goals were reached despite of the radically changed circumstances. Especially, the commissioned projects required re-thinking due to lockdown, yet, lecturers and students were able to adjust and complete projects: “We had to make adjustments to project work, for example, to the ways we collected data, but the end results were very good and the project benefited the partner significantly.” Colleague support, Haaga-Helia’s trainings and online platforms were seen as important enabling factors in online teaching.
The online teaching itself was experienced in versatile ways from ‘surprisingly easy’ and ‘exciting and interesting’ to ‘I didn’t like it at all’, while agreeing rather unanimously (over 80%) that the workload increased during the distance education period. Teaching online during the period was perceived as exhausting due to long virtual sessions requiring “very intensely present every single second (“listening to”), controlling the eye contact with the camera and voice usage” and “working from morning until evening”. Despite of all the encountered challenges and increased workload, 67 % of the teachers were satisfied with their work overall during the semester. If similar measures need to be taken in the future, many teachers perceived that now, they understand better the need for planning, active communication and student interaction thus being better prepared for online teaching.
Quite a big group of the teachers (43%) felt that they were left alone to cope with organising online studies without sufficient support. During such abnormal times, we should also encounter each other on individual level as one of the teachers put it: “Quite soon I understood how important it was for the students that I look them into eyes and ask frequently how they are doing. I would have wished the same for the personnel.” Moreover, 25% of the respondents were anxious about work and the future in general due to COVID-19. This may be alarming in terms of wellbeing. Thus, caring for each other including students, colleagues and employees as well as taking care of your own wellbeing became even more important during the distance education period.