Perceptions of preparedness for online teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a graduate of an education program at a university in the Midwest

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Published: 
April 2021

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 37:2, 128-146

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In the current study, the authors reflected on the educator preparation program (EPP) at their university by administering a questionnaire to recent EPP graduates, analyzing the results, engaging in rounds of coding, and categorizing the data into themes (Song et al., 2020).
The purpose of this study was to examine how prepared the graduates felt, through the education they received in their EPP, to make the shift to online instruction during COVID-19.
The authors chose to survey graduates from the past ten years, both prior to the implementation of EDU 366 and afterwards, to examine if a difference existed in the candidates’ preparedness to teach online.
This study proposes to expand the research base by investigating in-service teachers’ perceptions of preparation for online teaching based on the education they received as preservice teachers and sharing research-supported recommendations for better preparing future teachers for online instruction.

Methods
This study sought to achieve a two-fold purpose.
First, the authors aimed to examine how prepared recent graduates of their EPP felt to make the shift to online instruction during COVID-19.
Second, they sought to gather information about potential improvements to better prepare preservice teachers for virtual instruction.
These are the research questions that guided the study:
1. Preparation for Online Instruction: Do recent graduates feel their undergraduate education prepared them for making the shift to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic? What skills did they acquire that helped them to make this shift?
2. Learning Management System Access and Training: Do recent graduates feel they had adequate access to, training, and support to effectively employ their school’s learning management system when they transitioned to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic?
3. Current Needs and Future Improvements: What skills and/or resources do recent graduates feel they are lacking that would enable them to teach online more effectively?

Questionnaire
The questionnaire, which the authors designed in QuestionPro, consisted of 24 items.
The style of participant response varied among the questionnaire items, consisting of multiple choice, open-ended, and rating scales.
The questionnaire preserved participant anonymity and confidentiality.

Data collection
In May 2020, the authors sent recent graduates an email invitation with an explanation of the study and a link to the questionnaire in QuestionPro.
Participants had six weeks to complete the questionnaire.

Participants
The authors invited EPP graduates from the last ten years to participate in the study.
The targeted population was in-service teachers, though Spring 2020 student teachers were also included.
97 of the 401 graduates accepted the invitation to participate in the study by responding to the questionnaire.
They analyzed the questionnaire data through quantitative and qualitative means.

Results and discussion
This study revealed that the vast majority (80%) of the recent EPP graduates felt prepared to make the emergency shift to online instruction during COVID-19.
Respondents attributed this sense of preparedness to several experiences within the EPP, which current teacher educators can use to prepare their preservice teacher candidates for teaching in virtual contexts.
First, EPPs should recognize the importance of modeling the use of online tools and demonstrating effective teaching and course organization/management through their own LMS use.
Modeling is crucial to demonstrating effective and differentiated ways of teaching online, to exposing preservice educators to various online programs and resources, and to informing preservice teachers of best practices for organizing and sequencing online course content (Crawford & Martin, 2001; NCATE, 2010; Russell et al., 2003; Vakil, 2020).
The results indicate that providing preservice teachers with a wealth of hands-on practice with online tools and giving them online field experiences benefited them as they transitioned to online teaching during the pandemic.
The graduates stated that having this hands-on practice in numerous education courses and serving as an instructor in an online setting, at the preservice level, gave them the confidence and skills they needed to make the sudden shift to online instruction at the in-service level.
Additionally, as stated in the introduction, the studied EPP infuses technology across the education curriculum.
This exposure turned out to be the most prevalent theme among graduates regarding what strengthened their ability to make the sudden shift to remote teaching during COVID-19.
Creating and administering virtual assessments emerged as an area that the studied EPP, and perhaps others, can enhance.
Many graduates expressed concern over not knowing how to truly measure whether their students were learning in the online environment.
EPPs need to train their preservice teachers on how to develop authentic online assessments, such as tasks evaluated by descriptive rubrics (Shelton et al., 2020), how to interpret assessment results, and how to provide high-quality, timely electronic feedback.
The teacher training that has worked in the studied EPP has involved providing applicable, real world examples of scenarios when discussing strategies and applying course content.
Offering ample hands-on practice and online field placements has also been beneficial.
Examining trends and monitoring what is currently being used with school-aged children has helped our faculty to make courses relevant. Due to the large number of graduates saying it would be beneficial to have more Google training, the authors will investigate how to best incorporate such instruction into our courses. When deciding what technology tools to integrate into courses, teacher educators must consider how accessible those tools will be to their candidates when they are in-service teachers, regardless of the type of school in which they teach.
The authors’ graduates noted that lack of access to actual resources, equipment, and training as in-service teachers made teaching online during COVID-19 difficult.
Learning about a program or online resource at the preservice level but not having the funds to purchase access to the program or online resource as an in-service teacher is discouraging.
If schools could devote funding for some of these resources, as well as incorporate ongoing professional development on how to use them, teachers could more effectively teach their students in the online format.
The authors’ EPP’s focus has been on preparing candidates for all instructional environments, including the online classroom.
Doing this well requires additional tools and extra training for their candidates in a variety of areas, such as, implementing online teaching tools and learning management systems, engaging in appropriate assessment practices for the online classroom, and connecting with caregivers/parents in the online formats.
As elearning becomes more prevalent, preservice educators must be able to teach their future students what constitutes good digital citizenship, what comprises digital literacy, and how to be critical consumers of digital content.
In fact, these may be excellent launching points for teacher educators when considering how to begin guiding and preparing their preservice teachers for online learning.
This study revealed the critical importance of integrating best practices for online instruction curriculum-wide.
Conducting a crosswalk may help EPP faculty evaluate how technology is being used and modeled throughout education coursework.
Such a crosswalk would ensure that opportunities are available across all programs and content areas, so that no discipline is lacking in remote instruction training.
Of course, to integrate more technology, funding for elearning resources and training is of primary importance both at the inservice and preservice level.
Setting aside money to provide LMS training to teachers, so that they can enhance their knowledge of how to use the LMS is essential to delivering high quality online instruction.

References
Crawford, C. M., & Martin, S. S. (2001, March). The integration of assistive and adaptive technologies into the preservice and advanced-level courses of instructional technology and special education. Proceedings of the 12 International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), Orlando, Florida.
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). (2010). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare effective teachers. Report of the blue ribbon panel on clinical preparation and partnerships for improved learning. ERIC Clearinghouse.
Russell, M., Bebell, D., O’Dwyer, L., & O’Connor, K. (2003). Examining teacher technology use: Implications for preservice and inservice teacher preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(4), 297–310.
Shelton, C., Aguilera, E., Gleason, B., & Mehta, R. (2020). Resisting dehumanizing assessments: Enacting critical humanizing pedagogies in online teacher education. In R. E. Ferdig, E. Baumgartner, R. Hartshorne, R. KaplanRakowski, & C. Mouza (Eds.), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field (pp. 125–128). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Song, L., Cai, Q., Hong, H., Liu, X., Jin, L., & Li, Q. (2020). Professional learning under the pandemic: A self-study of five teacher educators’ experiences of transitioning to emergency remote teaching. In R. E. Ferdig, E. Baumgartner, R. Hartshorne, R. Kaplan-Rakowski, & C. Mouza (Eds.), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Stories from the field (pp. 151–156). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Vakil, J. (2020). Diving into the depth of online learning: How preservice teachers leverage technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. In R. E. Ferdig, E. Baumgartner, R. Hartshorne, R. Kaplan-Rakowski, & C. Mouza (Eds.), Teaching, technology, and teacher education during the COVID-19 pandemic: Stories from the field (pp. 361–366). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Updated: Nov. 08, 2021
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