Phew…I’m Glad That’s Over….Now What About September? Part 2


In part 1 of the blog I finished up with a call for a pedagogy of care. Let me say at the outset that if you want to undertand more about care and education you should really check out the work of the wonderful Maha Bali. Her keynote Centering Critical Care During Crises (OLC Innovate 2020 Virtual Conference) should be required viewing for all involved in education – in the meantime if you only have five minutes to spare you should watch her Gasta Goes Global presentation where she reminded us ‘that nobody signed up for this‘.

Thinking About September

For me, in the context of the pandemic, a pedagogy of care is underpinned by my contention ‘nothing fancy is required’. Above all, it is about doing the basic things right and not making unrealistic demands on ourselves or our students.

  • Technology is in itself not Pedagogy – Don’t become enthralled with the technology as an end in itself.
  • Communication is at the heart of the process – Regardless of the technology used, opportunities for communication both formal and informal need to be maintained and where neccessary created, especially in the case of peer to peer student communication.
  • Clear expectations from everyone – It is always important to be clear about what can be delivered and what is expected. However, when operating at a distance the potential for misunderstanding and mixed messages can become amplified. In planning for September, individuals and institutions should make their expectations of themselves and their students explicit. Students should know what they can expect and what is expected of them and plan accordingly.
  • If it’s not your job it has to be someone’s – Roles and remits need to take account of the changed circumstances; it is not enough to say that it is not your role. Systems, policies and procedures that have been largely predicated on a campus-based model need to be modified. For example, if an institution’s computer services department previously did not support student off-campus technology issues that needs to be changed. If you cannot resolve a student issue know who can and take responsibility for tracking that issue.  
  • Consider what is ‘minimum’ standard to aim for everyone – There is little point in some students having a wonderful online experience while others have a poor experience. At an institutional level, collaboratively decide what is appropiate and meaningful and ensure that staff are supported in achieving that standard.
  • Clearly structured and easy to follow content – One of the best starting points for creating clear and accessible content is to adopt Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. For those who imagine that UDL is about designing for people with a disability; think again, it is good design – period! As Damian Gordon says “Universal Design for Learning UDL is a great way to develop online content that addresses to needs of all learners”.
  • Good quality asynchronous  teaching – Asynchronous learning has much to offer, not least fact that it is far more student friendly and less technologically demanding (see Bali & Meier, 2014). As Mark Brown argues a “well-designed asynchronous, self-directed and small group learning experiences can be far more engaging, interactive and challenging than sitting passively in front of a screen watching a live or recorded lecture”.

One could quite rightly make the argument that these points are always pertinent – but when the online environment IS the campus these become essential and NOT aspirational. Develop and enhance your skills by all means; but remember that the bread and butter issues of education are about teaching and not agonising over fine tuning and editing a high production value video. If the majority of staff can deliver and support a competent and pedagogically sound online learning experience, they have done a good job as have the staff who support them.  

The 90/10 Challenge

For months I have seen excellent advice and case studies detailing some great examples of innovative and exciting work – work that clearly demonstrates inventiveness, hard work and a commitment to students. But at times I have asked myself: who is going to use this advice and who is it aimed at? Over the past four months I have tried to do my ‘day’ job, diligently supporting and supporting colleagues while at the  same time trying to maintain and enhance my professional knowledge.

Sometimes it left me a bit overwhelmed, feeling that I should be reading that document; registering for that webinar or watching that recording; and if I’m feeling overwhelmed what are my non edTech colleagues feeling? The reality is that the vast majority of our colleagues in higher education are not swimming in the sea of educational technology; they (in keeping with Gilly Salmon’s typology) are more likely to be drowning in a sea of work, stress and technology or waving frantically for the edTech ‘lifeguard’ to come and rescue them or their colleagues. In my role as an academic developer I have always contended that:

I would prefer that 90% of the staff used 10% of the technology rather than if 10% of the staff used 90% of the technology.

A pedagogy of care is about reassuring, informing, supporting and inspiring colleagues. In turn, if they are supported and confident, they will be better placed to support their students. Returning to my points about ‘nothing fancy’ – if the vast majority of staff can provide well-structured and resourced scaffolded online learning opportunities that does not pose an inordinate challenge on staff, the available technology and the students,  that is good enough; and sometimes  good enough is good enough.  Caring for others begins with caring for oneself, be self-reflective but not self-critical. In articulating what the nature of online teaching should be in these challenging times I think we could do worse than consider the words of the late great Arthur Ashe:

Final Thoughts

As we move forward my earnest hope is that online teaching & learning is not seen as a deficit model; something to be taken out and dusted off in a time of emergency; but ultimately not regarded as good as ‘the real thing’. I would have loved to write something pithy and insighful to finish, but I am afriaid that well ran a little dry at the end of writing this blog. However, the quote below from George Veletsianos beautifully articulates my thoughts and feelings regarding what is the most important aspect of online education as we move forward.

“Physical proximity isn’t a precondition for good education. Comparing one form of education to another distracts us from the fact that all forms of education can — and should — be made better.


As I said in part 1 of this blog, the genesis of this blog began with a keynote that I delivered online for Dundalk Institute of Technology’s Centre for Teaching and Learning. I was asked to reprise the presentation for Waterford Institute of Technology’s end of year event hosted by its Centre for Technology-Enhanced Learning 48 hours later – the video of which is below:

Phew…I’m Glad That’s Over….Now What About September? Part 1

‘Care and Communication’ is the key

This blog has been written on foot of a keynote delivered (online) to a Dundalk Institute of Technology end of year event organised by its Centre for Learning and Teaching. Within a few hours of starting this blog I realised that this was going to get quite long, so at the suggestion of my friend Ken McCarthy of the WIT_CTEL parish I have split this into two sequential blogs.

The slides from the presentation can be found below:

Having had an incredibly challenging few months since early March, it is only now that I get a sense of starting to catch breath – at an individual, institutional, sectoral and national level. We have had a period of time that is truly (and without any hint of hyperbole) unprecedented, throwing up many challenges to staff and students. While I would suggest that by and large the Irish HE sector responded very well to a situation that was unfolding and again – unprecedented, there is a lot of room for improvement. As a sector we may well get a fool’s pardon from our students given that we had to respond very quickly and were, as individuals and institutions doing our best, all things considered. However, I do not think that we will, or indeed should get, the same latitude for next semester.

The reality is that the lockdown has shone a light on existing teaching practices and policies; some responses were very good – highly innovative and insightful, but other responses were less effective. Whatever the level of effectiveness of the various responses, I would suggest that the vast majority of staff – admin, support and academic worked very hard over the past 10-12 weeks to ensure that students received support; had classes (in a variety of formats); submitted assessments; set end of year examinations; had their results considered at examination boards and ultimately received their results. While the whole ‘will they won’t they‘ saga of the the state’s terminal secondary examination process – The Leaving Certificate, played out for weeks, the higher education sector with far less media fanfare got on with completing the academic year for over 230,000 students. That said, I am not for one moment suggesting that this was achieved without worry or stress on the part of staff and students. There was uncertainty and fear about what to do as institutions, their staff and students scrambled to find workarounds for a teaching, learning and assessment system that has largely been designed on the premise of on-campus education as the default. Yes, the sector responded and ensured that courses were delivered and examined, but make no mistake – “These are not normal teaching and learning conditions. What we are experiencing now is emergency remote teaching and learning—or as some have called it, pandemic pedagogy” (Milman 2020).

It is very easy to understand how the pandemic has been regarded in some circles as a gamechanger for online learning ushering changes so elemental that we will hereafter characterise online learning in terms of before and after Covid-19. However, it is very easy to get carried away with the noise that currently surrounds online learning. Yes, it certainly has changed things at the moment and these changed circumstances do present an opportunity; but what type of opportunity one might ask? I’m quite inclined to agree with Sean Michael Morris who argues that “a crisis is not an opportunity, unless it is for bringing communities together”. Where, I would ask are the opportunities offered by online learning if there is little or no equity? We may all be away from our respective campuses, but some are more remote than others, and I don’t just mean geographically. Inability to access good quality broadband (as a result of location and/or cost), having to share computers with family members, lack of privacy in smaller or overcrowded housing units; reliance on assistive technology that is no longer available. These are just some of the issues faced by students as they try an manage a situation for which they, their institutions and society were wholly unprepared. I hope that the wholesale ‘pivot’ is not seen in terms of being a virtual crossing of the rubicon, ushering in a ‘sunlit uplands’ post Covid-19 era where higher education is more open and accessible by virtue of moving online.

In the presentation I included a slide where I posited ‘What’s Needed for Successful Online/Blended?’ Raising those points I was very mindful that there has been a plethora of excellent pieces offering sound advice such as: Nordman et al’s (2020) 10 simple rules for supporting a temporary online pivot in higher education; the Online Learning Consortium’s (2020) Delivering High-Quality Instruction Online in Response to COVID-19 – Faculty Playbook and George Valetsianos (2020) The 7 elements of a good online course. The points I raised were simply about starting the process of considering what needs to be done, especially as we have a short time to pause and plan before the next academic year. I asked about considering the bandwidth necessary to access course materials. This is not just a technical issue it is about adaptation and consideration for others. When posting material on the web, educators need to consider the resources that their students have; something as simple as converting a data heavy PowerPoint to a PDF may make a big difference to students without hi-speed broadband or on a limited data package. The same consideration needs to be extended to acknowledging the increasing range of devices used by students, especially mobile devices. We simply cannot continue to make the same assumptions we previously made; where even those (traditional non-distance) students that had limited connectivity and access to computers could at least go on campus. Take away access to their physical campus or their local municipal library as happend during the lockdown and the fragility of many student’s resource networks is cruelly exposed.

Highlighting the difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning, Hodges et al. (2020) remind us to

“Consider how much infrastructure exists around face-to-face education that supports student success…Face-to-face education isn’t successful because lecturing is good. Lectures are one instructional aspect of an overall ecosystem specifically designed to support learners with formal, informal, and social resources”.

Face-to-face (on-campus) students are not only accessing their lectures on campus; they can access the admissions office; the finance office; the Chaplain, their departmental secretary; counselling services, the library, student support services and socialise with friends and classmates all in one physical space.  

Regardless of whether a course is delivered wholly on-campus, blended or wholly online the college ecosystem is complex. However, as we move into a new post-Covid-19 reality we need to acknowledge and address the deficits that have been exposed over the past three or four months. But let us not get seduced by purely technical responses – as the figure below highlights; it is a network of people that are and should be at the heart of the college ecosystem, without a humane and connected community the rest is all just noise. Characterising what is needed is a pedagogy of care, Bozkurt et al. (2020, p.4) contend that:

“A key part of a pedagogy of care is listening to students and engaging in open and authentic dialogue  particularly marginalised and disadvantaged students who are struggling with  the compounded effects of inequities that already exist in educational systems as a result of this sudden pivot to emergency remote education and providing additional and stronger support to address these concerns and challenges”.

CC BYThis license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. 

In part 2 of the blog I will suggest what this pedagogy of care might look like.

Free? Yes. Open? No. Bronze Open Access Journal Articles as OERs.


The title of this blog is inspired by the title of a presentation ( by myself and Eamon Costello at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in Simon Fraser University in April 2019. As part of the editorial team of the Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, an open access, peer reviewed journal published by the Irish Learning Technology Association, myself and Eamon have a strong interest and commitment to open access publishing. 


This interest has manifested itself in a number of ways (including a workshop at OER 19); however, the main empirical thrust of our work is a review of open access publishing from 2010-2017 [Paper submitted and under consideration]. Over the past year we (along with Tony Murphy) have been tracking Gold Open Access (OA) papers across 30 Educational Technology Hybrid Journals. As part of our background research it quickly become apparent that there is a wide range of terms associated with openness. For example, in terms of classification of openness there is Diamond and Platinum, Gold, Green and Bronze OA; all of which confer different degrees of copyright, ownership, cost and ultimately: access. As a consequence there is the potential for misunderstanding on the part of both consumers and producers of articles. 

Ostensibly, while the research has examined Gold OA papers in hybrid journals we also tracked the availability of Free or what are sometimes referred to as Bronze Open Access papers.  In his article [Bronze, Free or Fourrée] Eamon Costello (2018) describes Bronze in the following terms:

“Bronze shares attributes of Gold and Hybrid; like both, Bronze OA articles are publisher-hosted. Unlike Gold OA, Bronze articles are not published in journals considered open access in the DOAJ. Unlike Hybrid, Bronze articles carry no license information. Although this lack of identifiable license may not be intentional, without an identifiable license, the articles are free to read but do not allow extended reuse rights beyond reading”.

As such, this type of ‘Bronze’ articles certainly fall short of David Wiley’s 5Rs of openness; offering at best a limited and ultimately an unstable level of access. If a journal article is to become a useful and realistic Open Educational Resource (OER) it needs to be available and accessible. Thus, if an article can be withdrawn at any time it makes it very difficult if not impossible to meaningfully incorporate it into a teaching and learning strategy. At least with a subscription journal article you know where you stand, both as a user and an author and can act accordingly.

This begged the question: just how transient are these free Bronze access papers? Perhaps they were more stable/unstable than we imagined? Tracking the Free articles as well as the Gold access journals provided us with the opportunity to answer this question. 

Data Collection

The top 30 EdTech journals were selected from the Scimajo Journal Ranking (SJR) website which is powered by Scopus.  Individual journals were searched with the number of open access and free access articles per issue recorded. The initial search of the 30 journals was carried out  the start of the 2018/2019 academic year in early September 2018 which resulted in over 7,500 articles being identified. Out of this 7,500 articles just over 220 were noted as being gold open access while 161 were recorded as being free. Subsequently the free articles were tracked per issue at three further collection points:   the end of the first semester in December 2018; the end of the second semester in June 2019 and again the start of the academic year in the first week of September 2019. At each point in time the number of Gold and Free (Bronze) Access papers was noted and tracked over the year. In terms of categorization, only the number of original articles were recorded – editorials, errata, addenda or book reviews were discounted.


Of the 30 journal titles, fourteen had no free articles at the start or at any time throughout the year:

Internet Reference Services Quarterly 0
IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies 0
Distance Education 0
Interactive Learning Environments 0
College and Undergraduate Libraries 0
International Journal of Lifelong Education 0
Education and Information Technologies 0
Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning 0
International Review of Education 0
International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 0
International Journal of Distance Education Technologies 0
Journal of Global Information Technology Management 0
International Journal of Game-Based Learning 0
American Journal of Distance Education 0
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 1
Open Learning 1
Learning Environments Research 1
Reference Services Review 3
Adult Education Quaterly 3
Transforming Government: People 4
Internet and Higher Education 5
International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation 5
Electronic Government 5
New Review of Academic Librarianship 9
Information Technology for Development 10
Government Information Quarterly 13
Computers and Education 16
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 17
International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education 27
British Journal of Educational Technology 41

While it is our intention to publish a full paper shortly with a more detailed analysis of the data a number of issues are particularly noteworthy, not least the dramatic fall in the availability of the free articles over a one year period where we noted an almost 75% drop in availability.









This dramatic drop is very evident when one looks at a number of the individual titles. For example, the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) had one of the most dramatic drops; dropping from 41 in September 2018 to 11 by September 2019. The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning went from 17 to 0 during the same period of time. In some instances entire issues that had previously been free were no longer available without charge. 

As previously noted, it is our intention to formally publish a more comprehensive commentary piece drawing on the data. However, we consider that the data is of sufficient interest to the OA and OER community that in the interim it will inform and stimulate further discussion.

Please cite as: Farrelly, T., Costello, E. & Murphy, T. (2019) Free? Yes. Open? No. Bronze Open Access Journal Articles as OERs. Available from

Gasta at #altc in Edinburgh

Phew, what can I say. Three days at #altc with a Gasta each day in one of the most stunning venues I have even been in, the University of Edinburgh’s McEwan Hall.

McEwan hall

27 Presenters over the three days or should I say Gastateers all of who entered into the spirit of things, providing engaging and lively presentations and in the majority of cases (to the disappointment of the crowd) kept perfectly to time. It certainly isn’t easy being counted in and counted to STOP if you run over your allotted 5 minutes.

Talking about the crowd, I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who actively engaged in the stomping, counting and swaying and more importantly, this years’ addition to the mayhem: singing!!! Gasta only really works if everyone comes with a positive attitude and makes a commitment to get involved. It’s all to easy for presenters at the end of the day to feel that they are part of the ‘graveyard’ shift 😦

Gasta (hopefully) encourages presenters to feel that they are part of something bigger and provide the audience with something to buoy them up at the end of the day. As MC (I don’t think the term Chair really does it in this case) I am genuinely impressed with the way that the presenters condense their work into a manageable and interesting chunk as they know that unlike other conferences five minutes means five minutes. Lightening talks take great skill; it reminds me of the phrase: I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter, I didn’t have the time to write a short one.

For me that is the most important thing about Gasta – it provides people a chance to give a shout out about their work and invite people to engage in a further conversation. How many times have you made a decision to go or not to a presentation on the basis of a title or an abstract? By sitting through a series of presentations that you know will finish on time, I believe that you are more likely to sit and be exposed to ideas, concepts and areas of work that may be new or novel that you otherwise might not have considered going to hear about.  And if nothing else it should get the blood flowing and the lungs exercised, surely not a bad thing at the end of the day?

I just want to say a huge thanks to, Maren Deepwell and ALT for their kind invitation,  Martin Hawksy who ran everything so beautifully in the background and my good pal and timekeeper Lawrie Phipps who kept us all honest!


Judging by the Tweet from Margaret Adamson we certainly got people talking.


Finally, here is a series of links from the ALT YouTube Channel with videos of the the 2019 Gasta sessions.

Gasta Sessions A-145, A-175, A-036, A-042, A-070, A-072, A-103, A-150

#altc – Gasta Sessions A-049, A-060, A-127, A-156, A-023, A-046, A-058, A-082, A-029

#altc – Gasta Sessions A-103, A-078, A-009, A-054, A-061, A-091, A-046, A-120, A-123

Continue reading “Gasta at #altc in Edinburgh”

You’ve been GastaEdTeched!

After a number of years I’ve finally got the wherewithal to set up a Gasta page. Seeing my good friend and collaborator Tony Murphy get into the Blog water before me I decided that it has high time to get off the fence myself.

First of all, what is a Gasta session?

A number of years ago myself and Tony Murphy of the E-learning unit in IT Tralee responded to the Irish Learning Technology Association’s (ILTA) call to host its annual conference. The call asked ideas that could add to the conference. In the submission I suggested the idea of a quick 5 minute presentation that incorporated a lot of participation on the part of the audience. Not wanting to use the protected term Pecha Kucha and in keeping with the Irish nature of the conference I decided to use the Irish word Gasta indicating quick or fast or rapid. Although IT Tralee were unsuccessful in the bid, the idea of Gasta was incorporated into the EdTech Conference for the first time in 2014. The aim is to create an engaging and lively atmosphere that affords presenters the opportunity to raise awareness about their work in a short period of time and thus give as many people as possible an opportunity in a relatively short period of time.

Over the past few year I have slightly tweaked the format but if you are going to host a Gasta session it should follow these principles:

  1. There should be an emphasis on energy and engagement on the part of the MC and the presenters – it’s often a good session to have towards the end of the day when levels of energy and interest may be waning.
  2. While there are no specific requirements in terms of technology, presenters should be mindful of relying on technology and platforms where there are a lot of moving parts so to speak.
  3. Organisers should ensure that all the presentations are readily available to each presenter in order to make the changeovers as seamlessly as possible.
  4. The MC should remind the audience that these micro presentations are intended to just provide a ‘shout out’ about the ‘project/research/initiative’ and should members of the audience want further information that they engage with the presenters after the slot.
  5. All presentations are counted in (5 to 1 or 1-5); generally in Irish in keeping with the theme but where appropriate the MC can make the decision as to the language – that said the countdown should finish with a resounding GASTA! from the audience, at which point in time the MC leaves the stage.
  6. Presenters should be alerted when they have one minute left and when they have 10 seconds left.
  7. When the 5 minutes is up the MC moves back to the stage, giving the presenter 5 seconds grace. At 5.05 the MC and audience countdown from 5 to 1 and that is the END of the presentation! Ideally the Gasta should be times between 4.50 and 5.00 for maximum use of time.
  8. The 2019 edition of Gasta has an added twist. Rather than the conference organiser allocating a time for each presenter all the presenters are allocated an overall Gasta time with each presenter allocated a number from 1 up. Using a random number generator the speakers are allocated a slot one by one with the next speaker only called at the end of the previous speaker’s slot.
  9. ENJOY!!

Certainly, not a requirement but anybody hosting a Gasta session might consider acknowledging @ILTATweets and myself @TomFarrelly.

Gasta goes across the water!

It was wonderful to be invited to unleash the madness that is Gasta at the 2018 ALT Conference in Manchester although I must admit that I was a little worried to see if the ‘crowd’ would embrace the concept, as you can see from the video, I need not have worried, it was a great session with everybody getting involved. One of the presenters in Manchester was Clint Lalonde from British Columbia in Canada who took the message back across the water; as I write, it is great to see that the ETUG 25th Anniversary Conference in Thompson Rivers University, BC, Canada is featuring a Gasta session.