Zoom and Hibernia College in a Time of COVID-19

For about a year now, we at Hibernia College have been engaged in a focused dialogue on the future of teaching and learning at the College. With 20 years of experience providing blended-learning programmes, we wanted to reflect on what we had learned and to consider how we might build on these lessons for the future. In addition, technology had moved on. In the last decade, cloud technologies, in particular, offered new potential for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

From my perspective as Head of Digital learning, I was interested in two particular questions:

  1. What will teaching and learning look like in the next 5 to 10 years?
  2. What digital architectures will we need to put into place to support this?

We organised a series of workshops, open to all, on various topics to get the input of the College departments and the executive management team on their vision for the future of the College in relation to these two questions. Some of the topics covered included the use of mobile technologies in Hibernia College’s future, student identity and the student journey, and collaborative learning and research.

One of the workshops focused on the use of video in teaching and learning. It became clear that the majority of participants expected to see much greater use of video in the decade ahead. In line with our collaborative learning model, we envisaged a virtual video network in which students could not only engage with staff and faculty but in which they could collaborate and learn together in richer and more engaging ways. In parallel with these discussions, we were evaluating the various video platforms on the market.

In April 2019 we opened discussions with Zoom. Some of the Zoom leadership had a background with WebEx and were regarded as wizards with video in particular. We ran a series of pilots and, after a number of months, selected Zoom as our preferred choice. All of this occurred before Zoom became a household name or any of us had heard of COVID-19. We deployed the solution at the beginning of 2020 and trained staff in the use of the product. When the coronavirus epidemic hit us in March, we were, therefore, in a much better position to deal with its educational consequences. It has been a crazy busy time converting our blended offering into one that is wholly online for the moment. However, it would have been much more difficult without Zoom in place.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 the Zoom platform has been challenged in many ways. The user base has grown from 10 million daily users to over 300 million. It has faced scrutiny over its security practices and been used in scenarios not originally envisaged when the product was designed. There has been much discussion on teacher forums about whether Zoom was safe to use with students or even for staff communications. So, recently, I spoke with Jane Ross, Head of Public Sector for the UK and Ireland at Zoom, to discuss some of these items. Here is a link to a 10-minute extract from that conversation. Jane is quite frank in her discussion of their successes and challenges, and I thought it would be interesting to share it with you. Let me know if you have any comments on any of this or whether there are other topics you would like me to cover in this blog. You can contact me at teachersupport@hiberniacollege.net.

Kind regards,

Fran McKeagney

Head of Digital Learning

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Fran McKeagney