Moving online: tales of a CBE educational technologist

27 October 2020

At the start of 2020, Hollie Herne was a quiet achiever helping academics improve their Wattle sites. Fast forward 10 months and everyone in the ANU College of Business & Economics (CBE) knows who she is.

Hollie was at the forefront of moving CBE's teaching online. As an Educational Technologist, Hollie assists academics with achieving their goals by connecting them with the most appropriate tech capability.

CBE had a slight head start with their COVID-19 education response. Hollie explained:

"When COVID-19 kicked off, we thought it was only going to affect international students. Because we have lots of international students in our College, we already knew we would have to adapt, well before COVID-19 had arrived in Australia. This really helped us...by the time we got to the Teaching Pause, we had some strategies in place."

Prior to the Teaching Pause, there was still much to be done. Hollie became the go-to person for all questions about technology-enabled teaching in an increasingly uncertain teaching landscape. With necessity being the mother of invention, Hollie and her colleagues had no choice but to jump into action.

In the first instance, Hollie was invited to sit down with key players from CBE to discuss what online teaching might look like. Key questions were answered: what are teaching staff concerned about? What type of technology capability did they need?

Following this, Hollie surveyed CBE  teaching staff to fully understand what an online transition would require. This survey proved invaluable for designing the College's transition plans.

Up next was a major drive to upskill and empower academics to feel confident in online delivery. Hollie and her colleagues created a drop-in space - people could come in, sit down with someone and get the help they needed.

Whilst managing this transition was intense, Hollie really enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of her role.

"I have really enjoyed being creative and thinking outside the box. When someone approached me with a problem, I liked considering how we can solve the problem using the tools and levers we had available." 

Hollie was impressed with how generous other Colleges and Divisions were with their support during the early days of uncertainty.

"The Centre for Learning & Teaching and the College of Law were very helpful. They recognized how huge our workload was, so some of their team jumped on board to help us out. It was a very dynamic environment."

Another aspect of CBE's transition online which impressed Hollie was a willingness amongst staff to share expertise.

"The College did a great job of communicating the idea that if you were knowledgeable about platforms like Wattle, then you should help others out. So many people took on extra work to facilitate this peer-to-peer sharing. Many of CBE's research schools started running weekly sessions to get the conversations going."

For Hollie, this year has highlighted some of the unresolved tensions in education technology. On one hand, this year has showed that education can be adapted online, and that technology enables us to connect with people across the world. On the other hand, it has emphasised the perennial importance of face-to-face interaction.

"This year has helped me better understand the balance between online and in-person education. I have always been a massive advocate of using technology, but I have definitely been reminded about the importance of the little things, like bumping into people and having a chat in the corridor."

Hollie's hard work to support CBE's transition online has not gone unnoticed. Her supervisor, CBE's Manager of Education Governance Louise Barclay, was glowing in her reviews of Hollie:

"Everyone who deals with Hollie will attest that she is highly responsive, efficient and professional in her manner. She is one of the unsung heroes of CBE and ANU."

CBE Associate Dean (Education) Dr Bronwen Whiting agrees:

"Hollie has been adaptable, approachable, and accessible throughout the whole of 2020 - when academics first wanted to explore what they could do through Wattle, she guided them; and when the need became more pressing, she advised and assisted with incredible levels of patience and problem solving.

"Every member of CBE who speaks about her compliments her knowledge and skills in the educational technology field, but also her ability to meet each of us where we are, and ensure that after every interaction colleagues leave feeling understood, and understanding the answers and options."

Thank you, Hollie, for everything you have done for CBE and ANU this year.