AONTAS Membership Webinar Focuses on Best Practice in Online Learning

2 Oct 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact on the provision of learning, AONTAS members have expressed the need to learn new teaching methods and best practices for engaging with learners and supporting peer collaboration during emergency response online teaching. In a recent weekly membership webinar AONTAS Head of Advocacy, Dearbháil Lawless, outlined innovative activities for delivering programmes online while staying focussed on the principles of adult learning. 78 members from adult education organisations nationwide joined us to share creative ideas for teaching and learning online.

This webinar focused on the emergency response that teaching educators across Ireland have adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stress, anxiety, depression, bereavement, financial worries and a variety of other factors are impacting our daily lives and can have an effect the health and wellbeing of both educators and learners. This is a very different experience of teaching and learning. As counties across Ireland face the persistent possibility of moving into stricter COVID-19 restrictions, the need to be prepared to deliver classes online is ever present. 

Above all else, our responsibility is to ensure that the needs of learners are met. Developing innovative and effective online teaching methods is one-way AONTAS members are continuing to support their learners and communities.

Dearbháil gave an overview of how members are already equipped with a strong foundation of how to build positive relationships with learners, based on the key principles of respect, understanding, empathy and kindness. Ensuring that these principles are adhered to in an online is a challenge that members are already rising to. The social aspect of adult learning is difficult to replicate in an online context and members shared examples of using use warm-up activities and virtual coffee breaks to help learners feel comfortable.

Dearbháil highlighted the innovation present in adult and community education organisations across Ireland, including in Dublin 8 Community Education Centre where each learner’s digital skills are prioritised as they enter their programme. Members have worked to build peer learning and engagement remotely. For example, Dublin Adult Learning Centre’s Reflective Journal activities have encouraged learners to complete writing tasks during the summer months while Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board issued postcards to learners during the initial lockdown restrictions.


In breakout-room discussions, AONTAS members shared examples of the teaching practices they have implemented during the last few months, highlighting areas in which they will require additional support for emergency response teaching. A majority of groups have reported using digital platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom and WhatsApp as a means of carrying out lessons and connecting with learners. Members emphasised a need for extensive training in digital technologies for both learners and tutors who face lower levels of digital skills. This included the need for training in platforms including Zoom, Canva, PowerPoint.

Whilst the use of online technologies has facilitated learning, that cannot take the place of the physical classroom where relationships are built, social interaction is vital to learning. The innovative ways AONTAS members have adapted to this lack of face-to-face communication is to be celebrated. AONTAS will continue to listen to the concerns of members and the voices of learners as teaching in the pandemic context continues.

If you have further feedback on this topic, please get in touch with AONTAS Head of Advocacy, Dearbháil Lawless at: For a copy of the presentation please email AONTAS Communications and Membership Officer, Barry Dolan at:

Members may find the following resources useful:


To register for future AONTAS membership update and engagement webinars visit our Events page.