Two Months on… Reflections on DCU’s Teaching and Learning Week

It’s two months ago since the Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU) at DCU hosted Teaching & Learning Week prior to the start of the new academic year. This event normally takes place over a full-day on a DCU campus and has become a real highlight in the annual calendar of university events. This year a decision was made quite early in light of ongoing Covid-19 challenges to host an online event.

T&L Week set us up for the new “hybrid” semester

While there have been many online professional development events since March a lot of time and planning was involved in trying to design something that would be engaging and model good practice in online learning for DCU staff. For this reason the event was intentionally spread over the week of 14th to 18th September.  Just to remind those of you with short memories, this week was just before further restrictions were introduced in Dublin and then more widely due to the pandemic.

Building on DCU’s adoption of an hybrid learning approach, the event was carefully designed to graft together the best of several approaches. There were showcases of good practice from across faculties and time for reflection to ensure that the DCU community could continue to share and engage in discussions about teaching, learning and assessment both for and during these extraordinary times.

Strong interest from DCU staff in the launch of T&L Week

The event started with a welcome message from DCU’s President and some valuable insights from award winning educators from this year’s President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, To engage staff in a topical issue a live workshop followed on the issue of “contract cheating”. Other lively interactive sessions included a discussion on “students as partners in assessment”, supported by podcasts and asynchronous online discussions which were centred on the theme of “Pedagogy in Practice: Teaching Excellence, In-class and Online.”

Live sessions augmented with short video nuggets

This mix of synchronous and asynchronous resources and activities in a hybrid format were offered through our Moodle instance, internally called Loop, supported by Zoom webinars and recordings which enabled staff to engage with the resources at times and places that best suited their busy schedules leading up to the new semester. A highlight over the week was the launch of the “Edge of Discovery” podcast series which attracted over 175 downloads by the end of the week. There are now 9 podcasts as part of this series with an increasing level of interest in listening to these short recordings with experienced DCU educators.

The dedicated Loop page had over 3,300 interactions by DCU staff during the week incorporating 415 unique visitors. Importantly, the online space facilitated learning to continue beyond the designated week with over 200 interactions occurring over the following week.

The continuing echo from the week even two months on highlights one of the benefits of a longer online event as opposed to our more traditional single-day, in-place, face to face event. Drawing on this experience and the benefit of our further reflections we see real value in taking lessons from this year’s Teaching and Learning Week to refine the design of future events across both formats to develop an even better hybrid model.

Given that plans for a return to campus changed shortly after Teaching & Learning Week, the TEU team was pleased to create an opportunity for so many DCU staff to connect with each other and engage with best practices around online pedagogy during these challenging times.  We hope the event helped many DCU staff to transition back to teaching online following DCU’s hybrid model with a few new ideas and suggestions to enhance the student learning experience.

Sincere thanks to all our contributors who made this year’s hybrid Teaching & Learning Week such a success:  Ann Marie Farrell, Martin Brown, Joanne Lynch, Lucien Waugh-Daly, Suzanne Stone, Orla Bourke, Roisin Lyons, Fiona O’ Riordan, Rob Lowney, and Orna Farrell.