The Dublin City University (DCU) Teaching and Learning Week 2021 took place in early September. This event is run annually by the Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU), traditionally over a single day, face-to-face. In 2020, Teaching and Learning Day became ‘Teaching and Learning Week’ with online events scheduled over a full week.
This format was adopted again for 2021 with the event run over three consecutive days. Our DCU colleague, Enda Donlon (2021), discusses the of myriad changes forced upon academic conferences during the Covid pandemic but lauds the creativity in formats and reimagined solutions that have ensued. One such format referenced by Donlon is “a combination of live-streamed presentations and pre-recorded content”, which was the approach taken for the 2020/2021 Teaching and Learning events.
The theme of the 2021 event was influenced by the wealth of resources from webinars, blogs, and academic papers discussing the impacts to teaching of the current COVID-19 pandemic (many available in the NIDL resource bank). All highlight the significant shift in educational practices caused by the move to online teaching and learning.
This change has not been easy; learning new pedagogies and technologies, trying to engage and support students, all whilst living and working through pandemic anxiety and fatigue has been challenging.
The Teaching & Learning Week event sought to offer an opportunity to pause, reflect, and consider the impact of this on future teaching approaches but utilise a playful approach to ward off Zoom fatigue and create an engaging learning environment.
As well as the now traditional Zoom presentations, the 2021 event included novel learning formats including recorded fireside chats with students, virtual worlds with Topia, and synchronous and asynchronous escape rooms activities on the below themes:
- Enhancing engagement in the online space through playful practices
- Promoting a pedagogy of care
- Impactful technology integration beyond Covid
Feedback indicated that the Escape rooms were particularly interesting to staff and having participated they are likely to use this form of immersive problem-solving experience to engage their own learners. In the words of a couple of DCU colleagues…
“I think that the Escape is a fabulous idea”;
“Thanks for a really interesting session, …. I’d be very interested in using some of/replicating your session for a tutorial class in a first year module”.
Two escape rooms were offered as part of the programme; one to support podcasting skills and the other to promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approaches in the Moodle virtual learning environment. In addition, the playful approach was continued in the social spaces of Teaching & Learning week. A Topia virtual world was designed to encompass areas to sit and chat as well as a virtual dance floor where numerous participants were able to share their moves!
Over 100 participants attended the live sessions and over 220 engaged with the online resources and activities on the custom Moodle page this year. In conjunction with Teaching and Learning Week, new episodes of the Edge of Discovery podcast series were launched; some specially recorded as submissions for the annual CPD event.
Increasing staff workload can lead to less time to focus on professional development activities (Foster & Warwick, 2018) and during a global pandemic where educators have been frantically trying to change pedagogies and embrace new technologies, this has never been more relevant. In the spirit of bringing the best back from COVID, and to enable the ongoing engagement of DCU staff, all online resources will remain available on the custom Moodle page.
Finally, a special thanks to Lisa Donaldson who took a lead role in planning this year’s event. Many thanks to Lisa and the wider TEU team.
Donlon, E. (2021). Lost and found: the academic conference in pandemic and post-pandemic times. Irish Educational Studies, 1-7.
Foster, T., & Warwick, S. (2018). Nostalgia, gamification and staff development–moving staff training away from didactic delivery. Research in Learning Technology, 26.