“Highly Commended Award” for Team Innovation for Student Success Toolbox Project

The Student Success Toolbox project, led by a team within the National Institute for Digital Learning, has received a “highly commended award” for team innovation in teaching and learning from the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU). The award was presented during an ECIU showcase event to a large audience of invited guests in Brussels on Thursday 30th November.

Team Award

This project seeks to address the problem of effective transitions and the foundations for student success during the initial stages of the study lifecycle with a specific focus on flexible learners. Enhancing retention and completion rates of this group of flexible learners is a significant problem both globally and within the Irish context. The Student Success Toolbox project was supported by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education under the Building Digital Capacity fund. It was a collaborative project involving Dublin City University, Sligo Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Toolbox

The particular focus of this project is on supporting flexible learners through key transitions in the early stages of the study lifecycle: from thinking about study, making choices, the registration process and through to the first few weeks. A basic premise of the project is that the foundations for student success start early in the study lifecycle, and that insufficient attention has been given in the literature and within institutions to the importance of the period before flexible learners formally commence their study.

A related underlying assumption is that this crucial transition period may be enhanced by the availability of appropriately designed digital readiness and preparation tools, which help to scaffold both prospective students and those about to embark on part time or online/distance study for the first time. In this project eight digital readiness and preparation tools were developed as Open Educational Resources (OERs) with a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence. The eight tools can be viewed on the project website, and can be downloaded and adapted by other institutions from the project’s Github webpage.

Promoting Innovations in Teaching and Learning

The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) values the opportunity it has to actively contribute to promoting innovation in teaching and learning through Dublin City University’s membership of the European Consortium for Innovative Universities (ECIU). The ECIU has a collective mission of ‘challenging conventional thinking’ through a collective emphasis on promoting innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.

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A week or so ago members of the Steering Committee for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, chaired by Professor Mark Brown, met in Copenhagen to review a range of activities over 2017 and plan a number of new initiatives for the year ahead.  This meeting took place at Aalborg University alongside the annual meeting of ECIU Rectors and Presidents and therefore brought together some of the leading and most influential innovators in European higher education.

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The Steering Committee supports activities ranging from regular masterclasses, leadership initiatives, exchanges for sharing of innovative practice, awards for innovations in teaching and learning, and scholarly activities which promote a strong nexus between research and teaching. With a common focus on fostering innovation the following teaching and learning statement encapsulates the shared understanding of ECIU members:

“We believe that teaching in higher education really matters. Therefore, our members share a commitment to the development of high quality educational practices which promote innovation and the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning. As ECIU partners, we value a strong nexus between research and teaching in order to fulfill such a vision. We strive to provide a modern, engaging and research-intensive learning environment, which builds on the diversity and collective strength of our respective institutional cultures, our approaches to teaching, and our students.

The ECIU has a specific interest in seeking out creative, learning-centred and future-focused teaching approaches that foster social entrepreneurship and smart use of technology. We aspire to create the conditions for developing critical responsible citizenship for inclusive and diverse societies. Our members foster real world competencies and make this possible by engaging our students with industry, professional bodies and community partners.

In summary, the ECIU represents a leading international cluster of technological and comprehensive universities who are committed to a bold mission of “Challenging Conventional Thinking” for tomorrow’s world, today.”

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In late November 2017, the annual Team Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning will be presented in Brussels. Importantly, this award recognises that most successful and sustainable innovations involve a team of educators working towards a common goal. In 2018, the Steering Committee also plans to host a special ECIU event once again in Brussels to explore the future of teaching and learning in the wider context of the modernisation of European universities. Accordingly, it follows that our own NIDL team looks forward to contributing to this event as supporting new models of digital learning and teaching is likely to feature prominently in the programme.