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.  

Fostering Transformative Mindsets: Innovation and Excellence in Teaching through the Global AdvanceHE Fellowships Scheme

The value and importance of investing in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for those who teach has never been more obvious than over recent weeks in the global pivot to teaching online. Arguably, teaching has never been more complex as educators now have many more options to consider and technologies available to them in the learning design process. Hopefully, when our physical campuses open again, the legacy of the COVID-19 experience will be a generation of educators more aware of the range of online teaching and learning options, with a better understanding of why, when and how to more fully embed them to support a transformative curriculum.

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Dublin City University (DCU) is committed to a transformative student learning experience. It follows that our capacity to deliver on this institutional commitment is highly dependent on achieving our goal of fostering an innovative and transformative learning environment for our teachers and those who support teaching. An important part of cultivating such an environment is valuing the importance of teaching, recognising teaching excellence, sharing examples of good teaching practice and promoting the continuing professional learning of DCU staff. The University’s Strategic Plan and Teaching & Learning Strategy outlines a multifaceted approach to meeting this goal. One of the initiatives that we are undertaking to support our transformative mission is adoption of the AdvanceHE fellowship scheme.  

DCU.jpgAn AdvanceHE  Fellowship demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Across four categories, from Associate to Principal, Fellowship provides individuals with recognition of their practice, impact and leadership of teaching and learning. AdvanceHE Fellowships have been adopted by higher education institutions globally, with over 128,000 individuals from across the world who have become Fellows of AdvanceHE (previously Higher Education Academy). This global recognition of teaching expertise is particularly important in the university context as academic staff routinely work with international colleagues around the world. 

After visiting a number of universities in the UK and Australia highly engaged in the programme, DCU formally launched a pilot of the Fellowship Scheme in October 2019.  In the first phase, three staff members were nominated by each faculty to apply for a “Senior Fellowship” along with members of the Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU). Five staff have successfully completed their fellowships with a further four expecting to hear good news shortly. The remaining staff aim to complete their submission by portfolio by the end of June. Furthermore, six graduates from our postgraduate certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education are finalising their submissions for “Associate Fellow” for May 2020.

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Phase two of the pilot is now underway with discussions through Associate Deans for Teaching and Learning (ADTL) to help identify the next cohort of DCU staff to participate in this internationally recognised scheme. The next phase also involves the development of a DCU Teaching Excellence Academy where in partnership with the TEU we can harness the experience of our Senior Fellows in supporting the CPD of their colleagues. This initiative recognises the importance of discipline differences along with the complex and distributed nature of teaching expertise, and seeks to build through the Fellowship Scheme transformative pedagogical mindsets for the design of transformative learning experiences.