CPD in the “New” Old Fashioned Way

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.

References

Donlon, E. (2021). Lost and found: the academic conference in pandemic and post-pandemic timesIrish Educational Studies, 1-7.

Foster, T., & Warwick, S. (2018). Nostalgia, gamification and staff development–moving staff training away from didactic deliveryResearch in Learning Technology26.

Have Your Say on the Role and Potential of Micro-credentials

Last week, Google announced 1,000 scholarships for Dublin job seekers through a partnership with Coursera. The opportunity this initiative provides to complete a range of short online courses and earn certificates in IT, data analytics, project management and UX design is part of an increasing global trend towards alternative credentials.

These credentials, often referred to as micro-credentials, are claimed by their proponents to more flexible and responsive to current employment needs than traditional university qualifications.

While the currency of these short awards and certificates may not yet rival the value of a full degree, and debate continues over where they fit in the credential ecology, the Madrid Micro-credential Statement arising from last month’s EDEN Conference observed that alternative credentials appear to be the next big thing! There is growing expectancy over the role micro-credentials may play in the future. For instance, a recent global survey of 320 higher education leaders conducted by HolonIQ reports that:

“Over 85% of institutions see alternative and micro-credentials as an important strategy for their future.”

A similar level of expectancy was apparent from participant responses shown below to a poll conducted earlier in the year as part of the course Higher Education 4:0: Certifying your Future.

Given the claims and promises of micro-credentials, it is not surprising that discussions on their role and relationship to traditional macro-credentials are progressing rapidly at national, European, and indeed global levels. Importantly, last year, the European Commission (2020) published a major report proposing a common European-wide definition. However, there are many questions that need to be considered in current discussions, as outlined in the above mentioned Madrid Micro-credential Statement, including:

  • What are the problems that micro-credentials are trying to solve?
  • Who do micro-credentials serve?
  • How do you develop and implement micro-credentials?
  • What problems stand in the way of micro-credentials reaching general acceptance?
  • Will micro-credentials live up to the promise they offer?

Currently, several members of the NIDL team are busy undertaking a comprehensive review of the international literature on micro-credentials to help answer some of these questions as part of a wider project for the European Commission. While this literature review is intended to inform the current European policy context the pertinent question, however, at an individual or organisational level is…

What do you think?

Whether a learner, educator, employee, employer, institution or policy-maker, you have a stake in shaping the future of further and higher education. And as highlighted in a recently published report by Skillnet Ireland, A Micro-credential Roadmap: Currency, Cohesion and Consistency, micro-credentials will only work as intended to help close skill gaps and increase participation in lifelong learning when everyone comes to the table. As Nic Giolla Mhichíl et al. (2020) write:

“There is a risk of the transformative potential of Micro-credentials being diminished if the full range of stakeholders do not participate actively in discussion” (p.9).

How can you get involved?

The European Commission have launched a public consultation process to collect the views of individuals and stakeholders on a European-wide approach to micro-credentials for life-long learning and employability. This is your opportunity to share your views on the proposed definition and the most important aspects of micro-credentials to you. This consultation process will remain open until 13th July 2021 so don’t miss your opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

On a related note, the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education has opened an avenue for deeper scholarly discussion and knowledge-sharing through its special issue focusing on micro-credentials. This open access Journal, now ranked 18th out of 263 Education journals in the latest Impact Factor results published last week, is providing an opportunity to consider the “next new normal” for digitally-enhanced and -enabled learning in higher education systems. In particular, the Journal is seeking papers that critically and analytically examine the role of micro-credentials in higher education.

You can read more about this special issue and how to submit a manuscript on the journal website, with a submission deadline of 31st July 2021.

Lastly, please note that the NIDL Micro-credential Observatory provides a comprehensive collection of research, major reports and policy-related literature on micro-credentials. Make sure you take a look at the resources available through this site when preparing your journal submission or response to the public consultation process.