Open Education – DCU Connected Tutor Awards and Festive Coffee Morning

Usually around this time of year, everyone in the Open Education Unit would be celebrating the season together with festive treats and mulled wine. While 2020 has been a very different one, that hasn’t stopped us from celebrating the hard work and commitment of our many DCU Connected tutors working for Open Education. Accordingly, last week we hosted a virtual Festive Coffee Morning to recognise their hard work and commitment to supporting our fully online DCU Connected programmes. With an attendance of over 40 people from all of the country, and indeed the world, it was a fantastic way to end the year and reconnect with colleagues after a challenging few months.

Every year, we recognise three of our 90+ part-time teaching staff with awards for excellence in teaching and this year is no different. Receiving their awards in the post and getting a special mention at our coffee morning, we made sure their work was recognised. This year’s awardees are profiled below…

DCU Connected BA in Humanities Tutor of the Year – Dr Sophia Pallaro

Sophia has a passion for sociology and is extremely thorough with her explanations and engaging tutorials. She has an infectious enthusiasm for sociology and provides unambiguous feedback on assignments while being very encouraging. Sophia is always very helpful, informative and enthusiastic which resonates with all her students.

Student Feedback:

  • I found the tutorials both informative and stimulating and appreciated the opportunities Sophia gave us for discussion
  • I really enjoyed this module. Sophia is a very engaging and encouraging tutor. 
  • Sophia was very helpful throughout the module with very clear directions and really helpful feedback on all my assignments.

DCU Connected IT Programmes Tutor of the Year – Philip Carey

Philip has been tutoring on our Communications Technology modules for the last five years.  In that time he has consistently brought the subject to life for the students by leveraging his vast experience in this dynamic field.  He regularly receives highly positive feedback from his students for his knowledge, ability, feedback and indeed his patience.  He is a highly valued member of our Open Education team and a pleasure to work with.

Student Feedback:

  • Philip was a brilliant tutor, easy to understand and explained material we covered very well. He was passionate about what he was teaching which made it more interesting to learn it.”
  • Philip is an excellent tutor, made the classes interesting and broke down some very complex topics into ways that were easy to understand.
  • Philip Carey was excellent. He was very approachable and knowledgeable where we had any questions or needed help.

DCU Connected Postgraduate Programmes Tutor of the Year – Ann Whyte

Ann graduated from our M.Sc. Management for Sustainable Development programme as the overall top graduate across our five M.Sc. programmes in 2018. In 2019, she joined our staff as an academic developer and programme tutor. Ann’s commitment to developing excellent sustainable development academic material across our programmes is equally matched by her support to colleagues and her endless generosity to students. Ann goes above and beyond  to ensure her students have a very positive experience at DCU and that they reach their academic potential. She is a most worthy winner of Open Education’s 2020 Postgraduate Tutor of the Year.  

Student Feedback:

  • I would like to acknowledge the support, and assistance I received from my dissertation supervisor, Ann Whyte. Her guidance and patience throughout this research project have been incomparable .
  • I would sincerely like to thank my dissertation supervisor, Ann Whyte, for your encouragement, feedback and all round support throughout this dissertation process.
  • I would like to thank my supervisor Ann Whyte for her support and extensive knowledge in this area. She has offered continuous guidance and encouragement throughout this process.

A Big Thanks to the Whole Team

Throughout 2020 all of our tutors went an extra mile to ensure the highest quality of delivery and support was provided to our DCU Connected students through this difficult year. To recognise this, each tutor received a DCU Mug in the post just in time for the coffee morning!

The Open Education team hope all of our tutors, students and industry partners have a restful break as you enjoy the festivities of the season and we wish you all the best for the year to come! We know that 2021 will bring further challenges but the resilience developed over the past year will hold us in good stead for the start of Semester 2 in January.

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.