Talking Research: Exciting Plans for the Year Ahead

On Friday the NIDL Research Group met for the first time this year to reflect on our accomplishments over 2017, including more than 100 scholarly outputs, and to share ideas, discuss progress and plan research and development opportunities available to us over 2018, and beyond.

To begin with the Group briefly discussed some of the lessons from the exercise of identifying the top 10 open access journal articles published over 2017, as described in a previous blog post on this topic. The final selection of our 2017 top 10 articles proved useful in promoting internal debate amongst the team over the so-called “best reads” of the year, and the list of open access publications was widely shared globally through a number of communication channels. Given the positive feedback from various sources the Research Group decided to repeat this activity adopting a similar methodology over the course of 2018.

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Displayed on IRRODL Homepage

On the theme of supporting research dissemination an update was provided on advance planning for the 2019 ICDE World Conference on Online Learning. A delegation from ICDE will be visiting Dublin in the middle of February 2018 for an extended meeting with our conference team and site visit of the Convention Centre Dublin. Also during this visit we hope the Minister of State for Higher Education will be able to meet with the Organising Committee to hear more about this high-profile conference, especially given the Government’s recent announcements to provide more support for online, flexible life-long learners.

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On the topic of conferences, the NIDL is a strategic sponsor of this year’s OER18 conference in Bristol, as DCU is fully committed to promoting access, equity and social justice through open educational practices. OER18Indeed, this week DCU will be making an important annoucement about a major new open learning initiative, and related programme of research through the NIDL, which is anchored in our mission of transforming lives and societies. More information to follow about this initiative.

The NIDL has another strategic partnership with the Association of Advanced Computing in Education (AACE) in the United States (US) and the Education Studies Association Ireland (ESAI) to select three Irish research papers for showcasing at this year’s Ed Media and Innovate Learning conference in Amsterdam. If successful, we anticipate this “Country showcase” initiative will become a feature at the annual Ed Media conference, which returns to Amsterdam in 2019.

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Although our strong engagement with relevant professional associations is something we highly value, the NIDL team also understands the importance of disseminating research and contributing to new knowledge through more conventional forms of scholarship. Accordingly an update was provided to research group members on the edited book we are hoping to publish through Springer and some of the journal articles already accepted, under review or at various stages of preparation.

2358_037During the meeting we also discussed the importance of supporting the next generation of researchers in the context of plans for new postgraduate qualification pathways in the general area of Digital Education, including the development of a specialist doctoral track. We believe this initiative through our Institute of Education will help to build a stronger culture of local research in this important and rapidly evolving area.

However, the NIDL also values our strong links to international bodies and we were delighted to hear the news that one of our doctoral students, Elaine Beirne, located in the Ideas Lab has been awarded a prestigious US research fellowship. More information to come once this award is formally announced by the major professional body.

Lastly, the NIDL Research Group discussed the importance of sharing our collective expertise across the team and investing in our own professional development. Therefore, we agreed to establish a series of workshops over the year on research topics of interest. A small working group was formed with a member from each unit of the NIDL to help plan, design and co-opt people to facilitate these workshops.

We look forward to another productive year of research as we will be shortly recruiting for two new Research Assistant positions to help us continue our work on a number of internal and externally funded projects.

Supporting Staff Development for Online Teaching and Learning through Open Practices

By Dr James Brunton

This brief blog post shares a couple of useful resources and takeaways thanks to James Brunton’s reflections on the recent World Conference on Online Learning, which was attended by over 1400 delegates. DCU will be hosting the next World Conference in November 2019.

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The 27th International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) 2017 World Conference on Online Learning was held in Toronto, Canada from the 16th to the 19th October. The conference attracted an enormous number of presentations where information was shared, connections were made, and future relationships forged. One strand of the conference that offered a number of useful resources to the Higher Education community was focused on empowering educators to build up their knowledge, skills, and competencies relating to online teaching and learning.

Carleton University, in Canada’s Ontario Province, has adopted an open approach to the development of resources for building up “the skills and confidence needed for educators to develop and teach blended and online courses”. Carleton has produced these resources as Open Educational Resources (OERs) such that they can be accessed, adopted, and adapted by other institutions.

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The Ontario Extend initiative has also been created such that a set of resources, emerging out of Simon Bates’ (2014) Anatomy of 21st Century Educators. This project is led by Ontario’s Northern College in collaboration with eCampusOntario and the publicly funded colleges and universities in Northern Ontario. Again, the aim of those behind this initiative is to empower educators to explore a range of emerging technologies and pedagogical practices for effective online and technology-enabled teaching and learning, and more than that to have this empowerment happen across the Higher Education community rather than in isolated pockets. The Ontario Extend team is enthusiastic about sharing these resources and aiding others to effectively incorporate them into their own practices.

The two initiatives described above not only provide exemplars of best practice in supporting staff development of knowledge, skills, and competencies in online teaching and learning, but they provide resources for effective implementation of such staff training. The adoption of open practices in these two cases is a shining example of how we in the Higher Education community can collectively support each other by producing resources as OERs that can be adopted and adapted by others.

You can read the original reflection piece on the World Conference written by James on his personal Linkedin page.