A Typical Teaching & Learning Day: Rob’s Story…

By Rob Lowney

Life in this pandemic is surreal and anxiety-inducing, so it’s perhaps unusual for me to say that I feel like my work life hasn’t changed that much at all.

rob_lowney_profile_pic_0.jpgPre-pandemic, my days would be filled with meetings, designing and delivering professional development (PD) to academics around learning technologies, responding to learning technology queries… and that’s still how my days are filled. The volume is now much greater, but strangely I’m grateful for that. A busy work day keeps me occupied and I forget about this pandemic for a while.

Each day I get up and make the arduous commute to my desk in the corner of the living room. While waiting for the coffee to percolate, I do a short breathing or meditation exercise, using the app Stop, Breathe and Think. I don’t miss travelling on a packed Dublin Bus every morning, but I do miss that time I have to myself to get my brain oriented, so I try to start my day off well each morning.

Working from home hasn’t been much of a change for me. Pre-pandemic, I could be working on any of DCU’s campuses any day of the week, so I’m used to going without an office. So long as I have my laptop and some wi-fi, I’m good.

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The first task is to scan my email and our helpdesk tickets to see if there are urgent issues to be addressed. If there are, I get to them straight away or contact my colleagues in the Loop VLE Support Team. At the other end of these emails is usually an academic who has little experience of teaching fully online. A query might seem small or simple to me but it’s of huge importance to them – and therefore their students – so I strive to treat it as such. Throughout the day my eye is on my email account, alert to anything that might arise. Not ideal – I should be focussing on just one thing at a time – but needs must.

EDTL_IUA-Logo-Master-RGB_A_Transparent-1.pngA core part of my role in DCU is acting as one of the project leads – with my colleague Suzanne Stone – for the IUA Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning (EDTL) project, launched in 2019. Never a more apt time for such a project! Although most of my day is spent on frontline support and PD related to the crisis, it’s still important to keep ‘normal’ projects going. Our project focus is developing academics’ capacity in technology-enhanced assessment. Every day contains an EDTL task – a catch-up with the national project team, a virtual coffee break with our participating groups of academics, designing and delivering online workshops, evaluating our activities, and so on. Our participants have adapted nimbly to the online format for project workshops, and they too are glad to keep going with ‘something normal’.

The Teaching Enhancement Unit’s output of PD activities has increased dramatically during this crisis. Each day we provide up to three webinars related to remote teaching and using the Loop VLE effectively. Most days I deliver a webinar on a Loop tool that can be used for assessment, or co-ordinate with a colleague who presents. It takes time to prepare these each morning but it’s time well spent. PD for academics during this crisis is vital.

Each day usually involves a call with some other members of the Loop Support Team and our head of unit, Mark Glynn, to assess the situation, discuss issues, plan new PD activities, and as the semester draws to a close, to discuss alternative assessment arrangements.

I certainly feel spent by the end of each day, but looking out my apartment window I see St James’s Hospital and it puts things in perspective. My busy work day pales in comparison to the heroic duties our healthcare workers are fulfilling.

Rob Lowney is a Learning Technologist in DCU’s Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU) in the National Institute for Digital Learning. Rob’s account of his typical day was first published in a special edition of the National Forum’s eZine.

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Sessions, Seasons and Samhain: ICDE World Conference Newsletter

You can find lots of information about November’s ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in the latest edition of the conference newsletter. Read more about our unique walking tours ending with “pedagogy in the pub” and the significance of the conference theme as we celebrate Samhain and the change of seasons. The newsletter also shares a set of principles for conference participation, which serve as a guide to delegates in order to create a really welcoming, courteous and respectful professional learning atmosphere.

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Belinda Tynan.jpgIf you are waiting for more information on the day/time of your presentation at the World Conference, then the newsletter provides a progress report and shares more details on the presenter guidelines and this Friday’s webinar for authors and contributors. The newsletter also profiles another plenary speaker who will focus on strength in diversity and transformative leadership for changing times. More specifically, in her keynote Professor Belinda Tynan will address the major contribution that women can make in leadership roles and this important theme then continues over a panel discussion.

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The newsletter also reports a number of linked events, with the formal launch of the IUA-led project on Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning, and a follow up ePortfolio workshop organised by Eportfolio Ireland on Monday 11th November. The ICDE World Conference is supported by over 30 partner organisation from around the globe and this week’s newsletter acknowledges the great local support from a number of Irish professional bodies, including the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a valued Bronze Sponsor.

National-Forum.jpgLots more to read in this week’s conference newsletter and make sure you keep an eye out for our next issue, and of course register ASAP for this major international event as we aim to help shape the future of education for the new online and digital world.