Promoting Innovations in Teaching and Learning

The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) values the opportunity it has to actively contribute to promoting innovation in teaching and learning through Dublin City University’s membership of the European Consortium for Innovative Universities (ECIU). The ECIU has a collective mission of ‘challenging conventional thinking’ through a collective emphasis on promoting innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.

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A week or so ago members of the Steering Committee for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, chaired by Professor Mark Brown, met in Copenhagen to review a range of activities over 2017 and plan a number of new initiatives for the year ahead.  This meeting took place at Aalborg University alongside the annual meeting of ECIU Rectors and Presidents and therefore brought together some of the leading and most influential innovators in European higher education.

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The Steering Committee supports activities ranging from regular masterclasses, leadership initiatives, exchanges for sharing of innovative practice, awards for innovations in teaching and learning, and scholarly activities which promote a strong nexus between research and teaching. With a common focus on fostering innovation the following teaching and learning statement encapsulates the shared understanding of ECIU members:

“We believe that teaching in higher education really matters. Therefore, our members share a commitment to the development of high quality educational practices which promote innovation and the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning. As ECIU partners, we value a strong nexus between research and teaching in order to fulfill such a vision. We strive to provide a modern, engaging and research-intensive learning environment, which builds on the diversity and collective strength of our respective institutional cultures, our approaches to teaching, and our students.

The ECIU has a specific interest in seeking out creative, learning-centred and future-focused teaching approaches that foster social entrepreneurship and smart use of technology. We aspire to create the conditions for developing critical responsible citizenship for inclusive and diverse societies. Our members foster real world competencies and make this possible by engaging our students with industry, professional bodies and community partners.

In summary, the ECIU represents a leading international cluster of technological and comprehensive universities who are committed to a bold mission of “Challenging Conventional Thinking” for tomorrow’s world, today.”

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In late November 2017, the annual Team Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning will be presented in Brussels. Importantly, this award recognises that most successful and sustainable innovations involve a team of educators working towards a common goal. In 2018, the Steering Committee also plans to host a special ECIU event once again in Brussels to explore the future of teaching and learning in the wider context of the modernisation of European universities. Accordingly, it follows that our own NIDL team looks forward to contributing to this event as supporting new models of digital learning and teaching is likely to feature prominently in the programme.

Relocations and Exciting Work and Learning Space Redevelopments Underway

We are pleased to report that we have some exciting redevelopments underway to our current work and learning spaces.

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Phase 1 of this work involves the Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU) relocating to the ground floor of the Bea Orpen building.

The relocation will help to make the TEU team far more accessible to DCU staff and involves the development of a new “Talking Points” space where people can drop in to us at any-time to discuss ideas and new opportunities to enhance the teaching and learning experience. After internal negotiations we have successfully managed to acquire DG11 for this purpose, which was used previously by the University as a large meeting room.

ChairsNew external signage will help to make this space highly visible to the university community and the room has the advantage of being directly opposite the space we currently use for professional development workshops.

Phase 2 of the redevelopment work will focus on refurnishing this adjoining teaching room with mobile chairs, contemporary furniture and updated learning technology to make this a flexible discovery space.

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In the meantime, Phase 1 also involves the development of a new “maker space” where we are currently converting a relatively large room, which was previously used by several groups for storage purposes, to create a modern digital media studio.

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This space will be equipped with the latest digital technology and offer several different stages and backdrops for the production of a range of teaching-related videos. After considerable research the aim is to support a diversity of genres and importantly avoid the default trap of simply producing traditional ‘talking heads’ videos.

blossomAnother dimension to Phase 1 of the redevelopment work is relocating our newly established “Ideas Lab” to the first floor extension. Under the leadership of Associate Professor Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, this year we have already appointed three new staff to The Ideas Lab and more people will be joining the team shortly, including a number of doctoral students, to work on several innovative projects supported with external funding. We will post more information about some of these projects over the next few months.

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A strong and common theme running throughout the above redevelopments is the concept of flow. This concept is an important design principle in contemporary literature on learning spaces.  To this end we have adopted an ecological metaphor by taking inspiration from Hamstead Park directly opposite the Bea Orpen building. The plan is to incorporate within our interior spaces a number of features and several large images taken from the park as wall art to help create different habits for working and learning.  Our intention is to encapsulate the sense of creativity and discovery that comes from exploring the park.

Phase 1 of this work should be completed before Christmas and we will formally launch our new spaces and relocated units in the new year.