Blended and online learning

Don’t you find it painful when you see yourself recorded? I certainly do, and become even more convinced that I would starve as an actor or TV presenter. Disclaimer apart, the material here can be of interest to those of you considering blended learning. My colleagues Emma O’Brien (Management and Development Unit UL); John F Kelly (Centre for Project Management, UL) and Olivia McDermott (Management and Development Unit, UL) also provide their insights into these questions:

  • What does blended learning mean to you?
  • What are the opportunities afforded by blended learning?
  • What are some of the challenges of blended learning?

BL video angelica

The recording took place last year as part a jointly developed SPOC with Oxford University Press in Blended Learning but was unused for the final product, so we obtained full rights to repurpose for dissemination. The interviews have been edited in the context of the Digital Badge initiative of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, and will feature on the Teaching Online badge to which we are contributing in collaboration with Gearoid O’Sullivan and Roisin Garvey from the Department of Technology Enhanced Learning at CIT, and led by Dara Cassidy, Director of Online Learning at Hibernia College. A schedule is being drawn up for the delivery of professional development workshops for the badges in late September, and there will be a piloting stage for the badge delivery, so watch the space!

eMOOCs Vs CreativeHE (and lovely homely stuff)

I am privileged enough to be in a moment of my career when (coinciding with a big birthday coming up) I can afford to look at new areas where I want to develop, that inspire me and make me think. Open education is one of these, because for me, it resonates with sustainable, ethical, relevant and forward looking practice.

One of the most prominent areas around open education has to do, of course, with MOOCs, so when I realised that the 2017 International MOOC summit (where the CEOs of the main MOOC platforms were to meet) was to be hosted in my native hometown, a bare 10 minutes walk from where a grew up, I decided that it was a sign of destiny (ok, the perspective of my mum’s cooking may, only may, have also had something to do).

Since the most prestigious US universities joined the MOOC movement around 2012, these have received a huge amount of attention, paired with equal expectations that they would radically transform higher education as we know it. Five years on, it is obvious that the revolution has not materialised, and the practice of MOOCs has developed in diverse directions. One of the main divergences stems from the focus on the ‘M’ bit: is the course geared to taking over the world through scalability (these have come to be known as xMOOCs) or on the contrary, is the focus placed on a social learning, requiring (obviously) a level of human interaction (cMOOCs)?

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

MOOC poster April 4, 2013 by Mathieu Plourde licensed CC-BY on Flickr, explores the meaning of “Massive Open Online Courses” aka MOOCs. 

Serendipity wanted that while planning to attend to this conference, I was in discussion with Prof Norman Jackson, who is leading our Contemporary Issues in Higher Education summer module (#TL5003) in our Graduate Diploma in Teaching, Learning and Scholarship. Norman has a vast experience in creative pedagogics, lifewide learning and, amongst many other endeavours, leads #CreativeHE (in collaboration with Chrissi Nerantzi and other like-minded colleagues), a community of creative academics which (they might not agree with this) could be somewhat categorised as the cMOOC type. The next iteration of the course was meant to run during the same week so I signed for the experience in the interest of authenticity and why not, a bit of fun CPD.

DAY 1 and 2

Expectations were hight for the main keynotes in Day 1 and 2. Sir Timothy O’Shea, principal in University of Edinburgh, opened the conference keynote and offered some interesting insights. Many were on the positive side: despite of evangelists having said that the MOOC would be the end of textbooks, they have actually been a driver for more textbooks being produced in his institution. This was counterbalance with the stark statistic that completion rates of (their extremely expensive) MOOCs are only around 6%. FutureLearn claims to be a catalyst of the digitisation efforts of universities, and one way of doing this is through online degrees with open pathways. As an example, the platform has partnered with Deakin to pioneer a full MA degree through Futurelearn, some of it paid and some through MOOCs. In other cases, MOOCs are compensated with university credits. In order to facilitate flipped classroom blended approaches, they are currently piloting a space with looks pretty much like a LMS… A more complete overview of the themes was curated in the #EMOOCS2017 twitter feed, but in general, I got the clear picture that after the MOOC hype, economic sustainability of these platforms and return on investment is the major elephant in the room.

futurelearn

Simon Nelson from FutureLearn quoted Inside HE (2017): ‘Gone are the promises about revolutionazing HE or driving most colleges and universities out of business. In their place is a pledge to work with colleges on how to offer education online and internationally’.

In the meantime, Day 1 of #CreativeHE had started. I found Google + (where the community is hosted) to be very confusing to use. I attempted to engage with the tasks, which invited us to produce creative artefacts to answer to specific challenges, but I found that I was ‘piggybacking’ in others’ creativity (with pictures of murals on the streets) rather than challenging myself with my own, but nevertheless, appetite was opening and I was slowly moving from the internal talk of ‘I don’t really have time for this’.

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I found the themes that emerged in my real (i.e conference attending mode) and online world (in #CreativeHE) fed each other nicely (lifelong and lifewide education, the sustainability of the current educational model, and creativity as a ‘must’ for survival, rather than a ‘nice’ addition). The fact that the conference was hosted so close to home (this is, the one where you revert to your teenage bad habits) helped to contextualise things for me in the building where I used sneak in to find a place to study while being an undergrad, I walked back home to my mums’ lovely cooking and to spend time with my family and friends, and in turn, I found that progressively, I could incorporate discussions and memories into my creative endeavours for the #creativeHE tasks. It was all a nice experiential, ‘in the moment’ integration of living and learning on the go. Resources shared in #CreativeHE also informed my growing understanding of the MOOC phenomenon. I was also deepening my critical lenses into this world through posts such as Alan Levine’s ‘The future will not be powerpoint(ed), neither MOOCed‘, and finding reassurance in my remit of power as educational developer and citizen in this world… this, while I sat right next to Tim O’Shea talking about the Limerick weather!

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DAY 3

On Wednesday I targeted the discussion panel on social inclusion and MOOCs chaired by @vincentzimmer, which highlights digital exclusion, and were wifi was (arguably) referred to as a ‘human right’. The starting point was that, while MOOCs have been argued as a means for democratising access to education, experience to date has shown that it tends to be used by those with a good level of educational attaintment for CPD purposes, rather than those most in need. As a response, the EU has developed a catalogue of initiatives in MOOCs that facilitate digital inclusion (http://moocs4inclusion.org/). This research has revealed that we know very little about the real impact of MOOC initiatives on digital integration. This is not to take away from the potential advantages provided by this model of education. For example, interesting insights followed into gender access. Vincent Zimmer reports their experience breaking cultural barriers to female education in refugee families, where at home MOOC education is making it socially acceptable. Of interest was also the discussion that followed about ‘educational colonisation’ of MOOC platforms based on the northern hemisphere, and the call for partnership approaches as an alternative. The argument is that they are many people that are taking MOOCs now that would not have access to education at all otherwise. The flip side (as argued by Tim O’Shea) is that the progressive reliance on online education poses a greater digital divide in many populations. In conclusion, I left with the feeling that refugees were indeed a focal point through the event, but were somewhat opportunistically used to justify the social value of MOOCs in tokenistic ways, while CEOs of Coursera, FutureLearn and Edx presented their (increasingly excluding) business models in order to sustain the MOOC movement.

In the meantime, in #CreativeHE we got an unexpected day off, as the tragic events in Manchester left everyone with no desire for creativity or fun. At a personal level, I greatly welcomed the the break as the late conference dinner the night before (Spanish style) took a toll on me, and followed the advice to go out and walk in the lovely sunshine. As recommended though, I read Browns (2009) typology of adult learners, which pretty much validates ANY type of activity that we love as valuable learning play. We were also invited to join the relevant #LHETchat which happened to deal with the issue of creativity in HE later that evening, but honestly I completely forgot about it while spending some much needed quality time with my family in the open.

DAY 4

On Thursday, I attended a MOOC design session which resonated strongly with the experience that I underwent through the Epigeum Blended Learning course design:  reinforcing the delivery of information, video production and knowledge testing (strongly relying in T&Qs). There was not much scope really for flexibility or creativity that I could see… reinforcing this view of MOOCs (at least the ‘x’ type) as relying in structured content dissemination. While sitting right next to an expert on MOOC production, I really tried my best to introduce the agenda of creativity and scope for other pedagogical approaches. He gave me a look which made it obvious that his neurological pathways were too settled in a certain direction…

design

Back in action in #CreativeHE, we were challenged to think about storytelling around ‘threshold concepts’. After much thinking, I just decided to produce a little fun video with recording from my 3 year old and some of her buddies, who are full of joy and fun for learning… surely a threshold concept must include some of that! My post read ‘I am not quite sure if this effectively addresses threshold concepts but probably goes in the right direction… at the age of the actors in this video, most of learning is transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded and troublesome. With thanks to my small one and friends for their kind collaboration ;-D

video

Back to ‘real’ (aka teaching) life

On the way back home I reflected on this pretty intense CPD experience a bit. It was certainly interesting to go through both experiences CreativeHE and the eMOOCs conference because my understanding progressively formed in multi-layered dichotomies: directional (bottom-up creativity VS top-down content delivery); economical (free and ‘do-it-yourself’ community in Google docs VS exclusive powerful platforms for a selected few); etc. Rick Yale from Coursera claimed in his keynote that ‘the future of the university will happen in an ecosystem of lifelong learning’, but it remains to be seen if MOOCs will effectively survive to be a part of it. The final message was one of empowerment and freedom: no hype will ultimately decide what kind of educator we will be in the future, the future of education is in our hand (sort of). In any case, some of this insights informed my session for the ‘Sustainable Education’ theme in the Contemporary Issues module that Norman is so successfully leading this week, so that is my little chance, together with this long post (sorry) to share something back.

When One Plus One Is More Than Two

Like anyone else, I lose motivation when, after investing an awful lot of effort on a particular project, its sustainability comes under question (I know, this is real life in Higher Education!). This was the case of the Take 1 Step, which saw six of the most intensive months of my working life in 2016. The funding for this campaign did not materialise however this year, which it had left me wondering of the real impact of ‘flash in the pan’ approaches to funding. When I saw the call for AllAboard2017 (a week-long series of national and regional public events aimed to build confidence in Ireland’s digital skills for learning co-run by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and Ireland’s higher education institutions, and based on the National Framework for Digital Skills), I must confess that I thought of applying twice.

allaboard

However, as if destiny had intervened, the call for participation with the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival arrived to my inbox. The 7th edition of the festival, which has awarded Limerick the UNESCO Learning City Award in 2017, promotes and supports access to lifelong educational, training, and learning opportunities. This edition run across Limerick City and County from Saturday 1st to Friday 7th April, featuring an exciting line up of over 250 events, all of which are free and open to all under the theme ‘Communities, Connecting, Learning’.

lllf

The opportunity to immerse ourselves in this community driven effort made it more real and brought the motivation that I needed… this motivation is somewhat value-driven as I feel the weight to the university as the ‘ivory tower’ syndrome. Around then, I came accross this quote by Ira Harkavy’s which sums up some of my view:

“…our great universities simply cannot afford to remain islands of affluence, self-importance, and horticultural beauty in seas of squalor, violence, and despair. With the schools of medicine, law and education and their public policy programs, universities surely can help out our cities and perhaps – perhaps – even our nation back together.”

So carried by a renewed inspiration, I took the plunge and I am glad to report that this turned to be one of the most exciting projects of recent times! Upon successful financial support, I organised the UL campaign for AllAboard2017, together with my colleagues in the Technology Enhanced Learning Unit  (TELU). Our events were promoted by the organising team of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, which was supported by a strong PR/Media campaign including brochures, flyers distributed across Limerick, Website, Social Media (@LimkLearnFest), the Limerick Leader & Live 95FM. We capitalised on the following base of the T1Step twitter account (@t1step); the TELU account (@UL_TELU) and @ULLibrary… while I of course I spammed my followers from my own @angelica_tel account. All Allaboard2017 events were included in the promotional 64 page Limerick Lifelong Learning festival booklet, which was distributed across multiple public locations and businesses in Limerick county (7,000 copies). Also, we produced promotional material for the UL AllAboard2017 events and distributed extensively printed copies in UL and multiple city centre locations.

An initial Showcase opened the festival week on Saturday 1st April offering a wide range of interactive events, activities and workshops, providing a snapshot of what the whole festival week entailed. A stand was set up to present AllAboard2017 UL events, facilitated by our student digital ambassadors. As one of the highlights of the showcase, I organised an e-treasure hunt around Limerick city, where a team encouraged the public to visit the Festival Showcase and develop digital skills on the go while learning about the city.

treasurehuntwinners

A total of 18 teams undertook the challenge, and generated a huge amount of attention and media press coverage (as well as being lots of fun to be involved with!). Below is the hilarious account of one of the teams, which went on to complete their digital treasure hunt challenge over the course of two days, after the event was officially over.

 hushbunnies

The days that followed saw many creative and interesting AllAboard2017 UL events. Librarians at the Glucksman Library, partnering with students of Journalism at UL, guided participants through the media maze in the session ‘Fake news and how to spot it’ on a session held on April 3rd. On April 4th, the session ‘From attics to archives’ helped participants to learn about the care and curation of personal archival materials from experienced digitisation and archives professionals from the Glucksman Library. On April 6th, the ITD division organised the event ‘How to hashtag’ in the Hunt Museum. After a short introduction to hashtags, visitors were invited to take photos with their mobile phones and post them to their social media of choice using #huntmuseum. The event counted with the participation of 41 attendees comprising secondary school, post leaving cert and members of the general public. 

The last day of the festival on April 7th was focused on the theme ‘Online wellbeing and identity’, which is a topic very close to my heart these days. In ‘You and your mobile phone’, I was shocked to learn how addicted I am to my mobile phone with the help of Antonio Calderon. Lucy Smith, Deputy Head at the UL Counselling Service, later facilitated a fascinating discussion on how ‘social’ media actually leads to disconnect and dissatisfaction with life titled ‘Social media: friend or foe?. Finally, in the session ‘You and your digital footprint’, I explored the information that can be found about us all in the web, and offered participants some tips to manage this online trail better. The event generated a huge amount of insightful discussion, sharing of personal experiences and challenges at a deep emotional and personal level, although it was obvious from some of the attendants that they lacked some basic digital competences on the day in order to engage meaningfully on the ‘egosurfing’ task (something that came as a surprise as basic use of a search engine is something that we assume as a basic digital skill in the wider population). Importantly, the event served as an opportunity for members of the public to learn of other digital awareness and skills campaigns run at the local level, and network with the leaders of these respective initiatives.

identity 2

The events had a very positive impact on the initiative team in terms of recognising the advantages of engaging with the broader community, and in particular the enthusiasm of that community for learning. Being part of a broader city initiative felt empowering, as the fact that all events were organised in Limerick city (5 km away from the UL campus) attracted students from institutes outside our own, and people from parts of the city who don’t normally attend university events. It has also opened the door to future collaborative initiatives with the Hunt Museum, Paul Partnership, and the BOI Workbench, which is a fantastic space available in Limerick city for further initiatives. The experience also generated an increased understanding of marketing and PR processes around such events, which will help in future initiatives. The engagement with the city and county was very positive and was an excellent PR coup for the university. In addition, the themes dealt with raise important questions about issues that we need to deal with more explicitly with our student cohorts. Yvonne Lane, coordinator of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival, provides the following feedback from its Organising Committee: ‘The positive feedback about working with the All Aboard team this year, were particularly the exciting new partnerships and links created. The All Aboard events were also refreshing in their content, being both up-to-date and user-friendly to a general audience and therefore bringing new fresh element to the festival.’ 

At a personal level, I had an opportunity to develop additional expertise by reviewing literature on the idea of digital identity; building on my work on an existing distance masters module on ‘Digital skills and lifelong guidance’ I teach for the Open University in Spain (UNED); and developed networks with colleagues inside and outside UL. I also attended some really interesting events, like the one delivered by Sheila McDonald on ePortfolios in the LCETB Further Education Training Centrewhich I did not know until then. Sheila talked about the responsibility to build digital skills at earlier learning levels in order to capacitate the digital transition of learners progressing into third level education. She made reference to her practices with learners in QQA level 5, which feels so far from my familiar practice at level 9… and however, she talked about deeply familiar issues, in a practical, ‘no-nonsense’ style that I completely relate to. To be honest, many in my home university would consider it a waste of their time to attend to an event delivered by an institution which is not a high-profile research intensive institution, yet, you often draw more ideas, inspiration and support than you think from going beyond the close boundaries of higher education. And ironically, while LCETB has a a functioning centrally supported portfolio choice, this is something that we have not managed to do ourselves yet in our fancy green campus. Hearing Sheila make a call for taking responsibility for enhancing early learners for their lifelong journey was a very refreshing message from the other side: we often complain about the standard and lack of skills of incoming students, blaming it on previous poor conditioning in previous educational levels, but we don’t recognise that we all are an educator community joined in our shared responsibility for promoting lifelong learning. We all need, however, to go about this in really creative ways because invariably, we preach to the converted (only a few attendees per session from our own home institutions in many cases). I often despair about feeling like the only survivor on a desert island… a message of hope from Sheila: yes, it would be lovely to be able to run with this as a team, but it often expands as a ripple effect, get one colleague on board and others will come. In conclusion, I must remark on the energy, enthusiasm and collegiality generated through our engagement with the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival; and the personal satisfaction with engaging and contributing to sustainable education for a wider societal gain.

 

The Open Educators Factory

open-educators-factory

Quite often, the best part of attending a CPD or professional event has to do with the conversations that happen between sessions or during coffee. While ‘bumping’ into Terry Maguire (@TerrymagNF) recently, we played around with some ideas resulting from the focused research project which I had an opportunity to lead on Learning Resources and Open Access in Ireland. She asked me to take a look to a particular project of interest to her: the Open Educators Factory and give her some feedback. So as to (openly) practice what we preach, here I go with my two cent for what they are worth!

The project, funded by the Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR), is a research effort based on the premise that true progress in terms of openness in higher education requires a major cultural change in the mindset of all stakeholders, thus creating an Open Educational Resources (OER) ecosystem (quoting the report Foundations for OER Strategy Development). The stepping stone for a sustainable change to happen starts with users awareness of OER, their benefits and costs. In  doing so, the Open Education Factory project believes that the cornerstone for this cultural change to happen are educators. They claim (fairly or not) that University educators (meant as professors, lecturers and tutors) represent in fact the biggest “resistance” to the Open Education revolution – mainly because they typically fear that their role might be undermined by open approaches and because they do not have a full understanding of the potential of Open Education – and at the same time are the ones that could contribute the most to the adoption of Open Education practices from a genuine bottom up perspective.

These fundamental claims seemed worthy of further investigation so, after reading through their Wikipedia entry, I went on to experiment with their self-evaluation tool. Firstly, I think it is an exercise of honesty to confess that my own ‘openness’ scores are not in the top of the scale by any means, specially around the area of open assessment practices, so I take on board some of the message. I agree in principle with Terry that the concept is  interesting (nothing like a reflective exercise to get the ‘juices’ going and the follow up recommendations are useful for self-directed learning). However, I also noticed that it has had a limited usage base until now, it is somewhat Spanish-centric (for example in the way professional categories are described) and needs English proofing. Also the categories of assessment are not comprehensive. In definitive, it looked like a useful tool in a beta, rather than fully finished, version.

Despite these misgivings, I thought there was potential there to use from an educational developer perspective, and used as a ‘Trojan horse’ to introduce my Graduate Diploma class into the arena of open pedagogies. Last week I organised a two hour session in the context of the Technology Enhanced Learning module with a cohort of 11 academics with varied representation of disciplines, seniority and blended learning practices. I framed the session with an exposition of the national debate around open pedagogies (including recommendations in the National Forum’s Digital Roadmap) and some of the findings from our OER research project. Then, participants were invited to take the self-evaluation tool. Although in two or three cases they scored at the top of some of the scales in terms of ‘openess’, results were largely between 1 and 2, representing a low to moderate adoption of open educational practices. I then distributed them in two groups according to their scores and set up the scene for an Oxford debate, in order to argue around the motion that ‘any third level lecturer should aspire to be an open educator’. In other to introduce an element of cognitive dissonance, I allocated those with the lower ‘openness’ score to the ‘for the motion’ team, and those that had scored higher (i.e. those more familiar with open education practices) to the ‘against’ the motion. The debate was very insightful as well as a bit of fun as we had a lawyer in the room who shamelessly quoted several copyright acts to the amusement of his colleagues. Not surprisingly, the Open Educators Factory opening self-stated aim to explore how to transform university teachers from “agents of resistance” into “agents of change” for openness in education caused a high level of discomfort and controversy. Interestingly, the final result of the debate (which we managed through an audience vote) seems to show a high level of agreement with the premises of the Open Educators Factory, despite the critical views expressed.

pollev

 

In summary, an interesting exercise that has enabled me to frame this module from the perspective of the need to share our practices and embed an element of peer observation in the design of the assignment. For anyone interested, the slides of the session are available here Towards open pedagogy.

 

 

 

CDIO Faculty Development Workshop

Though the kind invitation of my UL colleagues Lisa O’Donoghue and David Tanner, I had the opportunity to attend to the CDIO Faculty Development Workshop funding by the EIT Raw Materials running in UL on January 10th and 11th, which counted with the attendance of around 30 academics from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. For those unfamiliar with it, the CDIO™ INITIATIVE is an innovative educational framework for producing the next generation of engineers. The framework provides students with an education stressing engineering fundamentals set in the context of Conceiving — Designing — Implementing — Operating (CDIO) real-world systems and products. Throughout the world, CDIO Initiative collaborators have adopted CDIO as the framework of their curricular planning and outcome-based assessment. Its focus on the development of holistic graduate attributes in engineers related to personal, interpersonal and system building, complementing disciplinary knowledge:

– Design and innovation
– Communication and team work
– Personal skills

On the CDIO framework in general, I can say I was very gladly taken with a framework that I was not familiar with, and really resonated with me in terms of our own Graduate Attributes strategy. I had the golden opportunity to learn more about it from the leaders of the initiate themselves Johan Malmqvist, Kristina Edstrom and Jakob Kuttenkeuler during lunchtime. I am particularly interested in the potential for integrative assessment of graduate attributes, and the challenges associated. Kristina reported on a series of case studies from partner universities, but a cohesive assessment framework of the CDIO model remains to be developed. Also, there is much scope for online formats of CDIO training, that gathers the work of a very active network.

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to attend to all the sessions scheduled but I would like to report here on a most interesting and practical address by Kristina and Jakob titled ‘The Teaching Trick: cost-neutral ways to improve student learning’ with many tips for doing less of those things that do NOT contribute to teaching as:

  • ‘No comment’: By providing individual feedback to students that they don’t take on board. Kristina encourages us to ‘remember the purpose’ of providing feedback in the first place: instead of aiming for a particular report to be perfect, they need to develop the skills to write 100 good reports in the future. The antidotes to wasted time providing feedback is to spend time giving feedback when students can do something with it, build it in a learning activity, provide group feedback, experiment with peer feedback and provide feedback on demand.
  • ‘7 minutes: Writing and correcting exams is time intensive and contributes little to learning. Instead, Jakob (bravely I must say) recommends oral exams to influence student preparation and test understanding better. His exposition followed however by a most investing discussion around the need for accountability, and the possibility of personal bias.
  • ‘Family dinner’: which is basically about accounting for formative peer evaluation.
  • Make people individually accountable for group work. E.g when doing class presentations, any of the students in the group can be selected to present. This works best with randomised groups. Again, interesting discussion followed about the challenges and opportunities this poses for increasingly internationalised cohorts.

My colleagues followed with their insights into the question posed: So why do we often keep doing thanks that are less effective for learning? Each answer deserves a whole PhD thesis on itself:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • The institutional system is working against you
  • It is hard to take away things we put an effort into (old investments)
  • We don’t really know what is inefficient
  • We have locked all our time into funning so we have no resources retained for development
  • The brick wall effect: take out a brick and anything can happen

My own answer: an awful lot of groupthink. I took the point from the lesson that we need to be mindful of claims around feedback provision, and really question how and when or even if, we need to invest valuable tax payer money on finishing students’ work (read, feedforward may need to become common currency). But most interestingly, I truly enjoyed the courage of the speakers addressing an (almost) all male audience of engineers with arguments of ‘quality time spent with your students’, ‘ageing gracefully in academia’ and ‘acts of love’ (yes, really!). I found it inspiring and fun way to challenge standard practice. It really challenged the perception of academics as all-hours working people who sacrifice it all for their careers, with a (not surprisingly Swedish-informed) perspective on taking care of yourself first for the benefit of our students and institutions.

 

EDIN NF Framework Seminar (November 24th)

We have a healthy tradition in my department of sharing insights and material from the CPD events we attend to. However, I have felt for a while that a more open approach could be (and it is only a very hypothetical ‘could’) of benefit. The event today certainly deserved a bit or airing beyond the beautiful headquarters of the Ashling hotel in Dublin.

On November 24th I attended the event coordinated by the Educational Developers of Ireland Network (EDIN_Irl) on the implementation of the National Forum Professional Development Framework (http://www.teachingandlearning.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PD-Framework-FINAL.pdf). The day was led by Marion Palmer (@marionjpalmer) with a group of educational developers (a few of them with a strong interest or responsibility around technology-enhanced learning) and addressed the ambitious objective set out in www.edin.ie .

These are my insights into the implications for the role of educational developers with an interest or specialisation in technology enhanced learning.

We first started with an insightful  SWAT analysis of the framework. While having a nationally coordinated framework for the first time is definitely welcome as it has opened the conversation, one of it weaknesses is that digital capacity is not explicitly integrated.

Marian then asked us next to brainstorm in groups on the possible interpretations of the framework as different stakeholders: an academic, educational technologies, management, researcher, librarian or student. And  importantly, how these interpretations interact with our concrete contexts. My table was commissioned with thinking as ‘lecturers’. Marion challenged us with loads of interesting good questions to keep the conversation going, but I found very insightful ‘Is there a culture of professional development for teaching and learning?’. Our answers revolved around the tensions between rhetoric and reality. Are our lecturers getting enough support for CPD? Is teaching really valued? How much autonomy do I have as a lecturer? Does my workload allow for anything? The answers to these questions may be tainted by a touch of scepticism informed by our recent experience.

Roisin Donnelly (@Roshcal) updated us next on her progress with the NF Professional Development Framework implementation in the (whole of!) two weeks she has been in her secondment to the National Forum. Her approach is based on a series of collaborative case studies currently being coordinated, more details to follow.

The most challenging part of the seminar came next: how does all this reflective ‘stuff’ applies to real practice? To get started we were asked to apply the framework to ourselves and see how we get on (interesting starting  and authentic point I must say!) according to these headings:

  • Identify/list current activities
  • Match to typology of activities
  • Identify type of learning
  • Relevant domains

In order to get started, we were to pick a single activity, so here goes my two pence:

  • Turnitin Feedback Studio seminar
  • Type of activity: Structure non-accredited (not formal)
  • Type of learning: New learning
  • Relevant domain: Personal and professional digital capacity in T&L (Domain 5)

The nicest part of this exercise were Marion’s recommendations to start a very practical approach to this: publicise your seminar with these headings and linking to the Framework, include a slide at the outset of your seminar to flag this and start creating some awareness around this. Done today!

Discussion finished on some blue-sky thinking around potential themes for a new EDIN Emerging Issues iteration. ‘Making the invisible CPD visible’ was one of the things that came to my mind in relation to the need to tackle the thorny issue of CPD at middle and high management level (accredited formal does not fly, an informal and creative approaches are needed).

So in conclusion, loads of many concrete ideas and inspiration, more clarity on the framework, and inspired me to start expressing and sharing some CPD insights. Interestingly, Fiona O’Riordan (EDIN chair) called for interest group of educational developers piloting out the framework. I really think that I could benefit from this, and would like to contribute back to such a lovely network.

Overall, a most enjoyable event well worth the trip to Dublin, even taking into account the wireless not working in the train again!