Conference PaperPDF Available

Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities

Authors:
  • Irish Universities Association
Conference Paper

Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities

Abstract

The IUA-led project, Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities, is a 3-year project involving all seven Irish universities. The aim is to enhance the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish university students through enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process. To achieve this, the project focuses on the professional development of all staff who teach or support learning. The project started in January 2019 and will run until the end of 2021. This paper describes the organisation of the project, which brings together academic leaders in each of the universities to provide oversight, as well as a project team with members embedded in each university context. The project activities in the first year are described, including the collection of data related to CPD opportunities to provide a baseline, and the launch of seven pilots across the university sector.
Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and
Learning in Irish Universities
Julie Byrne
byrnej18@tcd.ie
School of Social Work and Social
Policy
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Sharon Flynn
sharon.flynn@iua.ie
Irish Universities Association
Dublin, Ireland
David Hamill
dhamill@tcd.ie
Academic Practice & eLearning
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Rob Lowney
rob.lowney@dcu.ie
Teaching Enhancement Unit
Dublin City University
Dublin, Ireland
Kate Molloy
kate.molloy@nuigalway.ie
Centre for Excellence in Learning and
Teaching
NUI Galway
Galway, Ireland
David Moloney
david.f.moloney@ul.ie
Centre for Transformative Learning
University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland
Morag Munro
morag.munro@mu.ie
Office of the Dean of Teaching &
Learning
Maynooth University
Maynooth, Ireland
Kevin O’Connor
kevin.oconnor@tcd.ie
Academic Practice & eLearning
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Marian O’Connor
marian.oconnor@ucd.ie
Office of the Dean of Students
University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland
Tom O’Mara
tom.omara@ucc.ie
Office of the Vice President for
Learning and Teaching
University College Cord
Cork, Ireland
Suzanne Stone
suzanne.stone@dcu.ie
Teaching Enhancement Unit
Dublin City University
Dublin, Ireland
International Conference on Engaging Pedagogy (ICEP), University of Limerick, Ireland, Dec. 12 & 13, 2019
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Abstract
The IUA-led project, Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in
Irish Universities, is a 3-year project involving all seven Irish universities. The
aim is to enhance the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish
university students through enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of
digital technologies across the teaching and learning process. To achieve this,
the project focuses on the professional development of all staff who teach or
support learning.
The project started in January 2019 and will run until the end of 2021. This
paper describes the organisation of the project, which brings together academic
leaders in each of the universities to provide oversight, as well as a project team
with members embedded in each university context. The project activities in the
first year are described, including the collection of data related to CPD
opportunities to provide a baseline, and the launch of seven pilots across the
university sector.
Keywords
Professional Development, Digital Competence, Digital Skills
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1. Introduction
The Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities (EDTL)
project is an ambitious 3-year project, funded by the Irish Higher Education Authority
(HEA) Innovation and Transformation Programme, which commenced in January
2019. Led by the Irish Universities Association (IUA), it brings together the seven Irish
universities with the high-level aim of enhancing the digital attributes and educational
experiences of Irish university students through enabling the mainstreamed and
integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process.
The project aims to mainstream digital in teaching and learning activities in Irish
universities, by addressing the professional development of all who teach or support
teaching and learning.
Higher Education is facing a number of challenges that effect teaching and learning.
Student numbers are increasing, while the staff/student ratio has decreased. The student
population is increasing in diversity and there are demands for increased flexibility in
when and how learning opportunities are provided. Digital devices and applications are
ubiquitous. To respond to the changes in student population and the increasingly digital
environment, educators have to develop their digital skills and adapt to more innovative
teaching approaches.
This paper describes how the project is organised, its underpinning principles, and the
progress made over the first year.
2. Organisation and oversight
The EDTL project is managed centrally by the Irish Universities Association (IUA),
the representative body for Ireland’s seven universities, under the responsibility of the
IUA Director for Academic Affairs. It is overseen by a steering group made up of
nominees from each university, and includes representation from the National Forum
for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education (NFETL) and
the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). A project manager based in the IUA has been
recruited to oversee the day to day implementation, and the project costs provide the
provision of one full-time (or equivalent) programme support to act as project lead
within each university. The project team comprises the project manager, the programme
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supports and a student associate intern, who work together to ensure a coherent and
consistent approach to the development of the programme. The key impact of the
project will be the development of critical mass and a shared service approach to
enhancing digital capacity across the university sector.
3. Underpinning principles
The direction and activities of the project are based on four underpinning principles,
developed in consultation with the university partners and programme supports.
First, we recognise that the project is not starting from ground zero, and that each
university has been engaging in staff development activities to build digital confidence
and competence for some years. Each university has its own digital context, including
strategic goals, policies and practices, development programmes, tools and
technologies. Any staff development programme must align with strategic goals for
each partner, building on existing expertise and structures. In addition, the National
Forum (NFETL) has already undertaken a significant body of work to assist the HE
sector to prepare for building digital capacity (National Forum for the Enhancement of
Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 2015). The project aims to align with
existing schemes and resources available through the NFETL, as well as committing to
contribute project outputs, such as training materials, to the NFETL through Open
Access arrangements. This will make any outputs open for use across the wider HE
sector in Ireland.
Second, the project takes its lead from the NFETL in taking a discipline-based approach
(National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, n.d.). The National
Forum has identified that engagement at the level of disciplines is key for meaningful
and sustainable change to the practices of individuals and to have an impact on learning.
Therefore, the professional development activities emerging from this project will
work, where possible, directly with discipline groups, both intra- and inter-institutional.
Rather than building individual technology champions, as has tended to happen in the
past, the needs and goals of a whole group can be addressed, raising the skills across a
whole programme, school or discipline team.
Third, the staff development programme will focus on pedagogy, and not on tools,
technologies and training for digital skills. Activities will take a pedagogy-first
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approach, conducting an initial needs assessment with a discipline group, before
considering if and how technology might be used to support innovation and changed.
The intention is to empower all staff who teach and support learning to build digital
competence and confidence, and thus become the drivers and key enables of change
themselves.
Finally, since the overall aim of the project is to enhance the digital skills and the
learning environment of university students in Ireland, partnership with students is
essential. A student associate intern is joining the project team as a core member, and
student voice will be built into all project activities at a local university level.
4. Establishing a baseline
An immediate consideration by the project steering group was to establish a baseline of
the current digital experience of staff and students in Irish universities, and the current
provision of professional development activities for all staff who teach and support
learning.
The Irish National Digital Experience (INDEx) Survey (National Forum for the
Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 2019) is a national survey
of the digital engagement, experiences and expectations of students and staff who teach
in Irish higher education. It was officially launched in October 2019, and involves 34
Irish higher education institutions, including all seven of the IUA universities. The
EDTL steering group agreed a common question, in addition to the set of core
questions, to be asked as part of the survey for the universities. The data from the survey
will be used at the level of each university to inform strategy, and the amalgamated data
across the 7 universities will be vital to inform the direction of the EDTL project.
To understand the local context and strategic priorities of each partner university with
respect to digital capacity in teaching and learning, a scoping exercise was carried out
to establish an overview of continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities
available for all staff who teach, across the seven universities and through the NFETL.
Data was compiled and collated based on information submitted by the members of the
project steering group, desk research and informal conversations. The data is broken
into three categories, based on the NFETL typology of professional development
activities (National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, 2016):
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Support for Unstructured, Non-accredited CPD typically online resources;
Structured, Non-accredited CPD typically workshops and events;
Accredited CPD formal accredited modules and programmes
With respect to accredited CPD, the scoping exercise shows that each university has an
existing accredited postgraduate qualification in teaching and learning available to staff
who teach. These are all module-based. The credit weighting varies significantly
between universities (15, 21 or 30 ECTS). Table 1 represents just the postgraduate
certificate programmes in each university. Some universities also offer a postgraduate
diploma and masters level qualification.
University
Programme Title
Credits
Note
DCU
PG Cert in Learning
Transformations for
Higher Education
30 ECTS
2 x 15 ECTS core
modules
New programme to
commence in January 2020
MU
PG Cert in Higher
Education Teaching,
Learning and Assessment
30 ECTS
15 ECTS core module +
combination of 5 and 10
ECTS elective modules
Revised programme to
commence in September 2019
NUIG
PG Cert in Teaching and
Learning in Higher
Education
30 ECTS
3 x 10 ECTS core
modules
TCD
Special Purpose
Professional Certificate in
Academic Practice
15 ECTS
3 x 5 ECTS elective
modules
UCC
PG Cert in Teaching and
Learning
30 ECTS
2 x 15 ECTS core
modules
Offered online
UCD
Professional Certificate
University Teaching and
Learning
15 ECTS
2 x 7.5 ECTS elective
modules
Can achieve Certificate of
CPD University Teaching and
Learning based on single 7.5
ECTS elective
UL
Certificate in Teaching,
Learning and Scholarship
21 ECTS
Core modules ranging
from 3 to 9 ECTS
Exit route from 60 ECTS
Graduate Diploma in
Teaching, Learning and
Assessment
Table 1 Overview of postgraduate certificate programmes in the seven universities
Some programmes include at least one module specifically on some aspect of Digital
Teaching and Learning, which may be part of the PG Cert (as in Table 1) or a
postgraduate diploma. Such modules range in credit weighting from 3 to 10 ECTS, and
variations between. Other programmes have aspects of Digital Teaching and Learning
embedded as elements of core modules.
From the review of existing CPD it is clear that this project should not aim to produce
a single programme or module on Digital Teaching and Learning that can simply be
rolled out and accredited in each university. Such modules already exist, or are
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embedded, and each university context, with respect to CPD, is unique to that
environment.
5. The pilot phase
Following initial consultation with each partner university a pilot phase commenced in
September 2019, after a planning phase from the end of June 2019. Each university is
running its own pilot, which looks different in each institution, based on university
strategic aims, existing expertise and available resources. The programme support,
embedded within the university context, is leading the professional development of 2-
3 discipline or programme groups. As far as possible, there is some overlap in the
disciplines across the seven universities, so that synergies across similar disciplines can
be established. Equally, there is overlap in the pedagogical focus between discipline
groups across the universities.
Pilot activities vary across the seven universities, with a balance between accredited
modules and structured, non-accredited workshops, all aligned with the European
Framework for the Digital Competency of Educators (DigCompEdu) (Redecker, 2017).
Areas of focus include technology enhanced assessment, structured course design,
universal design for learning, creation of digital resources, supporting active learning
in the classroom.
To recognise the participation of any individual academic or teaching staff member in
the pilot activities, the project team is developing a digital badge, Getting Started with
Personal and Professional Digital Capacity, which will be awarded through the
NFETL. Any discipline group that participates in the pilot phase should also be in a
good position to apply for the NFETL DELTA award scheme (National Forum for the
Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, n.d.).
6. Conclusions and future work
One of the challenges faced by the project team is how to make a national project work
in each university context. The pilot activities vary across the seven universities, as they
should, but each serves to meet overall project goals. Moreover, the learnings from each
individual pilot will be shared across the project team, initially, and will be used to
inform the further development of a national programme.
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Longer term, the national programme is likely to be comprised of three components.
First, a framework that can unify staff development activities across the seven
universities. We believe that the European Framework for the Digital Competence of
Educators (DigCompEdu) provides this structure. Second, the project aims to build a
sustainable connected network of staff developers, developing a critical mass and a
shared service approach to enhancing digital capacity across the university sector. The
third component is the collection of resources, lesson plans, short courses, micro-
credentials, digital artefacts, case studies, etc that will be produced as outputs of the
project. All such project outputs will be made available through Open Access
arrangements to the NFETL and more broadly for further use across the wider higher
education sector, within and beyond Ireland.
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References
National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
(2019). Irish National Digital Experience Survey. Retrieved from National
Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education:
https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/index/
National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.
(n.d.). DELTA Awards. Retrieved from National Forum for the Enhancement
of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education:
https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/awards/delta-awards/
National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. (2016). National
Professional Development Framework for all Staff Who Teach in Higher
Education. Dublin: National Forum.
National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
(2015). A Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World 2015-2017. Dublin:
National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher
Education.
National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Teaching and
Learning Enhancement Within and Across Disciplines. Retrieved September
27, 2019, from https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/resource-
hub/enhancement-within-disciplines/teaching-and-learning-within-disciplines/
Redecker, C. (2017). European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators:
DigCompEdu. (Y. Puni, Ed.) Luxenburg: Publications Office of the European
Union.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Book
Full-text available
As the teaching professions face rapidly changing demands, educators require an increasingly broad and more sophisticated set of competences than before. In particular the ubiquity of digital devices and the duty to help students become digitally competent requires educators to develop their own digital competence. On International and national level a number of frameworks, self-assessment tools and training programmes have been developed to describe the facets of digital competence for educators and to help them assess their competence, identify their training needs and offer targeted training. Analysing and clustering these instruments, this report presents a common European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators (DigCompEdu). DigCompEdu is a scientifically sound background framework which helps to guide policy and can be directly adapted to implement regional and national tools and training programmes. In addition, it provides a common language and approach that will help the dialogue and exchange of best practices across borders. The DigCompEdu framework is directed towards educators at all levels of education, from early childhood to higher and adult education, including general and vocational training, special needs education, and non-formal learning contexts. It aims to provide a general reference frame for developers of Digital Competence models, i.e. Member States, regional governments, relevant national and regional agencies, educational organisations themselves, and public or private professional training providers.
National Professional Development Framework for all Staff Who Teach in Higher Education. Dublin: National Forum. National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. (2019). Irish National Digital Experience Survey. Retrieved from National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/index/ National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. (n.d.). DELTA Awards. Retrieved from National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/awards/delta-awards/ National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. (2016). National Professional Development Framework for all Staff Who Teach in Higher Education. Dublin: National Forum. National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (2015). A Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World 2015-2017. Dublin: National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Teaching and Learning Enhancement Within and Across Disciplines. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/resourcehub/enhancement-within-disciplines/teaching-and-learning-within-disciplines/