Welcome to the Irish Universities Association’s first Digital Teaching and Learning Newsletter! It’s been exactly two months since our official launch at the Dublin Convention Centre, and we’re excited to share our first newsletter for 2020.
As the debut edition, this newsletter covers everything from the project launch and pilot programs in the universities to a feature article from an academic and even a student interview. Stay tuned and have a happy new year!
IUA launches new project to promote digital competence of educators in Irish universities
Micro-credentials are the way forward for working in universities of the future, said a leading educational change leader at the launch of the Irish Universities Association’s new project.
Prof Beverley Oliver, a principal fellow of Australia’s Higher Education Academy, made the statement at the launch of the new Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning (#IUADigEd) project in Dublin’s iconic Convention Centre. It marked the final day of the World Conference on Online Learning 2019 hosted by DCU.
#IUADigEd Webinar Series
The webinar series started in September 2019 as a way for the EDTL project team to share experience and expertise, on diverse topics related to supporting the development of staff/student digital skills in Irish higher education.For January to June 2020, webinars will normally take place every 2 weeks on Mondays, from 12.30- 14.00. Participants are welcome to drop in/out as necessary. For more information visit our website here.
Dublin City University
Our Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning pilot has taken the form of a professional learning programme for academics on the topic of digital assessment. We are interested in helping staff to build their digital capacity when it comes to assessment because it is such an important activity in the student experience. We invited three groups of lecturers to participate and worked with each group to identify the areas of digital assessment that they felt would improve the experience of students in their schools/programme. Topics such as flexible assessment using technology, group work and group assessment, e-portfolios, and mobile-enabled assessment and feedback were explored in a series of workshops.
We also provided additional support around using technology through webinars, the development of resources, and individual consultancies. The EDTL project has allowed us to tailor the workshops to each group’s specific needs in supportive and scaffolded manner. We feel this approach will go a long way to helping sustain a change in the academics’ practice. Our groups have great plans to implement e-portfolio assessment, peer assessment, group assessment, video assessment and more in semester two.
A range of staff and student-facing activities are being implemented at Maynooth University in respect of the IUA Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning Project. A working group comprised of student and staff representatives are working in partnership to determine students’ needs and perspectives with respect to digital graduate attributes and digital learning and teaching experiences. We are also reviewing data on employers’ requirements with respect to graduates’ digital capacity. In the School of Business, we are working on an initiative to promote student engagement with business information resources. This project first aims to establish if, and how, students are accessing and consuming business news resources. It will then support School of Business staff to leverage social media in order to encourage students to seek out and actively engage with appropriate business information sources. In the School of Computer Science, professional development areas will include blended learning; assessment and feedback; and digital resource development.
During the course of the Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning project, participants on MU’s Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Higher Education Teaching, Learning and Assessment will be supported to develop their digital skills and competencies in line with the DigCompEdu framework.
Trinity College Dublin
As part of our new pilot, the eLearning team in Trinity College Dublin ran a 5 ECT module on technology-enhanced learning. Our goal was to develop a module to enhance the digital capacity of staff participating in the project, in order to enhance their teaching practice. Based on the feedback acquired from the pilot, we will refine this module, so that we can roll this out to schools as part of the project in 2020. This module was aimed at lecturers who wished to explore the meaningful integration of technology into their teaching practice. We aimed to develop the knowledge and skills required by participants to integrate technology-enhanced learning activities into their own practice using blended learning. There was a focus on guiding participants on the use of the ‘flipped classroom’ approach whereby students engaged with online materials such as videos and readings before participating in online and in-class activities. The module was comprised of online activities and face-to-face sessions covering topics such as module design, video creation, communication tools and online assessment.
The assessment requires participants to construct technology-enhanced learning activities focused on an authentic area of their teaching. Participants will be asked to write an assignment or create a video discussing their created activities. These assessments are due for submission by the end of January 2020.
On the boundaries of learning
Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence, American poet Robert Frost had once famously quipped. For 23-year-old photojournalist Ala Buisir, this remark makes sense at a literal level.
Ala, like one in every 10 people in the world, suffers from dyslexia – a reading disorder that affects one’s ability to spell, identify, and write words at normal speed. Her whole higher education career has hinged on the tumultuous balance between finishing readings and writing essays, with the help of teachers and software – each compensating for shortcomings in the other.
Over a phone interview last week – while waiting for her Luas to get to YouTube’s Dublin office where she works – Ala shared some of her moving experiences with me. Smart, outspoken, and naturally helpful, Ala narrated how there are fundamental flaws in our approach to dyslexia in Irish higher education.
New Dimensions: 3D Animation in Digital Learning
As I watch Disney’s Frozen with my daughters, yet again, I’m once more amazed by the incredible way the animators have realised the snow that covers the Kingdom of Arendelle. What’s more, Disney and others in the industry frequently publish their methods at the prestigious SIGGRAPH conference. This lets us look behind the curtain and see how the magic is done, and in many cases, it turns out to be not too far from the methods we use in science and engineering to simulate the physical world in our own research.
The staggering increase in the capability and fidelity that can be achieved by today’s visual effects artists borrows much from the academic sphere but one area where they have made significant strides is in the development of the usability of their tools. Geared for maximum productivity in a competitive industry, professional software such as Houdini, Maya and the open source darling Blender can produce sophisticated 3D graphics with complex physical interactions with photorealistic results with ease. Unlike our precision academic tools, accuracy is not always a concern, but the results are often compelling due to their ability to mimic reality. What’s more, many of these tools are freely available to educators and students.
In a previous role in industry I found that creating simple 3D animations often captured the imagination of visiting and often jet-lagged executives far better than yet another PowerPoint presentation. A dramatic animation of a glowing hot telecoms system being dunked in dielectric fluid to efficiently cool it prepared the way for the following technical discussion. It also turned out that learning to make simple animations in software such as Blender wasn’t too difficult. The only challenge however is compute time, a machine with a powerful processor to handle the physical simulations and a beefy graphics card to simulate the virtual photons that bounce around and light the scene both realistically and beautifully is required.
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