“At such a critical time, launching a responsive, helpful and dynamic staff training initiative in digital education for our UCC staff was my priority”
Clíodhna O’Callaghan, UCC EDTL Project Lead
What problems were being addressed?
- Staff digital skills
- The emergency pivot to online learning
Who was involved?
The UCC EDTL Team consisted of Project Lead, Clíodhna O’Callaghan, and student interns, Catherine Dawson, Alice O’Connor and Stephen O’Riordan. They were based in the Centre for Digital Education (CDE), where they collaborated with many UCC departments such as the Skills Centre, HR Training & Development, CIRTL (Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning) and with the Students’ Union (SU).
Why did you choose to address the challenges this way?
- The EDTL project branding was strong. The team adapted it to suit UCC. This enhanced the standing of the work and training by establishing a strong brand at the right time.
- The CDE website, Canvas Teaching with Technology course & SharePoint sites could host the digital resources ensuring consistency and integration.
- Providing a variety of digital content would appeal to more staff across the university.
How were the goals achieved?
There is no way of enhancing students’ digital skills without elevating staff’s digital capabilities and awareness. The UCC EDTL Team kept this understanding at the core of their thinking when they set out to develop an all-encompassing staff digital resource. Their goal was to build confidence, while bridging any divides caused by the digital jargon.
They knew the EDTL approach would provide the founding pillars for their work – but the resources and branding would speak specially to UCC staff. The belief was that staff and students would take ownership of the resource, if it represented the vibrancy of their academic life and the character of the campus population.
The UCC Project Lead, Cliodhna O’Callaghan, is a Gaeilgeoir. She spotted a very interesting play on words: the Irish term for digital is digiteach and the term for house is teach. With some clever wordplay, the UCC EDTL Team had a name for their staff digital resource – Teach Digi, meaning house of digital.
Another key element the UCC EDTL Team wanted to employ was collaboration with other UCC support services and academic departments. This would ensure Teach Digi integrated into every crease of UCC campus, while covering each of the digital issues challenging staff.
The first step was to establish an advisory group. The UCC EDTL Team invited a staff member from:
- Human Resources
- IT Services
- Teaching and Learning
- The Skills Centre
- Inclusive Learning
- The Disability Support Service
A student was elected from the Student’s Union, with the purpose of providing the student perspective and once again promising every angle of the staff’s digital needs were being addressed. When the advisory group met, they discussed the best available resources and devised a strategy for introducing Teach Digi to UCC and guaranteeing its success.
The main areas of focus were:
- Teaching online
- Communicating online
The Centre for Digital Education (CDE) website would host Teach Digi, as UCC staff were already familiar with the resource. The UCC EDTL Team worked with the CDE and designed the Teach Digi extension, which was primarily public-facing, except for certain resources specific to UCC staff, such as how to navigate the VLE and complete the Teach Digi online training courses.
When the branding was developed, as well as the online presence, the UCC EDTL Team were ready to launch Teach Digi – but everything changed with the introduction of the Covid restrictions and the emergency pivot to online learning. The UCC EDTL Team had to reorientate their introduction strategy and prioritise the problems posed by the pandemic, such as teaching and communicating online, ensuring engagement and accessibility.
Finally, the UCC EDTL Team launched Teach Digi in June 2020, with a catalogue of information that was tailored to the rapidly changing needs of staff. The variety of digital resources available – written descriptions, video tutorials, graphs and links – ensured Teach Digi’s offerings catered to the users’ busy lives and calendars, as they could choose the digital format that best suited their daily environment and their learning style.
By Autumn 2020, Teach Digi had engaged most of UCC’s academics and a large number of students. The EDTL Approach underpinned the staff training and the overall design – but most importantly, the national level that the EDTL project was operating at, guaranteed the information was effective and relevant, therefore inspiring trust within each of Teach Digi’s visitors.
The UCC EDTL Team were organising three Roundtable discussions per semester, where students and staff met online to answer and ask questions, and to listen to each other’s experiences and perspectives. The sessions were recorded and posted online afterwards. And with attendance numbers reaching 60+, the events were hugely successful, simply because they achieved one of the UCC EDTL Team’s main objectives, which was to break down the barrier’s distorting UCC’s digital development.
“The belief was that staff and students would take ownership of the resource, if it represented the vibrancy of their academic life and the character of the campus population. ”
The team were consistently conscious of the transition students and staff had undertaken, as well as the amount of learning it entailed, so patience and understanding were at the core of every event. They were also aware of their own limits and regularly reminded themselves that they were not always going to have all of the answers – but they could certainly source them with a bit more time.
The biggest lessons were:
- Ask senior members of staff to participate in the promotions
- Highlight any partnerships with national agencies
- Collaborate with campus services
- Recognise students as partners
- Create an advisory group
Ag Caint Podcast
Teach Digi was built upon a foundation of collaboration. It was one of the reasons why the staff digital resource was such a success. It was also the reason why the UCC EDTL Team were able to offer a unique and critical insight into the student experience, when they set out to create the Ag Caint podcast.
The UCC EDTL Team took the feedback they received through Teach Digi and summarised the information into five pillars, which were illustrated in this infographic design:
The decision to create a podcast was twofold:
- The sharing of key learnings across disciplines in the university form both a staff and student perspective
- Raising the awareness of Teach Digi, EDTL and ultimately carving out access to digital education in a new and exciting way
The UCC EDTL Student Intern, Catherine Dawson, would learn the skills necessary to develop a podcast and present a podcast. She would also create a product to add to her digital portfolio.
The initial plan was to create five podcasts – one based on each of the pillars. The UCC EDTL Student Intern, Catherine Dawson, would speak to another student about each of the pillars, just as the UCC EDTL Project Lead, Cliodhna O’Callaghan, would speak to a lecturer. This would provide them with further information and insight, such as what was and was not working, and what students will be able to build on in the future.
The goal was to help the student population navigate the toughest lockdown so far. And once again, the UCC EDTL Team were overwhelmingly successful, so much so that they decided to continue and grow the Ag Caint podcast by asking a lecturer and their student to join them in their discussion – an idea proposed by the team’s EDTL counterparts.
The podcast gave this learning dynamic a chance to:
- Talk about issues they felt were important/overlooked
- Reflect on digital learning today
The UCC EDTL Team wanted to podcast to be easily accessible. It was recorded on Microsoft Teams and posted on the VLE, as well as the CDE website. It is now available on Spotify, where its continued progress can be heard in each uploaded conversation.
The UCC EDTL Team’s focus on listening to the feedback they received, not only provided them with the content for their podcast, but also ensured their work evolved and remained relevant.