Professional Development

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Bookended by puberty and culturally defined adult roles, it is now established that adolescence extends from age 10 to age 24. Funded by the National Forum SATLE2019 scheme, and launched during VIT&L 2021 week, the new Canvas course Brainpower developed by Dr. Eithne Hunt (Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy / Graduate Attributes Programme, UCC); Dr. Samantha Dockray (Applied Psychology, UCC); and Professor Yvonne Nolan (Anatomy & Neuroscience, UCC) with input from students and higher education staff explores the ramifications of this research and gives participants an opportunity to reflect on what this information may mean for them within their work or role in higher education.

The inner workings of the adolescent brain and how these workings develop and are expressed in behaviours and engagement with the external world have been the focus of an explosion of research inquiry. Seated in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, cognitive abilities such as decision-making, planning, self-control, social interaction and self-awareness are only fully developed by the mid-twenties. In addition, the brain regions governing risk-taking and reward are intensely active in adolescence, and so influence behaviour, which is also shaped by context and expectations of others.

To realise student success, higher education (HE) institutions must take into account that the majority of their students are still adolescents, without fully developed cognitive, social, emotional and self-regulatory capacities, living and learning in a socio-cultural environment that offers less external regulation than ever before. The knowledge that many students in higher education are in developmental transition spotlights opportunities to construct academic and campus contexts that supports this transition.

Brainpower is a free, online, self-paced course, focusing on harnessing the power and potential of adolescent brain and behaviour for enhanced learning, wellbeing and student success in higher education. Within each of the six modules (each approximately 60 minutes duration) there is a variety of instructive media, including recorded Panopto lectures, videos and short readings. Supplemental information in the form of suggested reading lists, podcasts, and videos is provided. The Brainpower modules are provided in a predefined sequence with content unlocked step by step. Modules will be unlocked once the previous module is completed. 

This report arises from the #Openteach: Professional Development for Open Online Educators project, which is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.The #Openteach project team are based in the Open Education Unit (OEU) at Dublin City University (DCU).

The main aim of the #Openteach project was to produce, and evaluate, evidence-based open professional development for part-time online educators. In anearlier phase of the project a literature review called Teaching Online is Different: Critical perspectives from the literaturewas completed in order to identify online educator roles and the associated competencies for effective online teaching (Ní Shé, Farrell, Brunton, Costello, Donlon, Trevaskis, Eccles, 2019). Concurrently, we conducted a needs analysisreport of the target population, online students and their online educators (Farrell, Brunton, Costello, Donlon, Trevaskis, Eccles, Ní Shé, 2019). These reports were used to guide the development of the professional development resources for the #Openteach open online course.

Teaching online is different. In this report we attempt to explain why. This report arises from the #Openteach: Professional Development for Open Online Educators project, which is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. In this project we plan to uncover and promote the keys to effective online teaching practice, while recognising that effective teaching is an art, craft and science. We aim to harness this knowledge to support the professional learning of online educators. Ultimately we want to support online students to learn online by helping and inspiring their educators. This report was developed to help lay a foundation for the project through a critical analysis of relevant literature

This work arises from the #Openteach: Professional Development for Open Online Educators project, which is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The #Openteach project team are based in the Open Education Unit (OEU) at Dublin City University (DCU). Formally known as the National Distance Education Centre and subsequently Oscail, the OEU is a provider of online, off-campus programmes through the DCU Connected platform. Throughout the years the mode of delivery moved gradually from that of a traditional distance education provider to incorporate more elements of online learning. A significant step in this process came in 2011, with the introduction of synchronous live online tutorials and the electronic delivery of modules in a virtual learning environment (Delaney & Farren, 2016; Farrell & Seery, 2019). Following an open and online learning philosophy, the OEU aims to afford educational opportunities to students who have not managed to access more traditional entry routes into higher education.

The #Openteach project aims to generate new knowledge about effective online teaching practice and to harness this new knowledge to support the professional development of online teachers and to more effectively support online student learning experiences.

#OpenTeach Website

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The Higher Education Language Educator Competences (HELECs) Framework has been developed by
an inter-institutional team of language teachers and applied linguists in Ireland. The project was
funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
and supported by the four partner institutions, University College Cork (lead), Dublin City University,
Maynooth University and Waterford Institute of Technology. The aims of the HELECs framework are:
• To work toward the goals of the national languages strategy, Languages Connect: Ireland’s
Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education (2017), with particular reference to increasing
capacity and enhancing the learning environment.
• To provide a tool for language educators and their managers with which they can self-assess
and articulate their competences.
• To work toward a professionalisation of the field of language teaching and learning in higher
education in Ireland.
In the following sections we outline our target audience for this framework, describe the
development process, and provide the details of the framework including the competence
identifiers, the competence domains and the competence descriptors.

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