Author: Hazel Partington – Senior Lecturer (School of Community Health and Midwifery)
I had previously engaged with the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) and achieved my Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), and Microsoft Innovative Educator-Expert (MIE-E) status. I had found this a really useful process to go, with short courses that helped me to expand my skills and a wealth of resources. When I heard that Chris Melia was piloting a UCLan DigiLearn scheme that linked in with the MEC I thought this was a great idea and was one of the first to sign up.
Technology-enhanced learning is of great interest to me, I have been teaching on MSc courses which are delivered wholly online for over 12 years, and last year completed my Doctorate in Education (EdD) with research that focused on the transformative potential of online learning. So, in a sense I had some advantage in working through the DigiLearn programme as I had already spent several years engaged in this field.
The first level in the pilot scheme (DigiLearn Practitioner) asked me to confirm my engagement with the Faculty Microsoft Teams, use of Surface Technology, achievement of MIE status. Additionally, I had to write a few words about how I employed digital technologies in Assessment and Feedback, Resources and Content, and Collaboration and Communication. It seems to me that once they have achieved the MIE status, most lecturing staff should easily be able to meet these criteria and get onto the DigiLearn ladder through their engagement with Blackboard, Turnitin and Teams.
Updating and expanding skills
Each level on the DigiLearn scheme helps to expand digital learning skills and deepen reflection on practice. I found that although I have been engaged in this work for a long time it was good to be able to reflect on achievements and innovations that I have been involved with. Having targets to meet such as number of posts on Teams, sharing resources with colleagues on Teams, writing a guest post for the TELT blog, was a good incentive to update and expand my skills.
Communication and collaboration
It was also great to see other members of the Faculty working their way through the levels and make connections with them. Those of us on the pilot scheme have encouraged and congratulated each other when a new level is achieved.
It was also very nice to get a new DigiLearn lanyard and a certificate presented to me at the School Away Day 😊
It has been my aim for a while to be a voice for online learning within the Faculty and the University, and I hope that having been the first person to achieve DigiLearn Champion status will assist me in this. I strive to help online learners to feel as connected to their fellow students and to UCLan as those students who are campus-based. Engagement with the DigiLearn scheme and the MEC has opened my eyes to further opportunities to maximise inclusive and collaborative learning.
Connection with the MEC is a great bonus to this scheme. I attended my first online MEC Teams call earlier this week and spend an interesting hour making contact with other MIEEs and hearing about new innovations coming our way in the next few months to support inclusive learning.
On my soapbox of ‘remember the e-learners and e-tutors’, it is great to see a scheme like this moving from strength to strength. I hope that it will bring greater recognition of the potential of digital learning technologies and techniques. I think that it will help staff not only to appreciate the fantastic work that they are already doing, but also to see identify further innovations to add to their practice.
As I said earlier, because I have spent the last few years studying online learning and its potential, I did have a bit of an advantage in getting to DigiLearn Champion status relatively quickly. I had already conducted research into this field, presented at internal and external conferences and written a book chapter on the topic. Assembling my evidence to meet the criteria at the different levels was a useful and self-affirming process to go through and I am sure that many lecturing staff will already have achievements to meet the criteria.