A celebration event took place on 14 May, recognising the many staff across the higher education community who have taken time to support the professional development of colleagues by facilitating a National Forum Open Course. Open Courses, first introduced in 2017, are flexible opportunities for those who teach in higher education in Ireland to progress their professional development. To date, 21 Open Courses have been developed collaboratively by teams across the sector, focusing on topics such as entrepreneurship, programme-focused assessment, getting started with online teaching, recognition of prior learning, student engagement and universal design in teaching and learning. Over 1500 staff have completed Open Courses over the last four years, and over 350 have completed the extra hours required to allow them to facilitate courses for others.
The celebration event, which was chaired by National Forum Board member, Prof Paul McSweeney, included the launch of the new Open Courses website, available here. The new website is an important step forward in the delivery of Open Courses.
The original development of Open Courses was a central aspect of the national implementation of the Professional Development for All Staff Who Teach in Higher Education, which was published following a two-year national consultation in 2016. The implementation of the Framework was a key target in the 2016-19 Action Plan for Education, as well as the 2018-20 Higher Education System Performance Framework. Each Open Course is linked to one or more domains of the Framework, allowing those who teach to take ownership of the direction of their professional development.
Facilitators of various Open Courses, including representatives of UCT, CCT College, WIT, NUI Galway, and TU Dublin, shared their experiences during the celebration event and reflected on how involvement in Open Courses had impacted upon them. Facilitators mentioned valuing, in particular, the collaborative nature, ease of facilitation and participant engagement that characterise Open Courses. There was also an opportunity for those at the event to share insights regarding successful facilitation for the benefit of others.
To conclude, facilitators were awarded a digital badge, the Facilitator Ambassador in Professional Development badge, in recognition of the important step that each had taken in moving beyond completing the course required to become a facilitator to actually delivering an Open Course at national and/or local level. By taking action with their own professional development and supporting their peers across the higher education community, this group of facilitators demonstrated their commitment to continuous professional development and confidence in their role as facilitators. Furthermore, they supported capacity building for Open Courses, thus fostering a community-based approach to teaching and learning enhancement in Ireland.
We warmly congratulate all facilitators and encourage everyone to share the new website at https://opencourses.ie with colleagues so that more people can become aware of this opportunity to enhance their own professional development and support of the professional development of others.