Nuala Harding and her colleagues at the 2018 EdTech conference at Carlow IT.

AIT Researchers on “Cutting Edge” of Technology Enhanced Learning

Athlone Institute of Technology enjoyed “exceptional representation” at this year’s EdTech Conference hosted by IT Carlow. A total of twenty AIT staff representing the Faculties of Engineering and Informatics, Business and Hospitality, and Science and Health, participated in the conference discussing how technology can be used to successfully enhance learning whilst supporting the quality of the student experience.

According to Nuala Harding, Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator at Athlone Institute of Technology, AIT’s researchers are “on the cutting edge” of applied educational research into the use of digital technologies to support student success, substantiated by the depth and breadth of the research presented at the EdTech Conference. The presentations delivered by AIT academic and technical staff included accredited professional development (ATLAS), using technology to support assessment in science and health settings (TEAM) and others such as classroom and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) based studies.

A key takeaway from the conference was that of students and lecturers becoming partners and co-creators. The ethos around technology-enhanced learning emphasises the need for education to be participatory and “not something that’s being done to students.” Students are engaged through project and problem-based learning which bolsters critical thinking, communication and negotiation. AIT has been extremely successful in championing these learning strategies and in using VLE as a motivational strategy for students.

The ’flipped classroom’, which is a contemporary teaching and learning approach, encourages students to engage with learning materials outside the classroom in preparation for dynamic classroom interactions. Lecturers use the VLE - Moodle for technology-enhanced assessment and collaboration. These tools can be used to develop multiple-choice quizzes and facilitate things like video lab reporting. By encouraging students to collaborate digitally, instead of using traditional means, students’ digital capacity is further developed. AIT’s work in this area is helping to produce work-ready 21st-century graduates capable of holding their own on the global stage.

Nuala collaborated in a presentation on the multi-institutional project ATLAS, focusing on one aspect which emerged from the project, the concept of digital identity and well- being online. This encompasses social media and the online space more generally. “Both students and staff have a personal and professional presence online hence it is important to look at how we are using social media and digital tools to ensure it’s not going to adversely affect ourselves or others in our usage,” she said.

As part of the conference, a special edition of the Journal for Technology Enhanced Learning was launched and includes research conducted by AIT staff concerned with the changing expectations placed on students as a result of the ‘digital turn’. While Nuala acknowledges that most millennial-aged students are digitally-native and proficient social media users, this research indicates that students lack confidence when it comes to educational technology. “Colleges are using different tools and skills so digital competence doesn’t necessarily always transfer,” she said. As a result, AIT staff are focussed on how colleges can better support students becoming digitally adept in the academic and professional environment.

Dr Niall Seery, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Registrar, also commented on AIT’s involved in the EdTech Conference stating: “The research contributions from the staff of AIT are a testament to their commitment to enhancing the student experience. Engaging and supporting our students is a central theme of our educational provision and is celebrated in the work presented at this conference. As an institution, we are very proud of our staff and the positive and collegiate learning environment they create for all our students. The level of innovation in pedagogical practice is to be congratulated and bodes well for the future of AIT”.

Athlone Institute of Technology is a modern and dynamic HEI distinguished by outstanding learner experience, international focus and applied research and innovation. Awarded Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year, AIT is ranked 8th nationally of all HEIs in the league table comprising of Irish Universities and IoT’s. Athlone Institute of Technology boasts a wide array of courses in the Faculties of Engineering and Informatics, Business and Hospitality, and Science and Health. For the full list of courses on offer at Athlone Institute of Technology click here.

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