Guest post – DigiLearn: Building community, sharing practice and recognising achievement

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Chris Melia

How do we recognise and share the digital achievements of our academic colleagues?

At the University of Central Lancashire, ‘DigiLearn’ is rapidly becoming the solution.

It all starts with a community of practice…

As a Faculty Learning Technologist, one of my key objectives has been the fostering of a community of practice around digital approaches to learning, teaching and assessment. This community facilitates the sharing of digitally inspired discussion and best practice examples, as well as connecting colleagues across five disciplines, in a large Faculty of over 400.

Microsoft Teams provided the ideal solution to host the community, with its very intuitive and collaborative interface. Additionally, the accessibility of the Teams environment perfectly meets the flexibility and mobility of Microsoft Surface devices, with which all our academics are now equipped.

Over time, the Teams space and subsequent digital learning events have become known simply as ‘DigiLearn’. This Faculty community now thrives with case studies and conversations, whilst  also providing the ideal environment for me to disseminate the latest technology related innovations and initiatives.

Discovery of the MEC – gamification

The discovery of the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC) is a real eye opener. The wealth of resources available is staggering, particularly as our University now drives forward the use of Office 365 tools across learning and teaching.

Achieving MIE statusOur colleagues are able earn badges on completion of courses, and work towards professional accreditation and recognition as Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIEs) and Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEEs). Gamification has clearly played its part across staff engagement with these programmes. There is a real sense of healthy competition amongst our academics to earn the associated points and badges to gain visible recognition.

The DigiLearn community has given our colleagues somewhere to share their MEC achievements and MIEE Sway submissions have helped colleagues in reflecting on their digital practice. All our MIEEs have now shared their presentations across the Faculty to encourage and inspire others in taking part.


UCLan DigiLearn recognition programme

Building on the success of the DigiLearn Teams community and MIE/MIEE recognition, a broader concept has now been developed. This new programme sits around a wider institutional recognition framework, that enables and empowers our colleagues in sharing their digital approaches, reflecting on practice and celebrating success.

The framework is fundamentally defined around three levels of award. Important, is that these titles are clearly identifiable nouns, best representing the level of achievements involved.

Participating colleagues must start with the Practitioner route and progress upwards through the programme, with each stage acting as a pre-requisite for the next.

There are three core strands embedded across each level of award:

  1. Engagement with the DigiLearn community in Microsoft Teams
  2. Effective use of Microsoft Surface technology
  3. Achievements on the Microsoft Educator Community (MIE/MIEE)

Along with these elements, each level holds its own set of unique additional criteria around sharing practice, initially at an internal faculty level (Practitioner) moving onto university level (Advocate) and finally, externally (Champion). Required evidence includes a combination of blog posts, written and video case studies, presentations and publications.UCLan learning and Teaching themes

Each criterion across the framework are aligned to one or more of the five themes that define our institution’s Learning and Teaching Strategy (PLACE).

Submissions of evidence are handled through Microsoft Forms, with each award level having its own entry page. Evidence generally takes the form of written statements or weblinks related to the achievement, publication or event referenced in the submission. These are then assessed and ratified by members of the University’s Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) team.

If further evidence is required colleagues are given the opportunity to submit additional material and where successful, are awarded recognition at Faculty, University and external level.

Certificates are presented by the Faculty Executive Team at development days, where achievements can be shared and celebrated amongst colleagues. Lanyards have proved particularly popular and feature the awarded DigiLearn title and corresponding stripes. They provide a visual form of recognition which colleagues wear with pride. The Open Badges have been added alongside existing MEC achievements to our colleagues LinkedIn profiles, as well as making regular appearances on email signatures.

The DigiLearn recognition programme pilot is only just underway in our Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, but the impact and momentum generated so far is extremely positive. There are already numerous award achievers across the Faculty, with a significant number of colleagues currently working towards their submissions.

Here is some feedback from colleagues who have successfully progressed through the programme to achieve DigiLearn Champion status.

Lecturer - Hazel Partington“Assembling my evidence to meet criteria at the different levels was a useful and self-affirming process to go through. I am sure that many lecturing staff will already have achievements to meet the criteria.  Each level on the DigiLearn scheme helps to expand digital learning skills and deepen reflection on practice.  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 identify further innovations to add to their practice.”

Hazel Partington – Senior Lecturer (School of Community Health and Midwifery)

“The DigiLearn recognition programme has not only motivated me to upskill and develop my technology enhanced teaching, it has also given credence to myDigilearn lanyard long-established teaching practice.  I would strongly recommend that all colleagues at the university take up these opportunities. DigiLearn is celebratory in its nature and progressive in its purpose.”

Andrew Sprake – Lecturer (School of Sport and Wellbeing)

DigiLearn is a perpetually evolving initiative, as more colleagues achieve recognition for their capabilities and worthwhile enhancements are identified and embedded. A bespoke professional academic practice framework will support the implementation phase of our ambitious Learning and Teaching Strategy and digital capabilities are fundamental to its success. The DigiLearn initiative has already become a recognised measure of personal achievement for academic colleagues alongside the benefits acknowledged by our students of being part of an active, digitally enabled learning community.

The TELT blog will feature guest posts from our DigiLearn awarded colleagues over the coming months. Look out for the first entry coming soon…

Remember, you can also follow the UCLan DigiLearn journey on Twitter: @ChrisLearnTech @UCLanTELT #UCLanDigiLearn #DigitalUCLan


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