Thursday, 7 April 2016

Erasmus+ Funded Staff Mobility Training Course - Train the Inspiring Trainer Course

Last week I was given the opportunity to embark on the Erasmus+ funded Train the Inspiring Trainer course in Cyprus offered by ILC (Inspired Learning Centre).

Before I begin to share my experiences here is a little background information about the Erasmus+ programme.
The Erasmus Programme (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is a European Union (EU) student exchange programme established in 1987.
The old Erasmus programme focused on student and staff mobility between universities whereas the new Erasmus+ launched in 2014 is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. Many of the initiatives are based on opportunities for students and recent graduates. Funding is also available to assist teachers, lecturers and non-academic staff to develop their skills in schools, universities, colleges and adult education environments around Europe via job shadowing, teaching and training activities.
It is a fantastic opportunity to network with people within your field to learn, share practices, as well as build relations with an institution from a different educational system. Erasmus+ can provide funding for your trip by contributing towards the cost of travel and expenses for your programme whether it is a couple of days or a couple of months.

Currently Erasmus+ covers the following 32 countries in Europe outside the UK:
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Turkey.

Leading up to my visit I researched the various programmes offered by institutions across Europe via the Erasmus+ route to find a suitable programme. I found the staffmobility.eu website a useful starting point that provided a good insight of how broad the programme was offering flexibility such as by country, language, or target group.
I then established a programme called Train the Inspiring Trainer course offered by ILC inspired Learning Centre in collaboration with Lifelong Learning Association in Cyprus, which I felt was suitable for me given my current role involves delivering a substantial amount of training.

What interested me most about the course was the course delivery m
ethodology was based on providing maximum practice and feedback with minimum amount of theory. The course delivered a 3 day one to one training, including a day’s excursion to Pathos and a day off to explore Cyprus. Here are ILC’s aims for the course:
  • Provide opportunity to reflect on what does it mean to be a “good trainer”
  • Raise awareness of supportive and limiting beliefs and how they affect performance
  • Build in the participants awareness of their own beliefs related to being a trainer
  • Build in the participants awareness of their own strengths
  • Raise trainers’ ability to create supportive learning environment
  • Introduce mind expansion techniques to tap into creative force of the mind
  • Enhance the understanding of feedback as motivational factor and provide practical tools for giving constructive feedback
  • Improve the educators ability to include play and laugh in their sessions
  • Enhance public speaking capacity
  • Boost in the participants their motivation and passion for teaching
  • Provide tools for trainer’s optimal self-care
  • Provide techniques for improved trainer-learners communication
  • Enhance confidence in the participants
  • Expand paradigm of a trainer and hence allow the participants to engage in new creative ways of teaching
  • Provide opportunity to give and receive feedback from other participants
  • International dialogue and exchange of experiences and resources
I found the trainer well organised and very efficient in answering all my queries promptly whether it was regarding the course or the best way to travel from the airport to the hotel, which was reassuring.
Once I decided that this was the right course for me, I then enquired how I could apply for funding. I followed standard process in applying internally within my institution where I was required to complete an application form in order to receive additional funding to cover all the costs associated with the course which included 1090EUR for the course fees, accommodation (half board) between the Erasmus and the internal staff development funding.

After the funding had been authorised I booked myself onto the course and was sent pre-course material which included a list of study materials along with details of other relevant content of the course available on the Internet.

Following a five hour flight on EasyJet I landed at Larnaca International Airport and made my way to the Park Beach Hotel which was conveniently situated near the beach in Limassol providing me a relaxing backdrop.

Park Beach Hotel in Limassol CyprusOnce checked into the hotel I did a little exploration of the area before meeting with my trainer Karolina Gladych and Agnieszka Nowosadecka with whom I had been liaising with regarding the course for an informal drink in the evening. This was a short and precise introduction whilst providing further information about what to expect on the course and also obtaining what my aims and hopes were from this experience.  

I was provided  a handbook with material that will be covered during the duration of the course and was shown the training room which was conveniently within the hotel.
As I was the only attendee, the trainer was able to tailor the content more towards my needs and allowed a good opportunity to receive greater feedback on my practices.
Here is a list of some areas that was covered during the course: 
  • Relaxation techniques to create optimal learning state
  • What does it mean to be a good teacher/trainer?
  • What do you love about being a teacher/trainer?
  • Understanding and utilizing different learning styles
  • Understanding interpersonal differences and group dynamics
  • The importance of teacher’s self care
  • Generating different states in the learners (e.g playful, focused, reflective, active etc.)
  • How to give and receive feedback
  • Handling ‘difficult learners’
Wednesday 23rd March I was taken for day excursion to see the archaeological sites, visit Aphrodite's rock and then finishing off the day by going to the tourist area in Pathos for a nice lunch by the sea. I found this a great opportunity to get to see the sights of Cyprus as well as getting to know Karolina better.

For the final day I was asked to either deliver a presentation or workshop so feedback can be provided and areas of improvement can be discussed.
Using my tablet I decided to deliver a 30min workshop on how to create an interactive online board called Padlet to Aga and Karolina.
I received really positive feedback on my workshop which was reassuring to hear that from another experienced trainer.




Wednesday 23rd March I was taken for day excursion to see the archaeological sites, visit Aphrodite's rock and then finishing off the day by going to the tourist area in Pathos for a nice lunch by the sea. I found this a great opportunity to get to see the sights of Cyprus as well as getting to know Karolina better.

In addition Karolina was a friendly trainer and her teaching methods was effective where I felt relaxed and engaged with all the materials that were covered. 

The course provided a useful insight in exploring ways to create an ideal environment for my participants as well as how to engage with different personalities. I felt it was very useful to be able to reflect on the current training methods and think about ways that I can change parts of it to include more interactions between participants.
Overall, there was a good balance between the course and free time as being able to spend six nights in Cyprus was an added bonus as there was plenty of time to sight see and absorb the culture.

Sultan Wadud, Agnieszka Radomiak and Karolina Gladych
I would like to say a big thank you to both Karolina Gladych and Agnieszka Nowosadecka for a wonderful time in Cyprus.






For more information about the Erasmus+ programme please visit -
www.erasmusplus.org.uk

Useful place to find programmes being offered -
staffmobility.eu

ILC inspired Learning Centre in collaboration with Lifelong Learning Association - llpcyprus.eu

Thursday, 17 March 2016

SOAS academic Dr J. Simon Rofe and his ground-breaking new MOOC in global diplomacy in the modern world

An interview with Simon Rofe, academic at SOAS and member of the BLE Steering Group, has been publised in London Connection - the online magazine produced by the University of London International Programmes. In the interview, Simon talks about the MOOC in Global Diplomacy that has recently launched - a first in this subject area. Read the full article here

Monday, 14 March 2016

BLE Annual Report, 2014-15

An opportunity to look back at last year's progress and achievements, the BLE Annual Report documents the continued development and activities of the BLE service. As well as highlighting the various software licences that the BLE partners share, the work on the collaborative online assessment and feedback project is noted along with other activity including the web conferencing platform review and the CMALT programme for staff.

Download the Report here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The RVC Student Learning Technologists – a peer-to-peer support network or a feedback mechanism?

Callum Hutchinson – second year student at the RVC

Last year I took on the role of the Student Learning Technologist (SLT) for my cohort. The core task for myself and the other Technologists is to promote, encourage and support students at the RVC in the use of technology in our studies and improve digital literacy. As part of this we:

  • Ensure lecture recordings via Echo360  for our cohort are published to a good standard.
  • Assist staff where necessary to improve the quality of these lectures or provided materials.
  • Monitor and maintain RVC Learn (our Moodle site) for our cohort and provide any assistance needed.
  • Feedback and communicate with the eMedia Unit (http://www.rvc.ac.uk/emedia) any issues with these systems.
  • We see, hear and discuss things that might otherwise go ‘off-the-record’. We are able to feed this back to relevant staff before it become mission critical and can start looking to implement the right things at the right times.

For example, in 2015 the RVC decided to switch all first year courses at the RVC to a paperless handouts system for environmental and other reasons. In response, my role during the first half of the term included assisting students transitioning to paperless, enhancing digital literacy and providing help with paperless annotation tools and cloud syncing to get them settled as quickly as possible. I am happy to report that this has been a success thanks to the hard work of myself, the other SLTs and my colleagues within eMedia.

Callum in the RVC's Anatomy Museum
Callum in the RVC's Anatomy Museum
Ground work has to be done to ensure we know exactly what to add, change or remove in this new digitally literate curriculum. How do you find out what students are doing well or struggling with? Heaven forbid, perhaps an email survey? We students are (mostly) lazy. Unless there’s an incentive or something is very seriously wrong, we probably won’t do it. Broadly speaking, we don’t make the connection that this is crucial to our future education.

I also see my role as SLT including being a contributor new ideas as to how students can use our existing technology in better ways based on our ‘ground work’. One example is the project I have undertaken for development of a Microsoft HoloLens/Windows app that would be accessible on all form-factors to assist students in their anatomy education outside of the classroom. You can read the proposal (and vote to signal your interest to Microsoft) at http://is.gd/AnatomyAug.

I bounce ideas about, not because I’m paid or that it’s indirectly part of my job. I do it because it’s better to share and discuss them than never see where they lead. An idea cultivated on one day could be implemented in a few months versus a few years if it is brought to the attention of the relevant people sooner.

The SLT programme is much more than a group of eager students wanting to help out and get paid for it. It’s a mechanism by which we can find out what the best path to go down is and start thinking about how to do it before it becomes detrimental to the student experience and digital literacy. We can plan to do the right thing so it’s less expensive and less time consuming than doing the wrong thing.

It was good to see that Jisc has also been promoting digital literacy more widely to students and staff around the UK. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the Jisc digital student experience project team at a London Digital Student Meet Up (LDSM) at the RVC. I have been particularly impressed by their Digital Student Experience Tracker and that there is a commitment to fund student innovation through the Summer of Student Innovation (SOSI) which I feel is important in trying to gather interest and engagement.

In conclusion, I believe that the best people to support and inspire our students to become more digitally literate are other students!

Posted on behalf of Callum Hutchinson – second year student at the RVC

Monday, 7 March 2016

SOAS MOOC launch: Global Diplomacy – Diplomacy in the Modern World


Dr J Simon Rofe - Programme Director and Senior Lecturer at SOAS and member of the BLE Steering Group - is the lead instructor of a new MOOC that launched today in collaboration with the University of London.

The Global Diplomacy course is a unique offering to the MOOC environment. Bringing together cutting edge research in the broad fields of Diplomatic and International Studies, award winning distance learning delivery and the instructors previous experience of delivering a successful MOOC. Please see the volume Global Diplomacy: Theories, Types and Models authored with Dr Alison Holmes, (Westview, 2016), and the Understanding Research Methods MOOC from Coursera.

For more details, please visit https://www.coursera.org/learn/global-diplomacy