NUI, Galway is about to launch a dedicated Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). CELT has responsibility for training academic staff on teaching skills, implementing widespread use of the latest educational technologies and managing audio-visual services across the university. Bringing all three together, with the aim of improving the overall learning experience for students and the professional skills of staff, is a unique approach in Ireland.
CELT will coordinate a wide range of projects, funded from a variety of sources to the tune of EUR1 million. CELT will offer staff the opportunity to acquire postgraduate level qualifications in education as well as providing one-day workshops and conferences on specific topics such as: educational technology, large and small group teaching, student assessment, course design, etc. This new approach to academic staff development is an international trend, which is only recently emerging in Ireland, according to Dr. Iain MacLaren, the Director of CELT. "It is widely acknowledged now that teaching is very demanding. The continuing professional development of staff is central to meeting evolving educational needs," he said.
Technology as a vital tool Academic staff development is just one aspect of CELT. The use of technology in education is another important focus. "Technology is a very effective tool in the provision of education, if properly used. It's important to inform staff about how technology can add value to the overall student learning experience," said Dr. MacLaren.
One of the early goals of CELT is the establishment of a virtual learning environment (VLE), which will provide support for campus-based and distance learning courses. The VLE will be powered by a number of industry standard technologies and will be available to both students and lecturers as a useful tool for a wide range of functions including course organisation and delivery, facilitating study groups and submitting coursework. One important aspect of the VLE will be ease of use, making it accessible and inviting for users with all levels of IT ability.
CELT will serve as an important medium to facilitate research and development activities in the field of third level education, particularly through the fostering of international links and collaborative projects. Communication technologies such as video-conferencing will greatly aid this and will allow experts in third level institutions from all over the world to share their knowledge.
"CELT will put NUI Galway at the forefront of teaching technologies and will allow the university to take part in many international projects and to keep pace with developments in the field," said Dr. MacLaren.
Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir Press Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel: 091-750418
Notes to the editor
Dr. Iain MacLaren has been newly appointed by NUI Galway. A native of Scotland, he graduated from Edinburgh University in 1983 with an honours degree in Astrophysics and subsequently obtained a PhD in Cosmology from the University of Durham.
He has held a number of research and teaching posts. Much of Dr. MacLaren's work in recent years has been in technologies in education and other aspects of teaching and learning. He has been a partner in several major projects funded by the EC and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. He has provided staff development courses and workshops at a number of Scottish universities and consulted at various levels in aspects of learning technologies and student learning.