Category Archives: Staff deveopment

Farewell (not goodbye) to DCU as I move to my next chapter

I’ve had an eclectic career to say the least and I’ve never been afraid of taking on something new.I started as a product development chemist in Proctor & Gamble in the 90’s, before working in a small elearning company providing elearning on 3.5 inch floppy disks, I then worked promoting science and doing PR for the pharmaceutical industry, from there I moved into lecturing chemistry before moving into the area now of staff development. I learned so much from each of those roles,I am who I am because of the experiences that I have had. Next Monday I start my next chapter working in Ernest & Young.

I learned so much from the people that I worked with. Each of the roles had one thing in common, the success that I achieved in each role was because of the people around me. You can have a wonderful strategy, loads of goals, mission statements and aspirations but as the saying goes culture eats strategy for breakfast and people make the culture, good people are the reason behind success

Everyday on campus I had a chat with Mary, the lady that cleaned the Bea Orpen building, a lovely lady; Declan in Helix, hundreds of people come in every week yet Declan knew that I drank peppermint tea and always put in a few ice cubes for me as a personal touch; Theresa in the canteen knew that I was a coeliac and at the various staff events that were on, she’d always give me a nod saying  – “you can have that love”, or “that has wheat in it, I’ll be back in a minute with something for you” – right through to the former President of the University Prof Brian MaCraith who rang me when he found out that I was leaving. These personal touches made me feel like I belong in DCU. 

Without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about DCU is the people. I’ve said it before DCU is like a big machine, like a car, there are bits that people see and bits they don’t, loads of moving parts underneath the bonnet that are needed to make it work – not many people see all these parts or even know what they do. But without these parts the car will not work properly. So my ask of you is to recognise your own importance , your own value and  that of your colleagues because a spark plug may look small and insignificant when compared to the overall car but without it, the car will not work. So please bare with me for the next few minutes I want to celebrate the excellent work in DCU, the work that I’ve had the privilege to be involved in .

I had the privilege of running the Presidents Awards for Excellence in Teaching. When I first started we had 17 nominations. With the help of Madeleine Patton and the colleagues in the TEU we changed things around a little and for the last three years we had an average of more that 500 nominations. It is not that we have had more excellence, we’ve just had more celebration of excellence.

Declan Tuite and I were ahead of our time when in 2014, in partnership with his students we developed Augmented Reality (AR) teaching material. We went on to partner with Comms and Marketing and we embedded AR into the DCU brochures. Another example of being ahead of our time was our work with Kate Irving in Nursing with the development of the collaborative programme involving five other institutions from across Europe on the “Posadem” programme – students from DCU and these five institutions all logged into our VLE to do this amazing online programme helping to promote a positive approach to dementia – a superb example of innovation that also helps transform lives and societies. I also had the privilege of working with Finian Buckley & Co in the Business school to develop one of Enterprise Ireland’s most successful leadership programmes – GoGlobal. A superb collaboration between the TEU, the Business School and Enterprise Ireland to support the development of SME’s throughout Ireland.

I had the privilege of supporting the School of Biotechnology with rolling out an online module in Immunology, one of the first partnership initiatives with Arizona State university a strategic partner of the university. It is through this initiative that I managed to bring the amazing Clare Gormley into the team

Loop (local name for Moodle) – where do I start on Loop. When I first started Loop was on a server  underneath a desk in our IT department and very few lecturers used it. Lecturers had to request to have a page created for their modules. The few staff that used it used to complain that it used to crash all the time. We’ve come a long way since then. Hardly anybody used it back then –  last year we had 6 million visits to Loop . Rob and Motasem have done fantastic work in the last 18 months to bring Loop to the next level and I’m slightly jealous that I won’t be here to see the staff benefit from and embrace these new changes. With Henry and Salem providing support on the helpdesk I’ve no doubt that it will continue to go from strength to strength

Sticking with Loop I had the privilege of working with SS&D to roll out the first university wide online programme to support transitions in university. To my knowledge we remain the only institution to provide this programme as soon as students accepted their place in DCU.

There have been a lot of “I’s”, in this post, I did this and I had the privilege. But I can’t sit down without mentioning the biggest “I” word. Without a doubt the biggest project that I was involved in was the incorporation. The TEU were one of the first units to engage with incorporation. We provided Loop to all four institutions. We joined the T&L committee in St Pats with the wonderful Anita Prunty and started to support Teaching and Learning in whatever way we could. We worked with John Smith to bring over all of the staff and students onto Loop. We were a year ahead of everyone else. We now have to support 100’s more staff and 1000’s of additional students but the TEU got the better deal because we got to  keep Suzanne Stone after incorporation was complete. 

I have two professional highlights of my time in DCU, the first of which was being invited to give the keynote for SEDA annual conference in 2019.

For those of you that don’t know this is the professional body for people like me and my colleagues in the TEU. Getting such a keynote was huge. I was invited to talk about our work in Assessment and Academic Integrity. For our work in DCU to be recognised and held in such high esteem by this group was such an honour and is testament to all of the hard work my team have done in this area in the past few years. Spearheaded by Fiona O’Riordan the expertise, passion and enthusiasm that team bring to assessment unrivalled in my opinion. 

The second career highlight was being awarded a Principal Fellowship of AdvanceHE. There are over 170,000 fellows worldwide but only roughly1500 of them are Principal Fellows. We have three of them in DCU, which speaks volumes about the standard of Teaching & Learning in the university, not forgetting the dozens of Fellows and Senior Fellows too.

I’m going to wrap up now by saying. I have been blessed with a wonderful team in the Teaching Enhancement Unit. When Covid hit we became a very popular unit. The team all stepped up to the mark giving 200%, all of the staff in DCU got a glimpse of what I see everyday, an amazing team. Supporting not only colleagues in every part of  the university but graciously sharing their time and expertise with the entire sector. They are my work family, I cannot compliment them enough, they are unbelievable to work with. 

We worked hard and we played hard – The TEU had our own band at one stage, with guitars, violins, even a harp. We spray painted walls with graffiti and I got to run my boss off the road while doing go kart racing.  I also recorded a version of YMCA in Windmill lane studios. Somewhere there also is a video of me at a Christmas party attempting to do the floss with one of the students union sabbatical officers but the less said about that the better 🙂

I have never worked with a more cohesive, productive and supportive team and the biggest privilege that I had in DCU was to work with them.

Finally – They say if you enjoy your job you will never work a day in your life, well if that is true I never worked while I was here in DCU. I distinctly remember telling Prof Brian McCraith that I would buy shares in DCU if I could. I’m now leaving a place that I never thought that I would but I would still buy those shares if I could. As I say farewell to wonderful colleagues, DCU will always hold a special place in my heart. All that I ask of my former colleagues is that you please continue to do the amazing job of transforming lives and societies and regularly take the time to recognise the roll that everybody plays in “keeping the car moving”.


Prevention is better than cure – when it comes to catching plagiarism

It is better to remove the opportunity to plagiarise rather than have an assignment that presents the opportunity for students to plagiarise

The keynote from the founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas at this years Ireland and UK Moodle Moot provided several examples how online services and products can be used to produce assignments that will not be detected by the standard text matching services that we have all grown to rely on. With these advances in technology and the ubiquitous access to information through the internet plagiarism and academic integrity is a huge concern for education institutions. We all need to work together to reduce the factors that comprise academic integrity – the pressure, the opportunity to cheat and the rationalisation that students may have to cheat. It is a multifaceted problem and therefore requires a multifaceted set of solutions. For the purpose of this blog post I’m going to concentrate on one of those solutions – the design of assessments.

While there have been tremendous advances in text matching software like Ouriginal and TurnItIn in recent years – it is really a case of “the horse has already bolted” to coin an old phrase. If the gate was never open in the first place the horse would never have escaped. If the assignment was designed with Academic Integrity in mind it makes it more difficult for the student to plagiarise. I’m not saying impossible , just more difficult. Remember assessment design is only part of the solution.

 As part of an Erasmus project we have had the opportunity to work with partners in Georgia, Austria, Sweden and the UK to help academics design the opportunity for plagiarism out of assignments.

One of the outputs from this project was the “12 Principles of Academic Integrity” in relation to design of assessments.

  1. Set consistently high academic integrity standards which values university, programme and student/graduate reputation
  2. Provide detailed information direction on how students might avoid breaches of academic integrity and ensure consistency across a programme team
  3. Regularly update and edit assessments and programme assessment strategies.
  4. Use marking criteria and rubrics to reward positive behaviours associated with academic integrity;
  5. Design assessments that motivate and challenge students to do the work themselves;
  6. Ensure assessments are authentic, current and relevant;
  7. Adopt a scaffolded approach to assessments for learning with feedback points throughout the assessment process;
  8. Consider assessment briefs that have open-ended solutions or more than one solution
  9. Design in elements for students to record their individual pathways of thinking demonstrating students own work
  10. Design assessments which allow learners to prepare personalised assessments (either individually or group based)
  11. Build in a form of questioning or presentation/viva type defence component
  12. Co-design assessments or elements of assessment with students;

These principles are derived following a comprehensive review of the literature which focussed on two main questions:

  • What approaches to assessment design are used to promote or maintain academic integrity?
  • What recommendations are being made on using assessment design to support academic integrity?

Over the next few weeks I will share examples how an educator may through using a variety of learning technologies integrate these principles into their assessment design. For now I will leave you short interview with Professor Phil Newton. Phil is the Director of Learning and Teaching, having oversight of all taught programmes within the Swansea University Medical School. His research interest is in the area of Evidence-based Education, particularly Academic Integrity. I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil a while back and want to share his words of wisdom again.

Who Owns My Lectures? An Exploration of Academic Ownership in the Digital Age

We had a really interesting “hot topic” session recently where Dr Tom Farrelly was our guest speaker for the session the title of which “Who Owns My Lectures? An Exploration of Academic Ownership in the Digital Age”

Does the institution or the individual lecturer own the material? It was what I would consider a very healthy discussion and I only wish more lecturers came along on the day to join in. We had lecturers, learning designers, academic developers and management with responsibilities for digital learning in the audience. While we did not come to a resolution on the day, like all of these hot topic sessions the power is in the follow on discussions.

It was through one of these discussions where an interesting TED talk  “Embrace the remix” was shared . This talk from Kirby Ferguson to me clarifies that the material we create, the notes we create, the presentations of our knowledge are built on the foundation of other work, books we have read, videos we have watched and discussions that we’ve had.

After watching this video the argument in my opinion changes to  – do I have rights over my “performance” of the lecture, like an artist has rights over their art? This question in my opinion is easier to answer – No. If you are paid by your institution to produce the lecture material you do not have rights over it. After all does an actor get paid everything time a film in which they are in is shown. They don’t, they got paid to act the scene, when Star Wars the movie was re-released in the 90’s did the entire cast get paid a second time. I know that there are some exceptions where some actors have particular contracts, but they are the exception not the rule. In a time where it is easy to record a lecture and replay it several times, should the lecturer get paid each time? Actors can make or break a film, just like lecturers can make or break an academic programme. But it is not just the actors, it is the script writers, the set designers, the producers, the directors. It is the entire team working for the studio. In todays’ digital era it is no longer just the lecturer that is involved in the production of learning material, it is the learning technologists, the curriculum design team and all the stakeholders working for the institution.

There are so many different variants of the scenario it is nearly impossible to give a definitive answer but I will say this – the conversation is very timely and one worth having. We should have it sooner rather than later because as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous it will potentially become more of an issue if not addressed.

What is your opinion? What is the situation in your institution?

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Supporting the Student Support

The role of the Teaching Enhancement Unit within DCU is typically to support academics in the area of teaching and learning. While the general training and workshops that we offer are open to all staff, the majority of the training is targeted towards academics.Yesterday was more of an exception;  my colleague Dr Pip Ferguson and I delivered a workshop to staff from our Student Support and Development Unit. Based on our experience yesterday both Pip and I strongly feel that this “exception” should and will become more of the norm. Traditionally my counterparts in most universities deal solely with academics whether by direct intent or just due to lack of resources but yesterday reinforced my opinion in the absolute need for my unit to also directly help those that support students.

We ran a two hour workshop with 15 staff providing hints and tips on presenting to students and running workshops. But more importantly the workshop provided a forum where staff were able to share experiences and ask questions. The willingness of the staff to participate and generally engage with the workshop was very noticeable. Several points struck me through the morning, notably as part of an exercise participants were asked to chat to their colleagues about presenting to students. On more than one occasion I overheard people asking their colleagues “what do you actually do?”. I have no doubt that this arises from the fact that we are always chasing our tail and so busy with our own work that we don’t get the opportunity to see what our immediate colleagues do. Even though this particular unit appears very close on a personal level and I’ve always got a good vibe when I walk through their doors (it’s one of the nicest places to walk into within the college) . I believe their unit suffers from the same physical  location condition that we suffer from within the Teaching Enhancement Unit; sometimes people can be just tucked away in their offices, which despite working on the same team  they can be spread across a large area making it difficult for team members to interact and “socially” talk about work. While changing the layout of buildings and re-organising offices can be prohibitive, days like yesterday help address this type of issue. The second point of note was in addition to the very positive feedback received, there was an appetite for more – which is always. So we are following the workshop up by creating a resources page for staff containing these teaching tips/guidelines and providing staff with the opportunity to ask more questions and continue the learning beyond the 2 hours delivered yesterday. The final point that was very reassuring for me was that so many of the good points and suggestions were actually advanced by the participants themselves. To me this illustrated their belief in what they want to do and their interest in improving.

The next step following the set up of this resources page is to plan more workshops and build on the appetite that exists to learn more and to improve the student (and staff) experience



Hashtag for higher education in Ireland #heie

Twitter has been the most effective, efficient, and cheapest professional development I have ever come across. However I am not going to use this post to introduce Twitter for professional development or its other potential uses in higher education – there are numerous other websites that have got there before me. However I do want to concentrate on the area of hashtags in twitter. For those not totally comfortable on the concept of hashtags please refer to the video below

As I mention in the video there are numerous education based hashtags that are well worth following. One of the tags top of my list would be #edchatie. This tag is used by educators throughout Ireland from primary right through to third level. Another good one along the same lines, but not used as extensively in my opinion would be #ictedu. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks of such  popular tags with a widespread target audience is potentially a large amount of tweets may be not relevant to you. For example tweets with the #edchatie talking about parents involvements with schools is not relevant to third level educators, in  a similar fashion #edhcatie tweets about CAO is not relevant to educators from primary level.

That said I still gain an awful lot from #edchatie tweets and I will continue to recommend them at every opportunity. Nevertheless as a “call to action” from this post I would like to suggest the creation of a specific hashtag for higher education in Ireland.


If you are involved in Irish higher education please use the hashtag #heie where appropriate

LinkedIn groups

There are  literally 1000’s of groups that you can subscribe to within LinkedIn. The group facility within LinkedIn to the power behind the network. Having access to an unlimited number of people who are interested in specific areas that you are interested in. Wether you want to get advice from other participants, answer questions they may have posted on the forums or just advertise an event that may be relevant – LinkedIn groups is a powerful tool. I subscribe to several groups that you may find interesting. In no particular order of preference: Read the rest of this entry

What question would you ask policy makers in HE if you got the chance?

As part of a MSc program that I’m doing in DIT I have the opportunity to interview some policy makers and other people very high up the “food chain” in higher education in Ireland. The subject of my interview is the “impact of a staff development course that I gave in technology enhanced learning“.

As you can appreciate these opportunities don’t come along too often so I would appreciate any advice on questions that you would ask if you were in my shoes. This type of interview can go in so many different directions but any advice would be welcome. Please provide any advice in the comments box below or by e-mailing directly at mark.glynn (at)

Thanks in advance


It only takes one person to make a difference

It only takes one person to make a difference, others will follow your example but somebody must lead the way. Several weeks ago I was at an excellent event Digital Ireland – sponsored by the Silcon Republic. The two keynote speakers left a lasting impression on me for different reasons.
Bill Liao and David Putnam. As part of Bills talk he showed a home video illustrating how one person can inspire others to follow. This thought struck chord with me and reminded me of this video.
Read the rest of this entry