Excellent communication skills underpins all of my work. Throughout my career I have navigated complex situations which required me to skilfully adapt my communication, style and format for each situation, from NHS consultants to non-technical colleagues to members of the public. This includes writing in many formats; informal blog posts, emails, reports, policy documents, web pages, support materials, presentations, publications, book chapters, assessments, social media posts, award applications, small funding applications and so much more. I have also honed and developed my verbal communication from meeting contributions, presentations, teaching (large group and small group), video recordings (support material, conference contributions) and continuing professional development sessions (as lead facilitator or participant). Over my career this skill has resulted in wide dissemination of my work, as I am a passionate open education practitioner, many successful funding awards (internal and external), changing the practice of colleagues, and inspiring others to experiment with approaches to teaching and learning.
During the pandemic this was ever more essential as the number of colleagues that I needed to support widened from a small number of academics doing online or blended teaching to ALL academics as well as professional development staff. Not only did this mean an increase in the volume of communication that I was required to do but it also meant that I had to modulate more than usual to accommodate a very wide range of digital capabilities as well as dealing with the level of stress that my colleagues were under having to move to a remote working and teaching situation. My number one priority throughout this period was to first reassure that everything they needed to achieve was doable and maintain a calm exterior which in turn calmed the atmosphere, enacting a pedagogy of care first and foremost.
A significant communication challenge came when the new medical school requested support for conducting Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) online for candidates applying to Ulster University. This involved two cohorts of around 130 in February and June 2021. After discussion with colleagues I determined that Teams met their needs best even though it didn’t support breakout rooms. However, just before the end of 2020 Microsoft released this function and I then spent time testing and devising the process that would work best for assessors and candidates. I spoke to candidates and assessors across four information sessions, then ran one assessors hands-on session and during the week of the interviews I added an open test session each morning between 8-9 am for any student to test their systems for that day. This work is a whole paper in itself but for here I can’t emphasise enough that the experience required more of my communication skills than any technical skill. Both candidates and assessors were new to online interviewing and so I ensured that I took the control and worry of technology out of their hands by allocating the breakout rooms, running the timers and bringing everyone in and out of rooms. More importantly though I had to reassure everyone at all times that there was nothing to worry about and that any problems would be dealt with and wouldn’t be taken into account. Between myself and my colleague we facilitated 16 sessions of 8 candidates (I ran 12 of these) and opened and closed over 1024 breakout rooms over four days. Several people commented on my ability to maintain a sense of calm, which in turn calmed them.
External Speaking Events
Beyond my day to day work I contribute regularly to conferences, internally and beyond, collaborating with people as much as I can. I have pushed the norms of presentations where and when possible contributing to the PressED conference (2019 and 2020) which is a Twitter conference, Pecha Kucha and even a Limerick talk at OER19. I have also been on conference organising committees for ALT-C, ALT NI and OER.
During the pandemic I co-facilitated several external sessions:
- Teaching Technologies: Fostering Discussion, Debate, Collaboration and Engagement for the Cara Syria Programme – with Emma McAllister
- Socialisation and Engagement for Queen’s University Belfast – with Áine McNeil
- Engaging Students Online for North Regional College – with Áine McNeil
- Stories of Care: Reflections on Teaching and Learning Online in 2020 for IUADigEd series – with Kate Molloy
Being clear and aware of avoiding over technical language when talking to both students and staff has always been something that I have kept in mind. Overly, jargonistic language can easily put people off using technology within teaching and learning, however, since lockdown I have to think even more carefully about this and remove even more acronyms and explain other terms clearly in conversation with staff. Remaining calm has proved the most essential part of my communication during this highly pressurised and stressful time for teachers moving their teaching fully online. This aligns with the work I have been focusing on since late 2019 on care within higher education and challenging the resilience narrative. This work over conferences in 2020, along with external webinars that I attended has ensured that I am up to date with different approaches to learning technology within and beyond higher education.
A lot of these conversations were as much counselling as technical support. This was the aspect I felt was most exhausting for me and being able to reach out to colleagues and friends throughout, as well as joining a coaching course enabled me to maintain a level of control over situations that threatened to engulf me.
Whilst, the lockdown has increased this direct communication I have on a daily basis the knock-on effect has been a negative impact on my writing. Working full time, homeschooling and working on my PhD has meant that writing in reflective spaces has simply not been possible, and I have missed this outlet. Contributing to the 25 Years of EdTech: The Serialized Audio Version podcast (chapter 1996 – Computer-Mediated Communication) in late 2020 was as near to public reflection that I managed this year (and I was so exhausted I forgot to say half of the things that I had noted down).
When I joined Twitter it was a great way of learning from the wider edtech community as I was then one of very few learning technologists in my institution and was a team of one. However, I have gained so much more that I could have envisaged. However, this portfolio champions the importance of such open platforms for professional development as I have been able to provide a lot of evidence in the form of Tweets, about content or examples that are locked within my institution – openly available feedback in many cases. I have learned so much from peers across the world and I have shared my own practice as much as possible, and as openly as possible, in return. This is proving invaluable for my PhD journey as well, as I learn new communications skills such as interviewing and conducting participatory sessions for research purposes rather than teaching purposes.
Digital curation gets more and more difficult however, as they grow over the years. I do have a LinkedIn account for example but have now forgotten the login details which also means I can’t log in to SlideShare either. It takes time and effort to keep on top of these fixes and ever more pushes me to add content directly to this blog on my own space. I can then keep much better control of what is where and can easily update things in a single space.
- Presentations, webinars, publications and workshops listed on my blog
- 2 Book chapters
- 11 Publications
- 16 External/Invited Sessions
- 21 Oral conference presentations
- 8 Conference workshops
- 6 Conference posters
- Twitter account
- My Blog
Impact as seen in my Alternative CV (a #DS106 assignment type) and my #FemEdTech post about my curation of the account.
Clare thank you for your calm capable professionalism- awesome! #proudofUU 🙏
— LouiseDubras (@LouiseDubras) February 15, 2021
— Katharina Kurz (@kathii_kurz) December 8, 2020
If you didn't get a chance to attend yesterday, do take a look – as well as covering a really important topic, the presenters also used great engagement techniques, including Padlet, Chat bombs, and 'negative to positive changing a letter' [that might have a snappier title 😆] https://t.co/zzEUMKIBOq
— CONUL T&L Group (@CONULTL) December 8, 2020