Excellent communication skills underpins all of my work coupled with my ethic of care. 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.
The two examples I have chosen for this section are Collaboration and Community Building.
“Clare demonstrated a sustained commitment to developing and sustaining regional communities of practice which has greatly influenced the learning technology community within Northern Ireland and beyond. Clare’s ability to organise groups and provide space for collaboration appears effortless but is a purposeful approach to the idea of ‘being better together’. Clare also led on our team’s successful CATE application, again bringing the threads of our team’s work together to demonstrate impact. When I think of Clare’s work, a thread is a great analogy as she is consistently connecting people, communities, and projects to create something bigger and better.“, Head of the Office for Digital Learning, Ulster University
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
- Podcast: 25 Years of EdTech: The Serialized Audio Version podcast (chapter 1996 – Computer-Mediated Communication)
- Podcast: 7. Intentionally Digital: Digital Beyond the Crisis, Queen’s University Belfast
Internally, our collaborative approach as the digital learning support team was immense and I put in several award applications to showcase this, this resulted in two internal awards and an AdvanceHE CATE award 2022.
Having identified a gap within HE communities of practice I reached out to colleagues to collaborate with me on running an online day-long event on the use of escape rooms in education. This is taking place on 9th June 2023. The ticket allocation was set at 100 initially and we were overwhelmed that these sold out within 2 hours of sharing on the SEDA and ALT jiscmail lists. Currently we have extended this and have over 300 attendees and a packed programme drawing in speakers from across the world. Given the large numbers signing up from within the UK and Ireland we are planning a follow up event in the coming academic year and hope to widen this out globally. I will aim to share reflections on the day with the community, such as the ALT Blog.
2. Community Building
In 2016 the ALT Northern Ireland Group was approved. To ensure that the committee had voices beyond Queen’s University, with only the colleagues involved in the original application, I reached out to colleagues who I knew personally and those that I had connected with on social media at Ulster University. Emma McAllister and I did a Pecha Kucha at the Jisc Connect More 2017 event at Ulster University to advertise the group and planning began for the launch event.
I am currently co-chair of the group and over years have written blog posts for our website, co-organised the live events, mentor CMALT candidates (providing feedback on portfolios and assessing) and share local events and initiatives on the Twitter account.
Since then, we have had a launch event and an annual event in 2019 and in 2022. These were well attended (around 60 for the launch and 80+ for 2019) with fantastic talks and guest speakers, the first held at Ulster University and the second and third at Queen’s University Belfast. For these, I led the organisation, invited speakers, designed and ordered ALT cake toppers, created a make-your-own badge table (which was incredibly well received), chaired sessions, organised travel and reimbursement of costs for speakers, created the evaluations, planned speaker gifts and ensured all other tasks were allocated to committee members.
With Craig Dooley, I have also facilitated two cycles of CMALT workshops including securing a scholarship funding for five candidates from ALT. From these events, five candidates have gained their CMALT so far, with many others in the pipeline.
As co-chair of the group I have also contributed to the ALT Assembly over the last few years which has led to new connections and being able to share information from our members, feed into initiatives and report back to the group. Further, I have been able to reach out to the Ireland Edtech group Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) to connect.
From a personal perspective, I invited Kate Molloy, National University Ireland Galway (now University of Galway), to speak at one of the early CMALT workshops and since then we have collaborated on several workshops critiquing the resilience and wellbeing narrative with regards to self-care in education as well as chapters on learning design; OER20, Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020, IUADigEd December 2020, OER21 Tweetchat Wakelet.
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. Furthering this flexible approach to communication I have enjoyed experimenting with presentation formats at conferences using poetry, speed, Tweets and more which also improves my technical skills at the same time (CV2).
Undertaking the AdvanceHE Aurora programme for developing leaders provided me with a network of support and the tools required to lead in a small ‘l’ capacity. Whether this is championing colleagues in my wider personal learning networks as part of the FemEdTech for example, success posts on the ALT NI website or through the applications I wrote for the recent team awards. My commitment to learning from and working within collaborations has been a cornerstone of my professional life (CV3).
From the outset of my time in medical education I have reached out to colleagues to join me in submitting funding applications for exciting projects and this has resulted in over £100k in small funds over my career. In 2022 I shared the value of this through the ALT February CPD Webinar series (video embedded below), paying forward all that I have learned over the years (CV4). I have loved my community work with ALT NI and will be both proud and sad to hand over the leadership of the group (my co-chair resigned June 2022) in summer 2023 as I am moving to Scotland permanently, but I will continue to contribute and share.
I have spoken out about the increased need in the sector for recognition of collaboration, for example collaboration was not mentioned in the UK PSF. As an ALT Assembly member I was invited to participate in an AdvanceHE focus group about updating the framework. This year saw the launch of the new framework and I was pleased to see the inclusion of collaboration. Taking this advocacy further I wanted to showcase the excellence of our ODL collaborative approach and so wrote an application for the ALT Awards. Whilst this was unsuccessful, I kept going as I knew it was my writing not our work that needed refinement. Going in to win two internals awards and then the first CATE award that Ulster has was incredibly rewarding and these went on to secure trust in the ODL team, provided evidence to augment the team and most importantly re-energised us.
Writing these took significant time during difficult times as well as the complexities of trying to ensure each individual voice was represented. At times feedback from colleagues conflicted with one another and I worked hard to resolve these in discussion with our mentor and ODL colleagues. It was definitely worth it all and getting the call from the lead about CATE was a truly unforgettable moment in my career.
Overall, public speaking and communication in general is something I still struggle with internally, my lack of confidence is a hurdle that I force myself over in order to make connections with people. Knowing how important this area of my work drives me and I continue to take inspiration from others and seek advice from mentors to ensure I learn from my errors and improve my skills. In my new role I am looking forward to developing more big ‘L’ leadership in digital pedagogies and course design. As I will be taking up Deputy Programme Director of the PGCertTL these skills will become even more crucial.
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 been an active participant on multiple conference organising committees such as ALT and OER.
- 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
- Blog post on the OER20 Conference Website (also on my own) about preparing for online conferences
“Clare already demonstrates leadership attributes in all the work she does both within Ulster and more widely in the extensive network she participates in. I would be very supportive of the Aurora programme to provide a formal framework for recognising and developing these further. Clare is already adding significant value to Ulster in her short career here so far and feel that completing the Aurora programme will result in benefits to the organisation as a whole as Clare continues to support workstreams that impact across the institution.“, Aurora application referee
An external CMALT workshop participant reflected after the LEGO Serious Play session: “it has made me think of my work in the broader context and motivated me to work in a more focused, future-oriented way”, external workshop participant
— Katharina Kurz (@kathii_kurz) December 8, 2020