Social Policy Educators: Enhancing Digital Skills (SPEEDS) is a project funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Ireland. The core objective of the SPEEDS project is to foster cultural change in social policy education and to cultivate a teaching and learning culture that is attentive to digital skills, literacies, and fluencies in the discipline of social policy. It aims to achieve this by building collaborative relationships between social policy educators across institutions and between social policy educators and learning technologists within institutions.
The initial phases of the project involved an audit of digital skills in the discipline from the perspective of staff and students. This informed the development of a Digital Skills Assessment Tool, which is available as an open access resource.
Since the establishment of the project in 2016, staff members have engaged in various training and development initiatives aimed at expanding social policy educators’ digital capacities and improving their confidence in integrating digital skills into their teaching and learning practices. This project impacts on the teaching and learning experiences of lecturers, tutors, and students who are involved in a wide range of courses relevant to social policy and the social professions, including social science, social care, social work, youth work, community development, and early years education.
Individual institutions have hosted a variety of small group training sessions focusing on the use of specific tools and approaches. Each institution has been exploring various digital tools that support broad-ranging teaching and learning activities, including presenting, lecture recording, plagiarism detection, screencasting, polling, quizzes, collaborative work, working effectively with virtual learning environments (VLEs), the appropriate use of digital media, creating digital artefacts, task management and organisation, and use of social media.
Training also took place through one-to-one and group discussions between learning technologists and educators in all participating institutions. This facilitated professional development in response to particular issues/identified problems in specific teaching and learning contexts, informing the evolution of teaching innovations using advanced digital skills, which are documented in the SPEEDS website. Participants’ engagement in continuing professional development was awarded using digital badges.
Training materials are largely drawn from existing resources, both within institutions and through previously-funded National Forum projects, particularly TELU, Transformation through Collaboration, All Aboard, and Y1Feedback.