Engaging with industry in the classroom through the use of online technology
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A long established method of learning in Irish third level education has been the collaboration of colleges with Industry in the form of work placement. Workplaces provide a diversity of learning that is contextualised, socialised and not readily available in traditional learning contexts (Sheridan & Linehan, 2013). Because the workplace is the context of practice, learning in the workplace is considered a form of authentic learning informed by real contexts, activities, and best practice (Franz, 2008). The placement of students is often a difficult process and not always practical with large class sizes. Therefore, it is necessary to reimagine how we engage with industry and foster relationships within the context of an online environment. We describe (1) a workshop designed to provide an authentic learning experience for large undergraduate classes, and (2) evaluation of students learning in relation to Level 8 standards (QQI, 2014): Knowledge, Know How and Competence. The workshop is delivered using a blend of online and traditional classroom environments. The appeal of the workshop is in fostering relationships with industrial partners. Students are, randomly assigned to groups and tasked with addressing a complex workplace case scenario. Scenarios are provided by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and represent real situations encountered in the regulation of medicines. In a limited timeframe, students must research the problem, identify a course of action and present findings to the HPRA via online technology. HPRA representatives give immediate feedback on each case. Learning is assessed in relation to Level 8 standards using a survey tool. Data indicates that participants develop insight into their own professional competencies in relation to teamwork & communication, specialised knowledge of the industry and problem solving skills. Key to the success of the workshop is framing the student presentations in a professional context.
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