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Professional Development Open Course

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A new professional development open course titled ‘Steps to Partnership: Professional Development Open Course for Supporting Authentic Student Engagement in Decision-Making’ recently concluded its first limited rollout with the course facilitator training last month. This course was jointly funded and supported by the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

The aim of the open course is to support staff in Irish higher education to explore student engagement and partnership within their own professional contexts. Three Hibernia College staff members and staff from 18 other higher education institutions participated in the first session.

Steps to Partnership

The first live webinar of the Steps to Partnership open course commenced on 22 October, and the course ran over seven weeks. The course consists of a series of online webinars, peer learning activities, workshops, and case studies, culminating in the creation of a student engagement and partnership plan for the learner’s professional context and practice. The course content covers a number of relevant professional development framework domains including:

  • personal development
  • professional identity, values and development in teaching and learning
  • professional communication and dialogue in teaching and learning

Students as Partners

‘Student partnership or ‘students as partners’ has emerged throughout higher education policy and practice, ensuring that the value of student participation in shaping their own education and learning environment is recognised as an underpinning ethos in the sector. It is closely linked with concepts of student voice and student engagement in decision-making, among others’, as outlined in the Steps to Partnership Open Course Information Booklet [2021, page 3].

Participants in the NStEP open course were able to develop greater awareness and understanding of concepts and theories of student voice, student engagement, and student partnership, while exploring associated challenges and opportunities in decision making. They developed meaningful and authentic approaches to student partnership with regards to their individual institutions and created a plan to implement sustainable student partnership initiatives.

Open Course Facilitators

Following the conclusion of main open course this January, course facilitators were nominated to participate in further training. The facilitators were then invited to form a key national team for NStEP to support future course delivery and received a National Forum digital badge for participation in the training. Facilitators will work to create additional opportunities for staff to take part in professional development in student engagement, partnership and impact evaluation.

The first Steps to Partnership open course is the beginning of a wider effort to promote student engagement in higher education institutions across Ireland. Oisín Hassan, Programme Manager of NStEP, especially thanked Ruth Ní Bheoláin for her effort to develop the vital course and stated, ‘Hibernia College has been a huge supporter to the development of NStEP, and it is very much appreciated.’

We look forward to witnessing the impact of wider student engagement and partnerships in the participating institutions. For further information about this open course, please visit

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