Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: Keynote: AHEAD Ireland FET Project

Roisin Doherty - SOLAS, Ann Heelan - AHEAD, and Thomas Tobin - SOLAS

Do you want to be inspired by the story of how Universal design for Learning (UDL) is being introduced to the Further Education and Training (FET) Sector in Ireland? If so, in this session you’ll learn about how in 2018, SOLAS (state authority for FET in Ireland), commissioned AHEAD to explore the theory of UDL and collaboratively develop guidance for the sector.

SOLAS set up a National Advisory Committee (NAC) comprised of key stakeholders to guide the development of the UDL for FET Practitioners guidance and to build a collaborative process to develop UDL for FET. This session will show how the CAST UDL model gave us a framework to bridge the gap between theory and practice and how real stories from practitioners in the sector inspired their colleagues to get started. It will talk about the consultation process that involved key stakeholders from day one and got their buy in and commitment to UDL for FET. Hear how we reached out to the sector to gather stories of good practice that brought the UDL principles to life in a very real, localised and authentic way. This session will also explore how SOLAS supported the implementation of UDL for FET with the inclusion of high-level strategic priorities incorporated in their new national strategy for FET in Ireland. Thus, the project and associated SOLAS strategies seek to create both top down and bottom up momentum for the implementation of UDL.


Photo of Roisin Doherty, Ann Heelan and Thomas Tobin

Roisin Doherty MBA., DMS, BBS, BA, DipM, MCIM.

Director of Further Education and Training Learner Support with SOLAS. SOLAS is the Further Education and Training Authority in Ireland. Roisin drives the development of integrated, inclusive and supportive Further Education and Training [FET] learning systems delivered through strategic oversight frameworks with a focus on supporting whole of Life Learning. Roisin currently supports and contributes to the Future Transformation of FET across Ireland through a keen focus on easier access, more powerful identify, better learner experience, more simplified pathways, supporting priority cohorts and enhanced Literacy and Numeracy supports.

Roisin, a registered Teacher and Chartered Marketer, has through her previous roles as; Director FET National Training policy, Director FET National Strategy & Organisational Development, Director of FET Operations Midlands Regions, Director of FET Operations Dublin, NW, NE & West regions as well as Customer Relationship Manager in the manufacturing sector, has contributed, supported and facilitated the continuous quality improvement of Further Education and Training system for the last 25 years.

Ann Heelan, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) consultant, H.Dip. M.Education

CEO of AHEAD for 20 years, expert in teaching and learning, inclusive education and Universal Design for Learning. Originally a teacher in both HE and FET, Ann has experience of curriculum planning and assessment and has written many guidelines on needs assessment and all aspects of inclusive practice. Ann has played a leadership role introducing UDL to HE and FET supporting institutions and individuals in becoming more inclusive in their practice. She is a skilled facilitator and has worked collaboratively setting up Networks of Inclusive Practice supporting professionals to share information and solve difficulties arising from the complex nature of diversity and inclusion questions.

Ann has written a number of articles on Inclusive Study Abroad for the EAIE publications, many guidelines for AHEAD and has also recently written with Dr. Tom Tobin, the SOLAS guidance on UDL and FET 2020.

Thomas Tobin

Thomas J. Tobin is the Program Area Director for Distance Teaching & Learning on the Learning Design, Development, & Innovation (LDDI) team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as an internationally recognised speaker and author on topics related to quality in technology-enhanced education, especially copyright, evaluation of teaching practice, academic integrity, and accessibility/universal design for learning.

Before joining UW-Madison, Tobin served for five years as the Coordinator of Learning Technologies in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and spent seven years in the Learning and Development arm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

Since the advent of online courses in higher education in the late 1990s, Tom’s work has focused on using technology to extend the reach of higher education beyond its traditional audience. He advocates for the educational rights of people with disabilities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He holds a Ph.D. in English literature, a second master’s degree in information science, a professional project management certification, a master online teacher certification, Quality Matters certification, and recently completed his Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) certification (he tells his nieces and nephews that he is in 42nd Grade).

Tom serves on the editorial boards of InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching and the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.

His books include:

  • Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices (2015) with Jean Mandernach and Ann H. Taylor.
  • The Copyright Ninja: Rise of the Ninja (2017).
  • Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (2018) with Kirsten Behling.
  • Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (2020) with Katie Linder and Kevin Kelly.

Tom was also proud to represent the United States on a Spring 2018 Fulbright Scholar fellowship, under which he helped Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary to develop its first faculty-development program, and he provided workshops and training to twelve other colleges, universities, and military programs throughout Hungary.