World Refugee Day: DCU and FutureLearn announce 30 Refugee Scholarships

world-refugee-day-photos-download-1-1080x675.jpgWe are delighted to share the news on World Refugee Day that as Ireland’s first University of Sanctuary (UoS), Dublin City University (DCU) is launching in partnership with FutureLearn, a global leader in online social learning, 30 scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers. The joint DCU FutureLearn scholarship initiative will enable refugees and asylum seekers living in Ireland to undertake study from a wide range of courses offered on FutureLearn’s online platform though to certificates of completion.12790015_10153784985600342_457612615_o.jpg

Among the courses offered on FutureLearn is DCU’s ‘Irish 101’, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) launched earlier this year, and one of the first of its kind globally to offer an introduction to Irish language and culture. Associate Professor, Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, Head of the Ideas Lab and the Fáilte ar Líne Project, at the National Institute for Digital Learning in DCU, remarked:

irish-101.jpg“We are delighted that ‘Irish 101: Introduction to Irish Language and Culture’ is a core component of this joint DCU & FutureLearn initiative. Not only will it support this community of learners as they connect with the Irish language and Irish culture, but it will also provide them with an opportunity to engage with learners from around the globe.” ‘Irish 101’ is co-funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of the 20-year Strategy For The Irish Language 2010-2030, supported by the National Lottery.

future-learn.pngAnnouncing the 30 new scholarships, Mark Lester, Director of Partnerships Development at FutureLearn, said: “DCU has long been a champion of online education in Europe. We are delighted to be building upon our partnership with DCU in providing 30 scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland, who will have an opportunity to access hundreds of flexible learning options.”

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Prof. Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at DCU, commented: “DCU has, for many years, been a leader in developing new models of open and online learning as it endeavours to expand access to higher education. As Ireland’s first ‘University of Sanctuary’, our partnership with FutureLearn builds on our existing scholarships established last year to support Irish asylum seekers and refugees to complete online degrees through DCU Connected. While today’s announcement coincides with World Refugee Day, the latest DCU FutureLearn Scholarships are further evidence of our ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of inclusion. They mark an exciting new chapter to help enrich the lives and opportunities of Ireland’s refugee community.”

More information about this new scholarship initiative for Irish refugees and asylum seekers, including details of the application process, will be announced shortly.

Ireland Eaten: The Big Software Feast

By Dr Eamon Costello

It is almost seven years since Marc Andreeson famously declared that software is eating the world. What did he mean? And if he was right, is software still chomping down on us?

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Part of the software-is-eating-the-world narrative is about disruption. It is about how companies, particularly startups, can rapidly design, develop and deliver innovative products using modern software development techniques and technologies. By harnessing mobile technologies, agile methods, cloud computing and AI they can flatten barriers that might have long protected established market players and even entire industries. Companies emerge in this story from strange places. Amazon evolved from posting books to become the largest provider of cloud computing. Netflix (which runs on Amazon’s AWS cloud technology) started out in the business of posting DVDs.

Eamonn_Costello_001.jpgAnother part of this story is the ubiquity of software. Two weeks ago I was at the EdTech conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association which is the premier annual gathering of professionals in Ireland with expertise in the intersection of tech and higher education. My presentation was about the cost of textbooks and myself and colleagues wrote software to help programmatically search for textbook costs (we used the Google Cloud platform, Google Books API, Javascript and MongoDB for this and distributed the code and our results via github and Zenodo). The software wasn’t really the main focus of my talk however. It was just a handy tool to help answer a bigger question about educational affordability. But the point is that you can write code to help solve such a wide range of problems now.

I submitted my proposal to the conference some weeks previously through a cloud hosted conference organisation system called Exordo. Exordo have a really nice software offering that helps run research conferences (their UX design is particularly slick). They are also a great example of an indigenous software company, based as they are in Galway. There is a long tail of these small to medium companies in Ireland. They may not grab the headlines a Google or an Amazon do but do they provide valuable products and services and of course employment as part of a rich ecosystem of Irish tech companies.

As I drove home from the conference in Carlow I passed by the strategic software development and services centre for Unum, which is a leading provider of employee benefits in the US. Unum are a company with a long heritage in a mature and established market but who are delivering innovative solutions through software developed in Ireland (innovations that are heading back to the US). Unum provide many highly skilled jobs in software development to people outside of Dublin.

Here at Dublin City University, as Ireland’s University of Enterprise, we have a strong focus on industry engagement. In our Higher Diploma in Software Development for example we have representatives from companies such as Facebook, Equifax, Workday and MongoDB come and talk directly to students via our DCU Connected Industry Insights online seminar series. Industry links can be particularly important for students in contextualising their learning. For example, learning how to create a document-oriented NoSQL database with MongoDB becomes more significant after an expert lecture from one of the company developers. Moreover, this innovative company, that blazed a trail in the NoSQL database technology revolution, have their EMEA HQ located right here in Dublin, is a significant employer and has been a real supporter of educational initiatives such as Springboard+ (spot the DCU graduate).

We have also arranged talks from smaller companies such as Tapadoo or the innovative PatientMPower whose software is helping patients with very serious illnesses. The PatientMPower session was particularly useful as students studying mobile app development with us could get a sense of how the skills they were learning are applied in production environments. It also blew my mind to think of the medical technology that patients effectively now have in their hands and the access it affords them to medical researchers working at the cutting edge of health science. Even a decade ago it would have been hard to imagine this from a small Irish company.

2017c.pngThe point I am labouring is that under every stone you turn over in the Irish economy you will find code. Software is all pervasive in what we do. Not just in big companies or those that look like traditional software houses, but in companies of all shapes, sizes and provenances. We need a corresponding range of people to work in the roles that are being created. This is the rationale behind the Government sponsored ICT Skills Conversion initiative where a graduate in a non-ICT discipline can augment their existing education and experiences through focused study of core modern ICT topics. DCU’s Higher Diploma in Software Development, which runs part-time over two years, is delivered online through our DCU Connected platform but students also have the opportunity to come on campus to meet each other and their academic tutors. If you think you have the curiosity and the passion to engage in study in this exciting area and get involved in the great software lunch we would love to hear from you.

Contact us:

If you want further information about the Higher Diploma in Software Development or any of our DCU Connected online courses then please contact us:

connected@dcu.ie

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Note: Eamon first posted this brief opinion piece when he returned from the EdTech2018 conference through his personal Linkedin account.