Doctoral Student Receives OLC’s Inaugural Emerging Scholars Award

4.jpgWe are delighted to share the good news that the major US-based Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has selected one of our doctoral students, Elaine Beirne, to join their inaugural class of Emerging Scholars. The Emerging Scholars program provides current and recently graduated doctoral students the opportunity to contribute to research projects in the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership. The program also offers a chance to collaborate with institutions and organizations around the world on research projects and network with peers and mentors in the digital learning field.

In the official press releaseKathleen Ives, D.M., OLC’s Chief Executive Officer says the “Emerging Scholars is a unique program in the digital learning arena”. Dr. Ives reports that “It complements our other graduate student initiative, which provides the opportunity for graduates students to present at OLC conferences. These two programs offer the OLC community the chance to engage with the next generation of digital learning researchers and practitioners, and help them advance their careers.”

The call for Emerging Scholars generated applications from around the world. After a rigorous review process four inaugural scholars were selected for a two-year term, including:

  • Elaine Beirne, Dublin City University, Ireland
  • Katherine McAlvage, Marylhurst University, Oregon
  • Mary Rice, University of New Mexico, New Mexico
  • Matthew Romanowski, University of Arizona, Arizona

Elaine Beirne, PhD candidate working in the Ideas Lab in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL), is being supervised by Associate Professor Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl and  Dr. Gearóid Ó Cleircín Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge. Irish 101.jpgElaine’s research interests include educational psychology, online learning, second language acquisition, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and computer-assisted language learning. Specifically, her thesis, which is funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is focused on exploring the antecedents of learner emotions during an Irish language MOOC. The study aims to inform the development of online language learning environments that foster learning enhancing emotions.

Ai_NPRUg.jpgDr. Jill Buban, OLC’s Senior Director, Research and Innovation, who instituted the Emerging Scholars program said, “These graduate students bring unique professional perspectives and research interests from varied institutions, and we are thrilled to welcome them as Emerging Scholars,” Dr Buban who is well known to the NIDL team went on to say, “It’s exciting to launch a program like Emerging Scholars – perhaps the first of its kind in the digital learning space to provide doctoral students an opportunity for hands-on research and networking within the field.”

Congratulations to Elaine and we look forward to hearing more about her experiences of being an OLC Emerging Scholar – Faith thú.

Talking Research: Exciting Plans for the Year Ahead

On Friday the NIDL Research Group met for the first time this year to reflect on our accomplishments over 2017, including more than 100 scholarly outputs, and to share ideas, discuss progress and plan research and development opportunities available to us over 2018, and beyond.

To begin with the Group briefly discussed some of the lessons from the exercise of identifying the top 10 open access journal articles published over 2017, as described in a previous blog post on this topic. The final selection of our 2017 top 10 articles proved useful in promoting internal debate amongst the team over the so-called “best reads” of the year, and the list of open access publications was widely shared globally through a number of communication channels. Given the positive feedback from various sources the Research Group decided to repeat this activity adopting a similar methodology over the course of 2018.

Displayed on IRRODL Homepage

On the theme of supporting research dissemination an update was provided on advance planning for the 2019 ICDE World Conference on Online Learning. A delegation from ICDE will be visiting Dublin in the middle of February 2018 for an extended meeting with our conference team and site visit of the Convention Centre Dublin. Also during this visit we hope the Minister of State for Higher Education will be able to meet with the Organising Committee to hear more about this high-profile conference, especially given the Government’s recent announcements to provide more support for online, flexible life-long learners.

WCOL Promo 2

On the topic of conferences, the NIDL is a strategic sponsor of this year’s OER18 conference in Bristol, as DCU is fully committed to promoting access, equity and social justice through open educational practices. OER18Indeed, this week DCU will be making an important annoucement about a major new open learning initiative, and related programme of research through the NIDL, which is anchored in our mission of transforming lives and societies. More information to follow about this initiative.

The NIDL has another strategic partnership with the Association of Advanced Computing in Education (AACE) in the United States (US) and the Education Studies Association Ireland (ESAI) to select three Irish research papers for showcasing at this year’s Ed Media and Innovate Learning conference in Amsterdam. If successful, we anticipate this “Country showcase” initiative will become a feature at the annual Ed Media conference, which returns to Amsterdam in 2019.


Although our strong engagement with relevant professional associations is something we highly value, the NIDL team also understands the importance of disseminating research and contributing to new knowledge through more conventional forms of scholarship. Accordingly an update was provided to research group members on the edited book we are hoping to publish through Springer and some of the journal articles already accepted, under review or at various stages of preparation.

2358_037During the meeting we also discussed the importance of supporting the next generation of researchers in the context of plans for new postgraduate qualification pathways in the general area of Digital Education, including the development of a specialist doctoral track. We believe this initiative through our Institute of Education will help to build a stronger culture of local research in this important and rapidly evolving area.

However, the NIDL also values our strong links to international bodies and we were delighted to hear the news that one of our doctoral students, Elaine Beirne, located in the Ideas Lab has been awarded a prestigious US research fellowship. More information to come once this award is formally announced by the major professional body.

Lastly, the NIDL Research Group discussed the importance of sharing our collective expertise across the team and investing in our own professional development. Therefore, we agreed to establish a series of workshops over the year on research topics of interest. A small working group was formed with a member from each unit of the NIDL to help plan, design and co-opt people to facilitate these workshops.

We look forward to another productive year of research as we will be shortly recruiting for two new Research Assistant positions to help us continue our work on a number of internal and externally funded projects.