Yes! Digital Learners are Emotional – Insights from the Irish 101 MOOC

Many people believe that online learning can be a lonely journey for a learner and the experience of learning online is often described in disconnected terms. However, many credible studies into learning online demonstrate that learners experience a wide range of emotions as they engage in the online environment. Elaine Beirne, a researcher in The Ideas Lab at the National Institute of Digital Learning in DCU, and inaugural OLC Emerging Scholar, is researching the emotions of beginner language learners in Irish language MOOCs.


Irish 101Her findings to date have been quite revealing. Research into traditional language learning settings has identified anxiety or foreign language anxiety as one of the main emotions experienced by learners.

Elaine’s research in the Irish 101: Introduction to Irish Language and Culture course hosted on the FutureLearn platform, however, identifies curiosity, excitement and pride as the top three emotions reported by learners. Learners completed a number of short surveys following some of the course’s learning activities.  This baseline study is now being extended to a further iteration of the Irish 101 course, due to commence in May of this year.

Elaine is currently recruiting participants who would be interested in undertaking the MOOC and reporting their emotions in the short surveys as they progress through the course. Elaine explains more about the study* in the short video above and if you are interested in participating and helping the Fáilte ar Líne project to improve course design for language learners register here. The Fáilte ar Líne project is co-funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language with support from the National Lottery and it is is a joint project of the NIDL and Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge.

A world without emotions would be cold and colourless.

(Williams, Mercer, Ryan, 2015: 81)



Williams, M., Mercer, S. & Ryan, S., 2015. Exploring Psychology in Language Learning and Teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp.170

*Ethical approval received from DCU’s Research Ethics Committee. Reference number: recdcu/2018/044

University of Sanctuary Online Scholars join us for the Launch of DCU’s “Refugee Week”

On Monday 29th January the Open Education team in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) was delighted to host our 10 “University of Sanctuary” scholarship recipients studying online through DCU Connected. The students who travelled from different locations around Ireland were invited to Dublin to participate in the University’s launch of “Refugee Week”.



A range of activities taking place over the week will help raise awareness of the issues and challenges facing people who are currently living in Direct Provision centres in Ireland. The Student’s Union, for example, is leading the #€21.60 campaign with a number of students accepting the challenge of living on €21.60 per week and documenting their experiences on social media. The launch also coincided with the release of the DCU University of Sanctuary Annual Report which provides an update on a number of strategic initiatives DCU has adopted over the past 12 months, and beyond, to support asylum seekers and refugees.

IMG_5423.JPGDuring the launch our University of Sanctuary Online Scholars were pleased to meet Professor Brian MacCraith, DCU’s President, and share some of their personal stories of the joys and challenges of learning online with the wider DCU community.
IMG_5421.JPGThe opportunity to come together as DCU’s inaugural group of University of Sanctuary Online Scholars also provided a good chance to reflect on their learning experiences, celebrate their individual and collective successes, and share ideas and suggestions for the next semester. By the end of the day our team was both humbled and inspired by the drive, passion and strong commitment shown by our Online Scholars as they strive to improve their lives and in their own words, “become valued citizens who make a significant contribution to Ireland”.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the support our University of Sanctuary Scholars have received from eBay, Vodafone and the DCU Educational Trust which has contributed to their successful learning experiences over the first Semester. We look forward to hearing more success stories as the students continue their study and news of further scholarships for online study for asylum seekers and refugees.