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.

Successful Launch of Irish 101 and Fáilte ar Líne Project

DCU.jpgOn Tuesday a large group of friends, colleagues and invited guests, including the Lord Mayor of Dublin and senior government officials, gathered at O’Connell House on Merrion Square in Dublin to celebrate the formal launch of “Irish 101“, Dublin City University’s (DCU) free online course on Irish language and culture. The event also formally launched the wider Fáilte ar Líne (Welcome online) project co-funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.


Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Islands, and the Government’s Chief Whip, Joe McHugh TD, congratulated DCU on this important online lifelong learning initiative. He reported that “As Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish language, and in my previous role as Minister of State for the Diaspora, I have witnessed at first hand the incredible interest and passion that there is for our language and culture worldwide.”


N18019158.jpgProfessor Mairead Nic Giolla Mhichíl, project lead, Head of the NIDL Ideas Lab, and a member of DCU’s Irish Language School, Fiontar agus Scoil na Gaeilge, noted in her speech that we want to give first, second and third generations of the Irish diaspora an opportunity to learn more about Irish language and culture. Mairead went on to say the initiative is:

 An important step in enhancing the global, online presence of the Irish language; connecting with the Irish diaspora; and promoting opportunities to study in and to visit Ireland.


The “Irish 101” MOOC, which will start on the 29th of January, is being delivered in conjunction with FutureLearn. DCU will also offer a MOOC on “High Performance Computing in the Cloud” starting on the same day. The two MOOCs, which may appear at very different ends of the knowledge continuum, reflects both the diversity of courses and degree programmes available through DCU, and metaphorically speaking the contemporary face of Ireland where traditional culture and today’s modern hi-tech digital society co-exist.

20180123_173306_001.jpgProfessor Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL), talked about the significance of DCU’s partnership with FutureLearn in the context of the new Higher Education System Performance Framework and the Government’s goal to lift Ireland’s current low level of participation in life-long learning. Ireland is currently well below the EU average. Mark also noted DCU’s strong commitment over many years to opening up access to higher education through DCU Connected, and the opportunity for Ireland to be a global leader in meeting growing demand worldwide for university-level education through new pathways and online learning solutions.

There have already been thousands of enrolments in “Irish 101” with so far people registering from over 110 countries.  Irish 101.jpgA programme of research is also associated with this initiative which builds on the NIDL’s growing reputation in this burgeoning area, as evidenced by DCU being selected to host the 2019 ICDE World Conference on Online Learning. Further free short online courses are planned in the future along with a number of other exciting digital learning developments as DCU builds on its strategic partnership with FutureLearn.

Launch.jpgFinally, we would like to acknowledge the University of Notre Dame for making O’Connell House available for this important event. We would also like to thank Mark Lecester, FutureLearn’s Director of Partnerships and DCU’s President, Professor Brian MacCraith for their support and contribution to the launch. And importantly we need to acknowledge the Ideas Lab and NIDL team centrally involved in the project, as this week’s launch would not have been possible without the many creative hours they have devoted to “Irish 101” and the wider mission of promoting Irish language and culture.

Read more about this initiative in the Irish language in DCU’s press release relating to this project.