A Rabbit Caught in the Headlights

Ken’s successful journey with DCU Connected…

It was Saturday October 5th 2013 when I first visited the Dublin City University (DCU) campus in Glasnevin, Dublin. Strange as it may sound it was only on my third visit in March 2015 that I received my parchment for the degree I completed online through DCU Connected.  Thanks to the Irish Government’s Springboard+ scheme and the help from DCU I received along the way.  I had promised myself for a long time that I would go back and complete my studies someday, but time and money conspired against me to keep that from happening.  With an unwanted redundancy I fixed the time problem and thanks to Springboard+ I did not have to worry about the cost.

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That first day I was not at all sure what I was setting myself up for or the journey that I was about to embark on.  Feeling like the proverbial rabbit stuck in the headlights I wondered was this “online learning” really something that I could do or was I really just setting myself up to fail.  Can I do this?  Will I have the self-discipline required? How will I manage my time and combine a demanding study schedule with the rest of my life?  So many questions, but feeling like I had so few answers.Thankfully I had plenty of fellow students making the same journey and the help and assistance from my tutors and the DCU Connected support staff was always on hand. Clear expectations were set from the start and a very detailed timetable of assignments, notes, and online tutorials outlined exactly what I had to do and when it was that I had to do it.  The online tutorials provided clear guidance on the standard that was expected in our assignments and offered us the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.  The online forums in Loop, DCU’s virtual learning environment, were also hugely beneficial in this regard. The notes provided were excellent and very clearly laid out with lots of useful references and additional reading.

Online study has the potential to be lonely; however, I was glad to have new friends that I made on that initial day in DCU as we were able to offer support and guidance to each other along the way.  The nature of the assignments was such that there was almost always some group or team component and that provided an opportunity to interact with other students also.  Sharing the work but also sharing stories of our own experiences meant that you never felt overly isolated.  All of the assignments also provided the opportunity to share a part of your work with your peers and to both give and receive peer feedback in the form of an online critique and this provided a yardstick of sorts to gauge your own progress through the programme.

The real measure however was provided by the tutors.  For each and every assignment we received timely and comprehensive feedback, with really useful guidance on what could be done to improve the work for future assignments and what the strengths and weaknesses of the assignment were.  Seeing the list of completed assignments grow and the list of remaining assignments shrink provided the motivation to stick the course and complete the programme. It was hard, but it was worthwhile and I have no regrets that I made that trip to DCU in 2013. Ken tells his story here…

At Dublin City University through DCU Connected and with the support of Springboard+ opportunities are available for people to study at no cost or 90% subsidised fees towards graduate certificates in:

• Management of Internet Enterprise Systems

• Management of Operations

• Management of Information Systems Strategy

These programmes are designed so that students can study part-time whilst they work. Students who start with the above qualifications can progress to complete a full Masters degree. DCU has a long history of online distance learning and through the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) has considerable expertise in designing online courses. Notably in November DCU will be hosting the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning.

DCU Connected also provides a range of undergraduate programmes through the Springboard+ scheme. If you are interested in finding out more, please see our website or contact a member of our team:

openeducation@dcu.ie

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Learning Our ABCs: Project Update

By Clare Gormley

It seems safe to state that there are challenges in learning design that almost all institutions face: limited staff time, a modular focus, and a tendency towards ‘lone ranger’ thinking to name just some of the potential barriers to successful course design. These types of challenges have significantly influenced the team-based ABC methodology developed originally by Clive Young and Nataša Perović of University College London (UCL) which continues to grow in popular use worldwide as a model for blended learning design.

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Dublin City University’s (DCU) Teaching Enhancement Unit is currently engaged in the ABC to VLE Erasmus+ funded project to further develop the ABC Learning Design methodology. As relative newcomers to ABC (DCU first experienced it in 2017), this project has been a great opportunity to apply the approach and benefit from the experience of UCL and the 11 other European partners involved. For those not familiar with the format, ABC offers a rapid-fire, hands-on workshop approach where in just 90 minutes academic teams work together to design or redesign modules and programmes. By the end of the process, teams have discussed, debated, and discovered a range of potential activities and technologies, communicated their overall vision of their course, and ultimately created a storyboard of an intended learning experience. Not bad work in under two hours, especially when it all goes according to plan.

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The overall goal of this particular European project is to develop ABC as a downloadable toolkit that can be used and adapted by any institution. Clinical-Exercise-Science-Programme-Team-.jpegAt DCU we have adapted the ‘classic’ materials to suit important strategic priorities such as flexible learning modes, enhanced feedback mechanisms, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Furthermore, by using the approach with several teams, evaluating it, and learning how different aspects perform on the ground, we hope to continue to develop our own expertise in using the approach in different contexts. We also plan to do our bit to promote conversations amongst the Irish learning design community about using and tailoring the method to optimum effect.

You can read more about some of the lessons learned along the way on Clare’s person blog post reflecting on this initiative.