The Online Learner in the Next Normal: What Valuable Lessons Have Students Taught Us?

You are invited to join this forthcoming panel discussion where we look to the future of higher education, with a particular focus on some of the valuable lessons that students have taught us over the different waves of the COVID crisis. The webinar reflects on what we knew previously about the design of effective online learning from a students’ perspective and how our understanding has been affirmed, challenged and in some cases reshaped by the pandemic experience.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

We begin with a short overview of the DCU Futures initiative to help frame the conversation and then invite panel members to share their personal stories and insights from the emerging literature on some of the challenges and opportunities that need purposeful consideration as we build back the next normal of higher education.

The discussion provides a timely opportunity to pause, take stock and reimagine as individually and collectively we emerge from a once in generation disruption to the old normal.

You will have the opportunity to engage with a diverse panel that will share their own lessons and experiences from differing perspectives. Participants will also be invited to ask questions and contribute their own thoughts as we think about how to design more active, meaningful and personalised student-centred learning experiences. 

Members of the Panel

  • Chair, Prof. Mark Brown, NIDL Director, DCU
  • Prof. George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University, NIDL D’Arch Beacon Fellow
  • Dr. Sharon Flynn, IUA, Project Manager 
  • Dr. Ciarán Dunne, Director of Transversal Skills, DCU Futures
  • Dr. Elaine Beirne, Ideas Lab, DCU
  • Megan O’Connor incoming VP for Academic Affairs, Union of Students Ireland (TBC)

Each panel member brings a unique and interesting perspective to this lively conversation.

Prof. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology and the Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Flexible Learning is author of the book Learning online: The student experience. George joins the panel as part of his prestigious Irish Canada University Association (ICUF) D’Arcy McGee Beacon Scholarship.

Dr. Sharon Flynn who leads the Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning (EDTL) initiative managed by the Irish University Association (IUA) has been working in close partnership with students and recently coordinated an innovative crowd-source student vision for learning in a post-Covid environment.

We expect Sharon will share some of the results and fascinating insights from the “Your Education, Your Voice, Your Vision” campaign. 

Dr. Ciarán Dunne was recently appointed to a new position as Director of Transversal Skills and is playing an important role in the implementation of DCU Futures. This four year project aims to transform the learning of undergraduate students, reconceptualising how we teach, introducing exciting new areas of study, and embedding the digital literacies, disciplinary competencies and transferable skills that students will require to thrive in the post-pandemic world.

The DCU Futures Framework

Dr. Elaine Beirne is a Researcher in the NIDL Ideas Lab and was the Project Manager for the development of A Digital Edge Essentials for the Online Learner. This free online course was designed for students and co-facilitated by students in response to the COVID crisis and is predicated on the assumption that learning how to learn online is now an important life skill. This initiative has now evolved and is a core part of the EU-funded DigiTEL Pro Strategic Partnership.

Megan O’Connor is incoming VP for Academic Affairs, Union of Students Ireland. In her new position, Meghan is likely to play an important role working with other student bodies and higher education institutions in shaping the next normal. Due to other commitments, Meghan has yet to confirm her participation.

When: 16:00 (Irish Time) Thursday 17th June

Where: Online via Zoom 

Registration: You must register in advance for this event. Please click here to register. We look forward to your participation and contribution to this timely panel discussion.

Students Supporting Students as they Learn to get a Digital Edge

In response to popular demand, the latest iteration of A Digital Edge: Essentials for the Online Learner starts on Monday 22nd February. Importantly, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges facing college and university students around the world, this free 2-week course on the FutureLearn platform aims to support people to learn how to be effective online learners.

A distinctive feature of the course is the co-facilitation and active contribution from a team of DCU Student Ambassadors who will share their tips, advice and first-hand experiences of how to be effective online learners.

Already over 6,500 learners from across the globe have participated in the course, which is anchored in the wider context of the LifeComp Framework where participants explore (i) Ways of Thinking, (ii) Ways of Working, (iii) “Tools for Working” and (iv) “Tools for Thriving” in the digital world.

The first week focses on starting with the right mindset and laying down foundational principles for being an effective learner online. Some of the questions we ask participants to reflect on include:

  • How do you manage your own thinking?
  • How can you grow your mindset for learning?
  • What are you hoping to achieve from your studies?

In previous iterations, people have told us how helpful they found it to know that many other people are having similar challenges and the value of hearing tips and suggestions from other students. As Jessica said,

“It’s somewhat reassuring to see other people are feeling anxious – glad I’m not the only one!  It’s daunting as I’ve been out of education for over a decade, but seeing how much support and guidance there is available really helps! Excited to start on the road to finally getting my degree in my 30s.”

In Week 2, the focus shifts to some more practical aspects of using digital technologies for learning and then concludes by asking participants to think more carefully about their digital identities and how they wish to engage in online settings. If you’re not sure whether the course is for you, then see what other people say as there are over 120 reviews on the landing page with lots of positive comments. As one learner writes,

The course has really helped ease my worries about online learning. It has helped me think about the ways in which I learn and how I can adapt them to become a successful online learner.

While the course is ideally timed for people about to start the new academic year in the Southern Hemisphere, it offers something for even seasoned online learners who might think they already know everything they need to based on their “Corona-coaster” experience over the past year. We encourage all participants to sharpen the EDGE –  Explore, Develop, Gather, and Embrace – of their online learning experience as they navigate their way through the course alongside fellow learners, our Student Ambassadors and NIDL team of experienced educators. 

`You can register here for the course and we look forward to welcoming the class of February 2021 online from Monday…