Digital Readiness from an Online Learners’ Perspective

The NIDL team is pleased to be leading the Learner Readiness work package as part of the new DigiTeL Pro Strategic Partnership initiative. This project, led by EADTU, is supported through the Extraordinary Erasmus+ Coronavirus Response Fund and involves seven European university partners.

The project team brings together a group of experienced online educators well-known for their research and innovation in digital education.

Project outputs include an analysis of major lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, support for maturing institutional policy and strategy for the post-pandemic environment, the design, development and implementation of continuous professional development for a range of delivery modes, and several initiatives to enhance students’ readiness for digital learning.

The specific objectives, depicted below, focus on how different configurations of hybrid, blended and online education can offer design solutions for more active and engaging teaching, learning and assessment, both synchronously and asynchronously.

As part of the DigiTel project, the NIDL team is refreshing the course it designed and co-facilitated with students in September 2020 and again during March 2021 to support digital readiness.

We are pleased to report that an updated version of A Digital Edge: Essentials for the Online Learner will be available this coming September for students starting the new academic year.

While many European students may be returning later in the year to more traditional campus-based instruction, the importance of learning how to be an effective online learner remains highly relevant as we look to the digital future. Feedback from students reinforces this point and we hope the next course offering will continue to provide valuable support for those seeking to gain a digital edge for their studies and beyond.

A recent NIDL webinar focusing on the Online Learner gave us plenty of food for thought as we turn our attention to revising this course. We asked our invited panel what valuable lessons have students taught us as a result of their pandemic experience? The panel included Professor George Veletsianos, D’Arcy Beacon Fellow, Dr. Sharon Flynn from Irish Universities Association, Dr. Ciarán Dunne, DCU’s new Director of Transversal Skills, Dr. Elaine Beirne from the NIDL Ideas Lab, and Terence Rooney, incoming President of the DCU Students’ Union, A recording of this webinar, which includes a brief overview of the DCU Futures initiative, appears below.

A further deliverable of the Learner Readiness work package as part of the DigiTEL project is a synthesis of the COVID research literature reporting the student experience. Our NIDL team has already identified over 30 studies from around the world offering insights on the student experience, although notably very few report what students have to say in their own words.

This is where you may be able to help us!

Understandably, there is likely to be a time-lag between collecting and analysing such student-focused research on the pandemic experience, and the time when this work and key findings appear in relevant publications. So we want to discover this research before it hits the journals!

If you know of a study or publication that focuses on student readiness for digital learning with a strong learner’s perspective that was published after 2015 or ideally more recently arising from the COVID-19 crisis, then we would be delighted to hear from you. We invite you to share more information about this research by completing our short online form. In return, we will acknowledge everyone who contributes submissions when we report the results of our synthesis of the literature and send you a copy of the final report.

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.