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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

Transcending Realms – Realising Irish Ambitions

By Dr Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichí

As the children came to the door, this Halloween trick or treating dressed as ghouls and witches, I wondered how many of them know about the origins of Halloween or Samhain as it is known in Celtic and Gaelic Cultures? Samhain translates as the last day of summer and marks the start of Winter in the Celtic Calendar. Celts believed that the Spirit world was closer during this time and that it was easier for the faeries (sióga) or ghosts (púcaí) to cross back into our world. They were welcomed by the Celts, were prayed for and even had a place set for them at the celebration table to ensure a good harvest in the coming year!

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Our Gaelic ancestors had little difficultly in dealing with the notion of the seamless movement between the spiritual and the so-called real worlds. I think they would have enjoyed our virtual or online world as it blurs into all aspects of the canvas of our everyday lives. It is fitting, therefore, in this most Celtic of months, that registrations are open for DCU’s first MOOC, Irish 101: Irish language and culture on the FutureLearn platform. The MOOC is one part of the Fáilte ar Líne (Welcome on Line) programme, co- funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language. The Fáilte ar Líne team based in the NIDL Ideas Lab, and is working with Fiontar and Scoil na Gaeilge (DCU’s Irish language-medium School) to develop this course and a wider suite of offerings in the Irish language and culture which will be available online and therefore, globally.

This initiative is part of a national, concerted effort to develop and enhance the Irish language and culture’s presence in the online space. It provides the opportunity for the global Irish diaspora to connect with Ireland and more importantly for Ireland to remain connected in them. It allows people interested in our Irish language and culture to engage in learning and more importantly to meet with like-minded people from across the world. It also provides an opportunity for those who are currently learning or teaching Irish to connect with others and to be part of a larger globally, supported-community and meitheal (people working together).

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Dublin City University (DCU) is leading the Fáilte ar Líne project on behalf of the Irish Government but we are fully aware that we cannot or indeed should do this alone:

Put simply, this means we rely on each other, as the Celts did at harvest time. As such DCU hopes to work with partners and networks nationally and internationally to deliver on this ambition – we have already started to make these connections. There is a wealth of experience and expertise globally, within institutions and local communities. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, or to replicate or to take away from what is currently being done. But we can enhance it by working together to provide a comprehensive online space for learning and engagement with Irish language and Culture. Ultimately by working together we may deliver on Séamus Heaney’s view of the importance of learning Irish:

Not to learn Irish is to miss the opportunity of understanding what life in this country has meant and could mean in a better future. It is to cut oneself off from ways of being at home. If we regard self-understanding, mutual understanding, imaginative enhancement, cultural diversity and a tolerant political atmosphere as desirable attainments, we should remember that a knowledge of the Irish language is essential in their realization –.

We are looking for partners who can connect in and also connect out i.e. those who would like to actively collaborate with us on courses and programmes etc. and also to those who provide local support for Irish language and cultural learning for learners and teachers. Please do connect with the DCU team if you or your institution/network would like to participate, email failtearline@dcu.ie or if you are interested in providing support to realise the ambition for the Irish language and culture please contact me directly mairead.nicgiollamhichil@dcu.ie