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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Successful Launch of Loop Reflect: DCU’s New Learning Portfolio

We recently launched under the leadership of Lisa Donaldson and Dr Mark Glynn in the Teaching Enhancement Unit in the NIDL our new learning portfolio known as Loop Reflect.

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The new platform, based on a customised version of Mahara specifically designed to meet DCU’s requirements, aims to support students to critically reflect on and share their academic, professional and personal achievements.  In this respect the learning portfolio is intended to help students demonstrate their ability to meet DCU’s Generation 21 Graduate Aspirations, and support meaningful employment on graduation and a wider commitment to life-long and life-wide learning.  The goal is to create a living portfolio which will help develop critical reflection as a “habit of mind” and assist future employers in visualising the breadth of a DCU student’s capability and learning experience.

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The launch event for Loop Reflect was attended by Minister for Education & Skills, Mr Richard Bruton TD, and marks the completion of the pilot phase of Reflect which has seen more than 5,000 students sign up to use the learning portfolio across a range of disciplines and in a range of different contexts. Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU explained the importance of this new initiative:

“DCU is committed to providing its students with a transformative learning experience, that will enable them to flourish in the workplace and society.  The world of work requires citizens with transferable skills who are resilient and adaptable, and capable of reflective and critical thinking.  The Reflect portfolio challenges traditional approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, capturing all facets of student learning and providing our students with an opportunity reflect on their personal and professional as well as learning development.”