A Typical Teaching & Learning Day: Rob’s Story…

By Rob Lowney

Life in this pandemic is surreal and anxiety-inducing, so it’s perhaps unusual for me to say that I feel like my work life hasn’t changed that much at all.

rob_lowney_profile_pic_0.jpgPre-pandemic, my days would be filled with meetings, designing and delivering professional development (PD) to academics around learning technologies, responding to learning technology queries… and that’s still how my days are filled. The volume is now much greater, but strangely I’m grateful for that. A busy work day keeps me occupied and I forget about this pandemic for a while.

Each day I get up and make the arduous commute to my desk in the corner of the living room. While waiting for the coffee to percolate, I do a short breathing or meditation exercise, using the app Stop, Breathe and Think. I don’t miss travelling on a packed Dublin Bus every morning, but I do miss that time I have to myself to get my brain oriented, so I try to start my day off well each morning.

Working from home hasn’t been much of a change for me. Pre-pandemic, I could be working on any of DCU’s campuses any day of the week, so I’m used to going without an office. So long as I have my laptop and some wi-fi, I’m good.


The first task is to scan my email and our helpdesk tickets to see if there are urgent issues to be addressed. If there are, I get to them straight away or contact my colleagues in the Loop VLE Support Team. At the other end of these emails is usually an academic who has little experience of teaching fully online. A query might seem small or simple to me but it’s of huge importance to them – and therefore their students – so I strive to treat it as such. Throughout the day my eye is on my email account, alert to anything that might arise. Not ideal – I should be focussing on just one thing at a time – but needs must.

EDTL_IUA-Logo-Master-RGB_A_Transparent-1.pngA core part of my role in DCU is acting as one of the project leads – with my colleague Suzanne Stone – for the IUA Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning (EDTL) project, launched in 2019. Never a more apt time for such a project! Although most of my day is spent on frontline support and PD related to the crisis, it’s still important to keep ‘normal’ projects going. Our project focus is developing academics’ capacity in technology-enhanced assessment. Every day contains an EDTL task – a catch-up with the national project team, a virtual coffee break with our participating groups of academics, designing and delivering online workshops, evaluating our activities, and so on. Our participants have adapted nimbly to the online format for project workshops, and they too are glad to keep going with ‘something normal’.

The Teaching Enhancement Unit’s output of PD activities has increased dramatically during this crisis. Each day we provide up to three webinars related to remote teaching and using the Loop VLE effectively. Most days I deliver a webinar on a Loop tool that can be used for assessment, or co-ordinate with a colleague who presents. It takes time to prepare these each morning but it’s time well spent. PD for academics during this crisis is vital.

Each day usually involves a call with some other members of the Loop Support Team and our head of unit, Mark Glynn, to assess the situation, discuss issues, plan new PD activities, and as the semester draws to a close, to discuss alternative assessment arrangements.

I certainly feel spent by the end of each day, but looking out my apartment window I see St James’s Hospital and it puts things in perspective. My busy work day pales in comparison to the heroic duties our healthcare workers are fulfilling.

Rob Lowney is a Learning Technologist in DCU’s Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU) in the National Institute for Digital Learning. Rob’s account of his typical day was first published in a special edition of the National Forum’s eZine.


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.


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: