From “Anxious” to “Confident”: Week 1 of Digital Edge ends with Optimism

A Digital Edge: Essentials for the Online Learner went live on Monday 21st September and so far more than 3300 people have registered for the course. Importantly, given the current 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 an effective online learner.

Week 1 kicked off with a welcome poll asking participants how they’re feeling at the beginning of the course. Here are the poll results from earlier in the week:

While some learners felt “anxious” and “overwhelmed”, others felt “excited”, “comfortable” and “happy”. The mix of emotions was expected and is a quite normal response for many first-time online learners. However, a related course aim is to help participants feel less anxious and more enthusiastic about their online learning experience by equipping them with the necessary tools, resources and positive mindset to become successful lifelong learners in a digital world.

Jessica Q, one of the participants, 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.”

The first week is structured in four parts: (i) a welcome section including the above poll, (ii) Ways of Thinking, (iii) Ways of Working, and (iv) a roundup to reflect on the week. Ways of thinking included a 3-step guide to cultivating a growth mindset and lessons from FutureLearn’s Crowdsourced Guide to Learning. Some of the questions asked were:

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

These questions led to an interesting discussion where participants shared their tips and set out their objectives for others to follow. The most common tips to managing thinking coming from the course participants included writing thoughts down and creating ‘mind maps’.

On Thursday, DCU students taking the course were invited to participate in a webinar designed to support A Digital Edge. Notably, 300 students joined this live session, which was entirely organised, hosted and facilitated by Vish Gain, a NIDL intern, and the DCU Student Ambassadors who are contributing to the course as co-facilitators.

Ways of Working started with a quick poll based on a scenario on how different learners approach managing their time. The results were promising as most learners reported they like to be prepared with reading up long before an online lecture, while some like to do readings on the morning of the lecture. Either way, the poll helped learners to keep in mind they have decisions about how they go about their work and this knowledge informed the subsequent discussions.

Michael M, one of the participants, said…

“I do most of my best work in the morning as I am more fresh and generally feel more satisfied with having accomplished even a small task early in the day… I would always be concerned that in the evening time comes fatigue and I would be less disciplined or retain less. It is nice to be reminded from the poll, the variety of how people operate.”

When responding to a poll on support systems, most participants reported that they were most likely to rely on friends, classmates and family members for support, followed by partners and lecturers, as depicted in the results shown below.

Week 1 concluded with a summary of all the points learnt under Ways of Thinking and Ways of Working, followed by a round up and discussion by participants reflecting on what they’ve learnt so far. This is what some of them had to say:

Ranganai G…

“I have gained a bit of confidence just by attending the first part of the Digital Edge course, I feel I can start on my degree now.”

Adam C…

“Really good to be able to read the comments and see what other students feel and think about certain topics, especially if you’re an incoming student transitioning from secondary school like me.”

The feedback on the course so far has been very encouraging and is marked by a significant shift in vocabulary from being “anxious” and “overwhelmed” to “excited” and “confident” as reflected by the following two comments posted in the end of week round up:


 “This course has been so helpful as I’ve been really stressed about doing all my learning and studying online this year.” 

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.

The course now moves towards Week 2’s themes which focus on Tools for Working and Tools for Thriving. Having said that, it’s not too late to start the course if you haven’t yet registered as the discussion posts and resources from Week 1 will be available for a few more weeks. Notably, some participants have already completed the entire course in the first week and on last count around 100 DCU students have their Certificates of Achievement as evidence of their completion.

For those yet to complete, next week we will continue to support people throughout Ireland, and beyond, to Explore, Develop, Gather, and Embrace their online learning experience as they navigate their way through the remainder of the course alongside fellow learners, our student ambassadors and NIDL team of experienced online educators. 

ICDE World Conference Update: Pack your Bags and a Warm Coat!

It’s time to pack your bags as Dublin is ready and eagerly awaiting your arrival. You might need a warm coat as we expect some spine chilling weather this week to conicide with Halloween, the celebration of Samhain and the world famous Bram Stoker Festival. If you’re one of the advance parties arriving in the next few days for the meeting of OERu partners or for one of the other NIDL pre-conference activities then you can expect a week of deadly adventures. It might be a little cooler outside by this time next week based on the long range weather forecast for Dublin but we can still guarantee you a warm Irish welcome and plenty of good Craic. The ICDE World Conferenceoffers an action packed programme over 5-days and the local NIDL team at Dublin City University (DCU) keenly awaits your arrival in the land of saints and scholars.

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What’s New? 

Over the last week we have been adding the polishing touches to the conference programme, with a team of volunteers from DCU working tirelessly to ensure that everything is ready for your arrival. We are also delighted to report that a great team of DCU Student Ambassadors will be supporting us throughout the conference. Last week the full Conference Book went off to the printer containing the final programme along with lots of useful information to set the stage for an impactful week. Also we released our conference app so that you can start engaging with other participants and some of the tools and resources we have available for you. We strongly encourage participants to download the conference app before you depart for Dublin in order to get ready for the event and to greatly enhance your professional learning and networking experience. To download the app:

Search for ‘The Event App by EventsAir’. Download to your device and enter the event code wcol2019.

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Please enter the username and password you set when you registered for the ICDE World Conference. Note that login is case-sensitive so please make sure your device isn’t capitalising the first word. If you have any problems logging in to the app then please contact Celia or Judy from our great team at Happening Conferences and Events.

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On other conference news we finalised the allocation of breakout session chairs and we are particularly grateful to the dozens of people who kindly volunteered to contribute to the ICDE World Conference in this important way. Without the volunteers we have drawn on over almost two-years the ICDE World Conference would not be possible. All paper sessions will have a dedicated chair to ensure that everything runs smoothly and presenters keep to time. We also received last week most of the digital poster submissions and successfully uploaded them to the conference app where you can already view and later in the conference vote on them. The scheduled to meet the poster author(s) to discuss their work appears in the conference book.

Preparations for Sunday’s pre-conference event on November 3rd at DCU’s St Patrick’s campus are well in hand where we expect to welcome over 200 delegates to a busy full-day programme. A campus map with further directions to E Block where you will find the Registration Desk will be sent to delegates in the next few days. As your registration pack for the full conference will be available on Sunday morning when you arrive we encourage you to come early as tea and coffee will be available. image.pngTowards the end of Sunday’s pre-conference the #Openteach project team will be launching one of their key outputs, Teaching Online is Different: Critical Perspectives from the Literature. This report critically analyses the international literature about online teaching and professional development and a printed version of the work will be freely available to delegates attending the pre-conference. It argues that teaching online is different, evidenced by some of the unique roles, competencies and professional development approaches required to equip online educators to teach effectively. The #Openteach project is based in the Open Education Unit in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at DCU and the report is externally funded by the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, a valued Bronze sponsor.

Read more about next week’s ICDE World Conference in our final newsletter, including another informative speaker spotlight, an update for presenters and taste of Ireland section, before around 800 delegates from nearly 80 countries converge on Dublin next week.