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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Release of Irish Horizon Report for Higher Education

H Report

Ireland’s first Horizon Report for Higher Education was formally launched last Friday at the Irish Learning Technology Association Conference (ILTA) at the University of Limerick. The report featured prominently throughout the conference, with Jim Devine helping to contextualise the study in the broader European context in his opening address, and Alex Freeman from New Media Consortium (NMC) describing the main findings on Friday in his keynote.

H Report Table

A feature of the report is the contrast with the recently published Australian and International reports for Higher Education. As the above table shows there are some notable differences between the reports, with under-resourced institutional infrastructure a key finding of the Irish report.

Irish Times

The report also featured in a story by the Irish Times, with particular reference to the need for greater investment in infrastructure, the current inequitable funding model and the need for educators to adopt new pedagogies in order to exploit the affordances of new digital technologies.

The previous Monday the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) hosted a pre-launch event where Dr Larry Johnson, CEO New Media Consortium, shared the main findings and facilitated a brief workshop with an audience of invited guests. He stressed importantly that the Horizon Report does not predict the future and simply offers another ‘futures tool’ for institutional leaders and policy-makers to discuss and plan for their preferred futures. Notably, the Report links to the Roadmap for Enhancement in a Digital World for Irish Higher Education along with recent European reports promoting the current modernisation agenda. It also acknowledges the value of comparing and contrasting the findings with other major publications such as the annual Innovating Pedagogy Report produced by the Educational Technology team at the UK Open University.

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The Horizon Report has its critics and the sample selection and methodology for the Irish report was adapted to ensure the greatest possible diversity amongst the expert panel, including a mix of experienced, and new and emerging educators. Approximately 70 Irish educators across every university and institute of technology were invited to participate on the panel and almost 50 people volunteered to contributed to the final report. In the context of Dublin City University (DCU), and the current Incorporation Project, it was noteworthy that the panel included specialist academic and administrative staff from across the University and linked Colleges.

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The intention over the next few months is to workshop the findings with institutions wishing to think more deeply about the impact of new technology-enhanced models of teaching and learning on higher education. Accordingly, please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to host a workshop in your own region or institution.

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Finally, we would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Horizon Report project since the beginning of the year, especially panel members. The full press release produced by NMC supporting the launch of the Horizon Report appears below.

NMC, NIDL, and ILTA Release the 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland

Limerick, Ireland (May 28, 2015) — The New Media Consortium (NMC), the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at Dublin City University, and the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) are releasing the 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland at the 2015 EdTech Conference at the University of Limerick. This inaugural Ireland edition describes findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

Ten key trends, ten significant challenges, and twelve important developments in technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next five years, giving Irish higher education leaders, decision-makers, and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning. The report helps to provide these leaders with indepth insight into how the trends and challenges are accelerating and impeding the adoption of educational technology for higher education institutions in Ireland.

“Ireland’s role in Europe and in the world as a critical hub for technological development and innovation continues to grow in importance and influence,” says Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the NMC. “I think it is an extremely timely moment for a report that looks at the ways Irish universities and institutes of technology are responding in their own uses of technology and where they are heading. The use of digital and hybrid learning designs are increasing across Ireland, and it is clear that Irish institutions are looking forward to a technology-enhanced future that will play out in more effective and engaging learning across the entire country. We believe this new report from the NMC, NIDL, and ILTA will be a significant catalyst for strategic planning and high-level discussions at universities and colleges that will spur even more campus and off-campus innovation in teaching and learning.”

“Our collaboration with the ILTA and NMC is a strong step toward promoting more strategic conversations about future models of teaching and learning in Irish higher education,” said Professor Mark Brown, Director for the NIDL. “Drawn from the collective expertise of leading Irish educators, this report supports work already underway to help universities and institutes of technology throughout the country to develop a more future-focused strategy for higher education in such rapidly changing times.”

“The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland could not be timelier in providing a comparative international evidence-base to inform research, policy and practice in the Irish higher education landscape over the medium term,” says Paul Gormley, Director of ILTA. ”This report offers exciting opportunities to identify commonalities and regional differences in higher education across an increasingly global landscape, and contributes a unique Irish perspective to inform the wider NMC Horizon Project. It is significant that the Expert Panel has identified the development of digital literacies to support the changing roles of staff and students in an increasingly digital age. This is a key enabler in maximising the opportunities for creative and innovative learning opportunities in Irish Higher Education.”

Key Trends Accelerating Educational Technology Adoption in Irish Higher Education

These ten trends are identified as very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years, and they were ranked in order of importance by the expert panel, with the first trend listed being deemed the most impactful. The key trends are: “Rethinking the Roles of Educators,” “Increasing Use of Hybrid/Blended Learning Designs,” “Rise of Digital Delivery,” “Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators,” “Growing Focus on Measuring Learning,” “Redesigning Learning Spaces,” “Increase in E-Portfolios Created by Learners,” “Proliferation of Open Educational Resources,” “Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation,” and “Increasing Preference for Personal Technology.”

Significant Challenges Impeding Educational Technology Adoption in Irish Higher Education

A number of challenges are acknowledged as barriers to the mainstream use of technology in Irish higher education. Because not all challenges are of the same scope, the discussions were framed by three categories defined by the nature of the challenge. The expert panel ranked challenges in order of significance, with the first challenge listed being deemed the most prominent. They are: “Underresourced Campus Infrastructure,” “Scaling Teaching Innovations,” “Improving Digital Literacy,” “Engaging with the Ethical, Privacy, and Ideological Aspects of Learning Analytics,” “Integrating Technology in Faculty Education,” “Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities,” “Blending Formal and Informal Learning,” “Competing Models of Education,” “Keeping Formal Education Relevant,” and “Teaching Complex Thinking.”

Important Developments in Educational Technology in Irish Higher Education

Additionally, the report identifies Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), flipped classroom, mobile learning, and online learning as digital strategies and technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the first horizon of one year or less. Badges/microcredit, games and gamification, learning analytics, and open content are seen in the second horizon of two to three years; adaptive learning technologies, collaborative environments, digital identity, and social networks are seen emerging in the third horizon of four to five years.

The subject matter in this report was identified through a qualitative research process designed and conducted by the NMC that engaged an Irish body of experts in higher education, technology, business, and other fields around a set of research questions designed to surface significant trends and challenges. The Irish expert panel was also asked to identify important development in technology that have a strong likelihood of adoption in Irish universities. The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland details the areas in which these experts were in strong agreement.

The 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Higher Education in Ireland is available online, free of charge, and is released under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.

Download the report at go.nmc.org/2015-ie