a collaborative approach – The Irish Times


The third level experience is constantly evolving and changing. About two decades ago, he focused particularly on what students want from a course.

I remember a lecturer – old school, very experienced, beloved by students – who was suspicious of the university’s new focus on student feedback and only handed out student evaluation forms with a extreme reluctance. His view was that lecturers were those with experience and that tailoring courses to the wishes of students risked lowering standards. All the while later, it’s debatable whether his concerns were well-founded, but, as more courses move online, the student’s perspective becomes even more important.

Dr Jen Harvey, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs for Teaching and Learning at TU Dublin, and her colleague, Digital Education Manager Dr Frances Boylan, say students across Ireland , primary, post-primary, third grade and beyond have all experimented with some form of online learning as a result of the pandemic.

“Fully online courses are not for everyone,” said Harvey and Boylan, who work together at TU Dublin. “Some students don’t do well in this environment. Therefore, they should ensure that they fully understand the learning experience before enrolling and the level of responsibility they would have to actively engage and participate in online content and activities.

“Over the past two years, TU Dublin has developed expertise and knowledge of what works: guides have been created for teaching staff to help them create pedagogically sound online courses, incorporating multimedia and many Continuing professional development opportunities (both synchronous, asynchronous, and on-demand) are provided to support them in their endeavors,” said Harvey and Boylan.

“Additionally, an effort has encouraged a move towards more authentic learning and assessment methods that will help prepare students for the world of work. These include more collaborative activities that support engagement with industry and the translation of theory into practice.

TU Dublin has carefully collected research and data on student perceptions of the quality of online education, with a particular focus on ‘Hybrid-Flexible’ – shortened to ‘HyFlex’, a multi-modal teaching approach that allows students choose whether or not to attend face-to-face or online classes, whether at the same time or on their own time.

This research has allowed the university to see, from the students’ perspective, what works for them and why.

“Feedback showed that students appreciated and liked the flexibility offered,” Boylan and Harvey say.

“They also recommend that this level of flexibility be retained in the future. From a student perspective, rigor and quality do not appear to have been affected by the Hyflex approach, with 79% of students seeing no impact and 70 % of students seeing no negative effects from joining an online course The Retention Project (funded by the Higher Education Authority) explored students’ needs and perceptions of their pre/early orientation experiences and , therefore, created a new online portal for student success and made changes to early orientation activities and processes.

Griffith College Dublin also surveyed learners during Covid-19 to assess their perception of the quality of online teaching.

“Our learners, both full-time and part-time, have consistently expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the transition from college to online education,” says Dr. Tomás Mac Eochagáin, Director of Academic Programs at Griffith College.

“When COVID hit, we also moved our exams online to protect the health of learners. This move was also welcomed and for most faculties it continued despite the possibility of returning to on-campus exams .

Julie Ryan, head of tailored and sector programs at the Irish Management Institute (IMI), which offers a range of professional learning and development courses, says the face-to-face learning model sometimes limits managers’ ability superiors to engage in learning. Opportunities.

“Virtual learning has changed that, dramatically increasing the engagement of these leaders – for example where commuting time has been eliminated – and opening up more opportunities for these types of senior executives to benefit from virtual engagement with their colleagues.

“It’s important that participants feel they can undertake a very focused form of self-directed learning, one small bite. The facilitator’s personality and communication skills are essential for participants to get the most out of the virtual classroom experience, with a more structured approach required. »

At Shannon Midlands-Midwest Technological University (TUS), Seamus Hoyne, dean of flexible and work-based learning, says student opinions and ideas are part of how programs are developed and reviewed .

“It’s both about determining the demand for the program and the preferred delivery mechanisms,” he says. “In particular, for flexible learning, the commitment of potential students from industry is collected and students are also part of the validation panels that are required to approve our programs. Modes of delivery are informed by multiple factors – including content, program focus and pedagogical best practices, etc. – as well as the needs of the student.

“Students will make the decision to enroll or undertake a flexible learning program based on multiple factors such as career needs, career changes, access, scale and scope of the program, the cost and the work-life balance, etc.” says Hoyne.

“An online mode of delivery increases accessibility for many students, but if the program is not tailored to their specific needs, the mode of delivery will not be the ultimate deciding factor.”

The student point of view:

“I changed careers to work for a SAAS cloud booking software company, where I started in technical support and then in sales. This is a remote position and allows me great flexibility to traveling and surfing My interest was piqued when I was working for the current booking software company I work for so when I saw the opportunity to apply for the HDip in Computer Science at the SETU Waterford campus I am launched.

“Being able to work and study this course remotely has allowed me to maintain my passion for travelling, surfing and competing around the world. I believe taking this course will open up more opportunities for me to work remotely at future, so that I can continue to have that level of flexibility in my life.In addition, so far the course has provided a better understanding of aspects of the current SAAS software that I also currently work for.

“If you are working remotely, the SETU Waterford campus is set up in the best possible way for distance teaching and learning, and even though everything is online you can meet and chat with new people on your course. “

  • Grace Doyle, South Eastern University of Technology, Waterford Campus

“I studied entirely online, only meeting my classmates for the first time at graduation – it felt like finally meeting friends for the few people I had worked closely with. collaboration on various modules and projects.

“You get to know people well, even when you study online. The program I was doing [was a good] matched my professional life and I knew it would help me in my career, so for me staying focused and motivated was not a problem.

“Even so, it was still a challenge to balance home/social activities/work/study, so time management is important.

‘But then studying online means there’s no commuting, so all the time spent getting your chosen qualification can be spent on lessons and homework, not the race between home, work and university.

“I have two pieces of advice: don’t hesitate to contact the student support team if you need them, they really want students to progress and succeed and are a university resource available to you as a student – even online – just like the teachers. and the library and the more obvious study-related stuff; and know why you’re making this commitment and never lose sight of your goal.

  • Anna O’Connor, PG Dip Cybersecurity at the National College of Ireland. O’Connor will pursue an MSc in Cybersecurity in 2022/23

Student welfare at Atlantic Technological University

Being a student can be stressful, which is why ATU has implemented digital interventions to support mental health, with a particular focus on students engaged in online or blended learning.

“Students, through their Moodle page, access practical wellbeing advice, support tools and online advice as they engage with the apps, according to their schedule and individual needs” , explains Louise Kearins, e-learning project manager at ATU.

“We have two digital mental health and wellness intervention programs. The first of these is Epigeum’s Being Well, Living Well, a new positive-focused online toolkit. The second is provided by Silver Cloud Health – the world’s first digital mental health company – a confidential online therapy and psychoeducation program [where] students have access to eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy treatments over the Internet.

ATU research student Kelley Hester is currently evaluating the effectiveness of these programs and hopes to publish her findings later this year.


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