I’ve just returned from a trip to Dublin, where I am visiting professor at Dublin City University (DCU), working with Mark Brown and his team. Mark is the director of the new National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). Yesterday was the launch of a new digital technologies initiative, called Connected. It is DCU’s new offering in terms of flexible and distance learning. It includes a new digital learning environment, called LOOP. The event was well attended with around 120 registered. The president of DCU, Professor Brian MacCraith opened the event and described how the initiative linked into the institutional mission, in terms of transforming lives and society, as well as national strategy. Mark Brown unveiled Connected and peppered his talk with three very powerful videos from DCU learners, explaining how DCU had literally transformed their lives. Professor MacCraith said:
Today’s announcement is much more than a brand launch – rather it is a public commitment by DCU to embrace the best of digital technologies to enhance the learner experience of students, both nationally and globally. Whether you live in Sligo, Seville or Shanghai, DCU Connected provides access to world-class online education, with international expertise and locally-relevant courses designed to meet your needs.
Mark Brown stated that:
DCU Connected is the evolution of our commitment to flexible learning but with a more contemporary and clearly international focus.
I began my short talk by stating that these were interesting and challenging time for Higher Education and that digital technologies offered a plethora of ways in which learners could interact with rich multimedia and ways of communicating and collaborating with peers. I stated that there was a need to move beyond knowledge recall, to enabling learners to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. We need to equip learners to face a complex and dynamic future, where they will be doing jobs that do not even exist today. The new NIDL that Mark Brown directs is a vibrant and strong research centre, which will inform the development of the Connected initiative in the coming months. NIDL will be supported by an International Advisory Board of experts in the field.
Connected is an important initiative not just for DCU, but for the whole of Ireland. I concluded with a couple of statistics, that demonstrate the timeliness of Connected. Tony Bates states that to meet the demands of future leaners we would need to build a brick and mortar institution every week. Clearly e-learning is the only solution. Finally, UNESCO state that more than 10 Million learners cannot afford formal education, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), offer a viable alternative for them.
I am looking forward very much to working with Mark and the NIDL team over the coming months in terms of developing this very exciting initiative.