Trinity College is “embracing online education at a strategic level both through formal accredited courses of study and through the creation of Massive Open Online Courses,” College’s associate dean for online education, Professor Tim Savage, told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection on Wednesday.
Representatives from Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University and the Open University appeared before the Committee on Education and Social Protection to discuss the contribution and development of online courses in third level education in Ireland.
The chair of the committee, Labour TD Joanna Tuffy, noted the contributions of the Open University, DCU and Trinity College to online learning in Ireland and stated, “Committee members look forward to considering what policy steps might further support these exciting developments in the delivery of third level education.”
The meeting focused on the potential developments for online learning in Ireland, in particular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). MOOCs are generally accessible to anyone with internet access and allow unlimited participation. Tuffy commented on the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), “Distance learning is not a particularly new concept, but the advances of digital technology have led to the emergence of interactive Massive Open Online Courses in recent years. These courses, often comprising videos, readings and interactive user forums, offer enriching educational experiences to anyone in the world with an internet connection.”
Trinity launched its first Massive Open Online Course, Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923, in September 2014 in partnership with FutureLearn. Professor Savage stated that more than 18,000 students signed up to the six-week course led by Professor Ciaran Brady, Dr Anne Dolan and Dr Ciarán Wallace from Trinity’s School of Histories and Humanities. The free six-week history course will run again in March 2015.
Professor Savage was keen to emphasise that online education is an “opportunity for universities to disseminate their research and excellence in teaching to a wide global audience” and “to raise the identity and profile of an institution” in a global context. He confirmed that three new online postgraduate courses will be launched in 2015 and he restated Trinity College’s commitment to increase the number of online learners to one thousand students within the next five years, as outlined in the Strategic Plan 2014–2019.