IUA launches initiative to enhance digital learning

National programme aims to enhance the digital capacity of university teaching staff to improve the educational experiences and digital skills of Irish university students

07.11.19 – The Irish Universities Association (IUA) today officially launched the Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities (EDTL) project as the final event of the World Conference on Online Learning. This is an ambitious three-year project, funded by the Higher Education Authority’s Innovation and Transformation Programme. The national programme brings together seven universities with the high-level aim of enhancing the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish university students by enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process. Through professional development the intention is to empower all staff who teach and support learning to build digital competence and confidence, and thus become the drivers and key enablers of change themselves.

Opening the event President of NUI Galway Prof. Ciarán O’hÓgartaigh said: “The student population in Irish universities will surge by 25,000 by 2030, coinciding with rapid advances in digital learning and a need to expand lifelong and flexible learning opportunities. To meet these challenges, universities are committed to developing a national programme in digital learning. At a European level the enhancement of digital capacity has become a major policy objective as a key driver of economic competitiveness but also of social cohesion and equality of opportunity. We need to be competing at that same level and this programme is another step in Ireland’s journey.”

As we build towards a national programme, pilot projects are now being rolled out in each of the seven universities. Each pilot is specific to the individual university, based on the existing expertise and resources available, the strategic aims and goals of the institution, the disciplines involved and their needs. Pilot activities vary, with a balance between accredited modules and structured, non-accredited workshops, all aligned with the European Framework for the Digital Competency of Educators (DigCompEdu).

Speaking at the launch, Project Manager Dr. Sharon Flynn said:We recognise that the project is not starting from ground zero and that each university has been engaging in staff development activities to build digital confidence and competence for some years. The project will therefore align with existing schemes and resources available through the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and we look forward to making project outputs open for use across the wider HE sector in Ireland”.

As the overall aim of the project is to enhance the digital skills and the learning environment of university students in Ireland, partnership with students is essential. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is on the project Steering Committee and a student associate intern is a core member of the project team. The student voice will be built into all project activities at the local university level.

Speaking about the need to keep Irish graduates competitive VP for Academic Affairs at USI Kevin McStravock, said: “What we are seeing currently is an increasingly competitive environment globally and students are starting to think of how they can find opportunities internationally for employment. Having an increased digital capability will allow them to set themselves apart from other international graduates in the global market force”.


For more information contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, IUA  lia.osullivan@iua.ie  085 7141414

Dr Sharon Flynn, EDTL Project Manager, sharon.flynn@iua.ie   01 6764948


Additional Notes:



Project Structure:

The EDTL project is managed centrally by the IUA. A steering group is made up of nominees from each university, and includes representation from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education and the Union of Students in Ireland.  A project manager based in the IUA has been recruited to oversee the day to day implementation, and the project costs provide the provision of one full-time (or equivalent) programme support to act as project lead within each university.  The key impact of the project will be the development of critical mass and a shared service approach to enhancing digital capacity across the university sector.

Baseline Data:

Launched in October 2019 the Irish National Digital Experience (INDEx) Survey conducted by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, is a national survey of the digital engagement, experiences and expectations of students and staff who teach in Irish higher education. The amalgamated data across the 7 universities from this survey will be vital to inform the direction of the Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities project.