Edtech innovators at TCD secure €300k

Research teams from across Trinity College Dublin and The Learnovate Centre to develop a series of resources for second-level teachers to help them deliver learning in a digital age.

During the school closures that resulted from Covid-19, teachers had to quickly adapt their methods to teach remotely.

Research reports identified several issues experienced during the rapid move online including a fall in student engagement as well as issues with collaboration and communication and delivering learning to those in disadvantaged circumstances.

“The potential for digital delivery to help avoid an interruption in teaching and learning was shown during the lockdowns”

To correct this a partnership between The Learnovate Centre, the School of Education and Trinity Access at Trinity College Dublin along with European partners in Spain, Belgium and Greece has been forged.

The project — entitled ‘Blended Learning in Schools: A Universal Design Approach’ — has secured €300,000 in EU funding from the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, which supports education, training, youth and sport in Europe. 

The Learnovate Centre is a global research and innovation centre in learning technologies, funded by Enterprise Ireland. Trinity Access is a Widening Participation programme that aims to increase access and participation of under-represented groups at third-level.

The Irish team will be working with international partners from Greece, Belgium and Spain representing a mix of second-level teachers and education researchers. A related professional development module will also be developed and made openly accessible across the wider networks of educators in Europe.

The project will focus on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, created by CAST, a US-based non-profit education, research and development organisation.  UDL is a recognised framework to improve teaching and learning for all by taking an inclusive approach to offer all students equal opportunities.

Digital delivery of education

Fair haired woman holding a computer.

Dr Ann Devitt, Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre. Image: Coalesce

“The tools and resources we will develop aim to support teachers and schools to develop inclusive strategies for the digital provision of teaching and learning in their own educational context, with an overarching goal of ensuring high levels of student engagement no matter what the mode of content delivery,” said Deirdre Green, programme manager at The Learnovate Centre.

“The potential for digital delivery to help avoid an interruption in teaching and learning was shown during the lockdowns but we also saw the need for flexibility going forward to deal with the variety of contexts teachers and students face.”

The team from Trinity College Dublin includes Dr. Aibhín Bray, Dr. Joanne Banks and Dr. Ann Devitt, all from the School of Education and Dr. Jane O’Hara from Trinity Access

“In terms of education, all learners are not on an equal playing field.  Some face barriers, for a range of reasons, to their learning,” said Dr Ann Devitt, who is also Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre.

“A truly inclusive educational environment aims to remove barriers to learning.  UDL aims to make learning fully inclusive by design rather than by retrofitting. In this project, we will build on the UDL framework for the digital context, recognising that all learners will benefit from a flexible and inclusive approach.”

“This project aims to capitalise on the learnings from the COVID-19 crisis, which highlighted the particular importance of maintaining meaningful connections with students in areas of socio-economic disadvantage during periods of remote learning,” added Dr Aibhín Bray, from the School of Education and Trinity Access.

“By developing UDL in this space, we hope to guide teachers in translating effective and inclusive pedagogic practices into the online environment and, with a focus on student connection and engagement, to support the delivery of high-quality, inclusive digital education”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 13 April 2021