“We wanted to find a fun way to communicate with the students.”
What problems were being addressed?
- Supporting students in the extended pivot to online learning
- The light focus on student digital literacy in DCU EDTL activities to date
Why did you choose to address the challenges this way?
- To gain the student perspective
- To provide useful information to students
- To explore fun ways of communicating digitally with students
Who was involved?
The EDTL Team at DCU consisted of Project Co-Leads, Suzanne Stone and Rob Lowney, who were based in the Teaching Enhancement Unit. They worked with the student interns, Laura Anne Scanlon and Sinéad Mooney.
How were the goals achieved?
By Spring 2021, the student population was exhausted by the amount of screen-time consuming their academic (and non-academic) lives. They were overwhelmed by the abundance of information they had to filter through on their electronic devices. The DCU EDTL Team recognised the students’ fatigue, along with their ongoing needs to develop digital literacy to both engage with extended emergency learning and for future employability.
“The students were encouraged to speak freely and express the digital difficulties they were having, while highlighting their progress and any areas that were lacking cohesion and relevancy”
Inspired by the students’ perseverance and determination, and the work other university EDTL Teams had done, the DCU EDTL Team decided that it was time to find a way of further supporting students’ digital literacy development, without adding to the drudgery of the Zoom way of life. The student intern, Laura Anne Scanlon, had joined the team a few months previously, providing them with the insight and perspective they needed to begin to think about enhancing the future of DCU’s student digital literacy development.
When the intern joined the team, she worked with the DCU EDTL Project Co-Leads, to produce digital learning tips targeted at DCU students. Through a partnership with DCU Students’ Union, these were printed in the weekly student e-newsletter and posted on DCU’s VLE, Loop. The focus was on helping the students orientate themselves around useful digital tools and software to support their learning.
The DCU EDTL Team were also committed to incorporating the lessons learnt from the EDTL project so far, such as:
- Bitesize information
- Colourful graphics
- Just-in-time resources
The DCU EDTL Student Intern, Laura Anne Scanlon, proofed the tips before they were published, ensuring the information was relevant and relatable. The vital role the student voice played in targeting the student population, led to the DCU EDTL Team understanding the need to work with students informally:
- To find out their needs
- To discover their digital difficulties
- To discern how/when the information would best be delivered
- To guide them in developing digital literacy
With these objectives in mind, the DCU EDTL Team maintained their belief in creating a digital experience that was just as informative as it was informal. They decided to use Gathertown – a web conferencing platform, where users select their avatars and roam around the digital landscape, playing games and video chatting with their counterparts.
The name DCU Digi-Town was chosen by the DCU EDTL Team for this live, student – focussed activity. The team brought useful pieces of information and humour to each of the weekly lunchtime meetings with students. The students were encouraged to speak freely and express the digital difficulties they were having, while highlighting their progress and any areas that were lacking cohesion and relevancy.
DCU Digi-Town was supported by the Students’ Union, the Library and the Student Support & Development unit. Together, they promoted DCU Digi-Town in the weekly student e-newsletter, on the VLE, through social media and other channels. Keeping up the fun and informal theme, they also raffled a OneForAll voucher among the weekly participants.
Here are some of the topics discussed:
How to use…
- Google Drive
- Google Slides
- Microsoft Excel
- The library’s system
- Collaborative docs
- Create posters
- Design a presentation
Despite the low numbers of attendance during the pilot, the DCU EDTL Team received a ream of positive feedback, along with the direction they needed to enhance their DCU Digi – Town offering in Autumn 2021. The agenda was still the same – but the restrictions had been eased, meaning it was possible to meet the students in person.
Interesting questions that were raised:
- How could the DCU EDTL Team align their meetings with the academic curriculum?
- How do they get lecturers to promote this digital opportunity?
Considering the students’ workload and the uncertainty caused by Covid, the DCU EDTL Team believed it would be best to host DCU Digi-Town online and in-person, allowing the students to choose the option they were most comfortable with. The sessions were dispersed each week either online or in-person. There was also pizza available for the attendees on campus, along with the prospect of winning the infamous DCU Digi-Town raffle.
In Spring 2022, the DCU EDTL Team transformed the face of DCU Digi-Town once again. Now, it is an entirely online presence. The DCU EDTL student intern, Sinéad Mooney, set up an Instagram account, which is used to build the DCU Digi-Town brand and share insightful, practical, bitesize how-to guides. She produced graphics for each story and post and managed the Instagram content each week. Content was posted twice weekly and cross-promoted by other major DCU Instagram accounts.
There is a scope and demand for more student digital literacy resources and development opportunities. The DCU EDTL student interns were essential to the curation and promotion of digital learning tips and DCU Digi-Town. The partnership has led to development of another digital skills resource: Digi-Skills.ie, due for launch later in 2022.