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“It gave us the opportunity to discover whether or not the students felt digitally equipped for the future, beyond academia”


What problems were being addressed?

  • The need to gain a clear picture of any existing gaps in student digital skills and help with planning future digital skills support.

Why did you choose to address the challenges this way?

  • Focus groups allowed flexibility in terms of addressing questions relating to the digital skills
  • The group responses would provide a broad understanding of the students’ digital skills

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?

Sometimes the biggest issue facing students’ digital literacy is the uncertainty regarding their digital skills. It can be quite easy to assume what they need to enhance their digital learning experience – but the DCU EDTL Team did not want to make any assumptions. They wanted answers and what better way to get them than asking the students.


The decision to host focus groups, three years in row, allowed the DCU EDTL team to get a clear picture of the digital skills that students needed, and how to address their future digital skills development. The data provided a snapshot of time, while the team were also able to ask specific questions and discover how the students felt about their digital capabilities and learning experience.

The choice to host the focus groups during the second semester of the academic year, was driven by the idea that students would have settled into their courses and become aware of the areas in which they needed help or felt was important for their future success. By Spring 2020, the DCU EDTL Team was ready to begin their search for students and the emergency pivot to online learning did not get in their way – instead, it increased the need for the information the team was seeking.

Abstract people lecture in seminar room, education or training concept.

Here are some of the questions the team asked:

  • Can you tell me about the digital technologies that you use in your personal life, outside of the university?
  • Are you aware of privacy issues/digital footprint? How did you find out about these? Second level? Home? University?
  • Are you a digital content creator?
  • Tell me about the technologies you use to support your learning, if any? Loop (virtual learning environment)? Others? How do these technologies support your learning?
  • What types of digital technologies or tools would you like to see used as part of your programme?
  • Tell me about any digital assessments on your programme, beyond simply submitting traditional assessments?
  • Do you feel ready for the workplace in terms of your digital skills? If not, what can the University do to help?

To incentivise students’ registration, the DCU EDTL Team were able to offer a 15-euro voucher. They designed posters and hung them up around campus. They also asked the
Students’ Union (SU) to promote the focus group, which greatly aided the team’s endeavour by sourcing a variety of students, who not only answered their questions in detail, but raised their concerns and discussed the digital methods that had worked particularly well for their learning experience.

Interesting tip:

The DCU EDTL Team needed to orientate the focus groups and decided to direct their questions into 4 sections:

  • Technology in general
  • For learning
  • Specific to assessment
  • Skills you will need in your future career path – ask everyone to answer on this, as each discipline has a different perspective