Irish third-level sector signs breakthrough deal

30 May 2007

An organisation representing the 30 universities and institutes of education in Ireland has made history by signing the Education Alliance Agreement (EAA), the first of its kind in Western Europe, which will bring next-generation digital learning to third-level education.

The Combined Higher Education Software Team (CHEST), an initiave started by the Higer Education Authority, has a goal of creating digital learning environments within all third-level colleges nationwide.

It plans to do this through a range of services including providing up-to-date software and ICT training to both staff and students.

The EAA begins today, with a technical briefing at the Microsoft Campus in Dublin, for all universities and colleges involved.

The next stage will involve an onsite visit to each institute, where personalised programmes will be developed and implemented. The visits will include training for lecturers to help them integrate new technologies into their teaching methods.

Chris Murphy, manager of CHEST Ireland, said: “We are focused on helping the third-level education sector with using the latest technology and developing best practices in the application of new technology for collaboration and productivity.

“This agreement puts Ireland ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of digital learning and it’s a great illustration of our commitment to using technology in education for the benefit of educators and students.”

The programme also aims to facilitate learning in an off-campus, virtual environment. Commonly used technology like podcasts, interactive collaborative learning and live video streaming will help bring Irish third-level education up to date and ahead of their European counterparts, it is hoped.

Don Carlson, director of education for Western Europe at Microsoft, said: “The way we learn at third-level hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Students attend a lecture, take notes and must be in attendance to benefit.

“Virtual work groups can operate between colleges in different countries. Today’s agreement moves Irish education into the 21st century where learning can be delivered anytime, anywhere.”

By Marie Boran