Have you wondered if there was a magic formula to make it easier to study at school or college? An exciting pilot is being conducted at IT Sligo, testing an innovative online service called ‘Simplify Learning’, to find out if it can have a positive effect on learning in an academic environment.
Participants of IT Sligo’s Online & Distance Learning courses are taking part in the trial. It’s believed that ‘Simplify Learning’ has the potential to accelerate knowledge sharing through group support and achieve positive results.
Developed by Claire Burge, a graduate of CÉIM, the IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT Enterprise Development Programme, ‘Simplify Learning’ uses social network concepts in academic environments to help students to learn differently, through sharing knowledge and personal experience. Claire moved from South Africa to Donegal a year ago and had already begun to develop her business concept there and has now taken it to the next level in Ireland.
“IT Sligo’s distance and online learning programme is one of the largest in the higher education sector, reaching out to more than 1,500 students across the country,” said Open Learning Co-Ordinator at IT Sligo, Brian Mulligan. “Since Claire’s project is also in the learning sector, it made perfect sense for us to trial this technique at IT Sligo. This demonstrates innovation in practice and working with industry to bring brilliant ideas to a wider audience.”
Speaking about how she came up with the concept, Claire explains; “The idea came about when I was studying a challenging Masters programme in South Africa at the University of Pretoria the course was aimed at senior managers and business leaders. We started out with 72 people and by the time exams came around there were only 12 of us left. The drop out rate was due to the lack of time on the learner’s part to work through all the required information.”
“Another student in the class and I realised there was a better way to approach matters. So, we devised a method which uses social networks and the web to accelerate learning. We realised that by leveraging the entire class as a resource, rather than each student trying to study on their own, was the only way to make it through the course. We used the method ourselves in the Masters and it significantly increased our marks.”
It was so successful that her college lecturers approached Claire to share what she’d developed with the others in the class. “The university persuaded us that there was a business idea here and we set up a company.”
“We conducted considerable research in SA and the US in secondary and third level education. The results came back very positive, increasing marks on average by 10-20% and significantly improving the ability of students to pass exams and research assignments well.”
“With results like that we were keen to test Simplify Learning software at IT Sligo,” added Brian Coll, Engineering Lecturer at IT Sligo. “This is a very natural approach to group projects but also to the innate insights and observations that we use to guide the value and relevance of information. I look forward to seeing how this works and its impact on the group.”
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to test the software at IT Sligo,” says Brian, “Since many of our participants are distance learners, who need to use the most social aspects of technology to reinforce their learning, given the lack of physical classroom interaction, it will be interesting to see how they respond and I’m looking forward to getting some useful feedback.”
For more information on IT Sligo’s Online and Distance Learning visit odl.itsligo.ie.
IT Sligo lecturers Brian Coll and Brian Mulligan.