Digital Hub companies at forefront of global online learning transition

Two Irish companies based at The Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties are supporting the global transition to blended and online learning brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. H2 Learning, one of Ireland’s first professional services firms set up to integrate ICT into educational practice, and The Academy of Code, who specialise in teaching coding to young people, have both enhanced their services over the last number of months to accommodate the need for learning to take place virtually.

The Academy of Code, who have delivered classroom and summer camp coding courses to approximately 3,500 students since their launch in 2014, transitioned their summer 2020 courses to take place solely online once schools closed earlier in the year. The Academy of Code delivered coding courses to more than 750 individual students entirely online in countries around the world, from the EU, the United States and Qatar. They now have plans to continue online delivery for the upcoming academic year, with 50% of courses taking place in a classroom setting and the remaining 50% being conducted online.

Coding is becoming an increasingly prized skillset in many industries and an important element to third level education: according to figures from the Central Applications Office (CAO) first preference applications to courses in engineering, biology and related science courses are up 6% and 5% respectively.  The Academy of Code is partnering with the Institute of Education in Dublin city centre, Coláiste Eoin and Íosagáin in Booterstown in south Dublin and Castleknock Community College in west Dublin to deliver Leaving Cert Computer Science. In the case of Coláiste Eoin and Íosagáin, the curriculum will be delivered entirely in Irish in a first for the Irish second-level education system.

In the case of H2 Learning, set up by former primary school teachers Dr Michael Hallissy and John Hurley in 2002, they have expanded into the American market recently delivering 7 workshops to educators in Washington state on how to plan for the transition to a blend of learning between online and classroom. Workshops are delivered via H2 Learning’s TeachNimble platform which empowers educators to design a bespoke, tailored blended learning experience that meet the unique needs of their context.  In addition, H2 has also successfully delivered a range of workshops to the Association for Community and Comprehensive Schools in Ireland in recent weeks and is currently working with the Further Education Support Service and a number of Education and Training Boards to rollout out the TeachNimble Programme.

Fiach MacConghail, CEO of The Digital Hub, said:

“The transition to blended learning practices continues at pace and educating online provides opportunities for flexibility, wider access and an enhanced learning experience. Technology companies in the education sector are key to this transition and it’s encouraging to see the progress and growth of two Irish edtech companies in what are challenging times for the sector”.

Michael Hallissy, co-founder of H2 Learning, said:

“The transition to a blended learning model has been coming for some time, and it is important to recognise that schools were mainly engaged in Emergency Remote Teaching during Covid-19 Phase 1 and not online/blended learning.  We see the move to online teaching and learning as both advantageous and necessary, but it is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when setting up a school or college for blended learning. Learning institutions must plan for blended learning by focusing initially on what types of learning activities they can design for a mix of face-to-face and distance learning.  This will vary by institution and hence the need to help institutions plan their blend with their staff before sharing it with learners and others.  We are giving them a structure and a process to do this with our approach”.

Diarmuid Ó Muirgheasa, managing director of The Academy of Code, said:

“We believe that effective learning will continue to benefit from some classroom-based applications, however the growth of online learning in recent years presents a clear opportunity for students to broaden their horizons. While coding skills are improving in Ireland, we still lag behind many other countries around the world when delivering them to young people and a more online-focused way of teaching and learning may help in bridging that gap, particularly in terms of accessibility. While the digital divide is an important consideration, we have heard anecdotal evidence of parents in rural settings expressing a preference for online delivery of our courses.”

The World Economic Forum estimates that the overall market for online education is projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025 from $18.66 billion in 2019.