Flexible Learning to Play a Key Role in TU Future.

Lifelong learning plays a vital role in the continued growth and development of the Irish workforce, helping future-proof career prospects by keeping learners’ skills and knowledge up to date.

Fully committed to supporting learners in this endeavour, AIT and LIT both offer an extensive range of flexible and innovative learning routes designed to work around career and familial commitments.

In response to increased demand from learners looking for flexible upskilling opportunities, LIT established a Department of Flexible Learning in 2015, while AIT established a Department of Adult and Continuing Education in 2001 and in 2018, a fourth faculty – the Faculty of Continuing, Professional, Online and Distance Learning.

Both have since driven significant growth in the range and number of flexible programmes offered, each of which has been carefully designed in response to current and future needs of industry in the region.

According to Dr Michael Tobin, Dean of Faculty of Continuing, Professional, Online and Distance Learning at AIT, the response from industry and people in the community has been “exceptionally positive”.

“There’s a demonstrated value there; people can see the value of these flexible learning courses and upskilling opportunities to their companies and prospects,” he explains.

Dr Michael Tobin, Dean of the Faculty of Continuing, Professional, Online and Distance Learning, AIT
Dr Michael Tobin, Dean of the Faculty of Continuing, Professional, Online and Distance Learning, AIT

"Becoming a TU will allow us to provide an even broader range of programmes because we’ll be marrying the skills and competencies of our six campuses under the banner of a technological university.”

Dr Michael Tobin, Dean, Faculty of Continuing, Professional, Online and Distance Learning, AIT

One of the key targets set out by Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 includes an ambition to increase Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate to 15% by 2025.

Skill gaps are typically identified through national skills reports and consultation groups like the Midlands Industry Forum and Limerick for Engineering, with whom AIT and LIT work very closely.

Both AIT and LIT have been extremely proactive in developing new programmes, recognising early on the huge appetite for flexible upskilling opportunities.

Dr Tobin and his Limerick counterpart, Seamus Hoyne, tailor and deliver highly customised courses, based on the needs of companies or sectors such as biopharma and MedTech.

“Companies or industry groups who have specific requirements can just pick up the phone and say, ‘I need this particular skillset’ and we deliver,” Dr Tobin says.

One of the key targets set out by Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 includes an ambition to increase Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate to 15% by 2025.

Thanks to government-funded initiatives like Springboard+ and the Human Capital Initiative, industry can now access a constant stream of talent for little to no cost. The same holds true for people living in the region.

While previously these subsidised programmes were only available to those on social welfare, now they are also open to those in employment at a reduced cost.

To date, AIT and LIT have enjoyed huge success with this model, with almost 3,500 students currently enrolled in flexible learning courses across the two institutes.

A core tenet of the TU is increased access to education, something that flexible learning facilitates. “Flexible education is there for everyone with an appetite to learn,” Dr Tobin explains. “This is all about increasing accessibility - no one should be precluded from accessing education.”

With increased awareness, Dr Tobin says people’s perception of online learning is starting to change. “People are realising just how brilliant learning online can be. You can access education from anywhere, at any time, on any device.”

Seamus Hoyne
Development and Public Engagement Manager, LIT
Seamus Hoyne Development and Public Engagement Manager, LIT

“Collectively, AIT and LIT offer more than 160 flexible
learning courses, with progression pathways
from single module programmes right through to
certificates, degrees, and postgraduate programmes. “

Dr Tobin is quick to point out that online students still benefit from the supportive, friendly, and inclusive campus culture for which AIT and LIT are so well known.

“We are conscious of the student experience and have made every effort to reproduce that lecturer-learner and peer-to-peer interaction virtually. We don’t just upload course material; we replicate the live classroom environment to ensure students get the most from their experience."

Collectively, AIT and LIT offer more than 160 flexible learning courses, with progression pathways from single module programmes right through to certificates, degrees, and postgraduate programmes.

“There’s a wonderful complementarity of programmes and a history of collaboration and partnership between our two faculties,” Dr Tobin says.

“Becoming a TU will allow us to provide an even broader range of programmes because we’ll be marrying the skills and competencies of our six campuses under the banner of a technological university.”

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