Meet Mr Colum Foley

This article acts as the fourth log entry of my 22-day stay in Dublin City University for my PhD thesis and possible research and project collaboration with the host research unit – National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) of DCU.

Today I finally got the chance to meet Mr Colum Foley, director of postgraduate programmes at DCU ( And below I share with you the conversation I had with him in one-hour talk face to face.

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Colum is a local Irish man. He is a very polite and gentle person. The conversation with him was so full of support and without any feeling of being distant. He often insert my name in his conversation, “to be honest with you, jingjing,…”, “to say it in brief, jingjing, ….” This way of conversation somehow makes the whole communication so special. I should totally do it in the future as well. It feels like without it, it is broadcasting voice; but with it, it is an old friend intimate talks in the deep night.

Anyway, Colum is a very humble person, who reminds me of my previous experiences at HKU. Professors and teachers were very supportive in students and that was part of the reason that inspired my pursue of PhD now. Colum briefly told me the story of his work. He is now managing 5 master programs and 3 diploma programs, all completely online programms which accredit students and grant official degree of certificate/diploma.

The development of his sector to develop distance learning programmes for DCU has been ongoing for twenty years. There are some problems though.

  • Faculty staff are not currently involved. Colum has to go to another institute and ask for lecturing staff for such programmes. This is due to the policy reason – one contract, one job. Staff are very hesitant to take more responsibilities besides what they have already had on their plates.
  • The programmes are on updates every three years, when they reflect on the programmes and their performance and make some modifications accordingly.
  • The students enrolled in such programmes are more Irish-based. They used these programmes to polish or redirect their career path. There are some international students involved as well but not the majority.
  • Such programmes don’t have physical contacts. Colum is planning to do some summer school or study camp to enhance the human contact and learner involvement.
  • The topics are so far limited to operation, management and include technologies related to sustainability.

There are some part-time tutors who dedicate to tutorials using It is a space as a combination of technologies like Moodle and Mahara. I was invited to an online tutorial that evening but did not manage to get through because the tutorial did not allow self-enrollment apparently. But anyway Loop is the tool to manage part of the distant education in DCU.

Colum is doing his PhD in educational leadership at present at DCU as well. He has the plan to expand the distance education programmes of DCU. But so far it has been mainly promoted through Irish government system, not commercially promoted on other channels.

Some reflections

Over the conversation, one major thought is that USI can actually also consider develop some distant education programmes to students globally. After the MOOC experiment, it proves that MOOC helps to boost up Univeristy reputation and it helps to achieve social responsibility of the university as well. Concerning marketing aspect, it did help to attract also public audience to get enrolled in the at-campus educational programmes.

The effort of producing MOOC is not only about MOOC. Over time, a lot of materials actually can be packaged to form the basic content for distance education programmes, which accreditate virtual learners officially.

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