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Hibernia College (HC) is an online, third-level institution delivering web-based educational
programmes. The goal of HC is to be a global leader in the delivery of unique and
competitively distinctive academic programming. Utilisation of the Internet and other state-
of the-art technologies are the primary methodologies used to implement the company’s
strategy of high quality, value-added and student-centred educational programmes.
HC is striving to become a centre of excellence in online distance education. The college
makes web-based third level courses of the highest quality accessible to students in Ireland
and internationally, which are specifically designed to meet the new conditions and new
educational needs of the knowledge age.
The College mission is to promote lifelong learning by offering web-based programmes that
facilitate students who cannot attend or be accommodated by traditional, on-campus
courses to access specific, vocationally relevant accredited Higher Education programmes.
The Professional Diploma in Education (PDE), a level 8 award, was initially accredited by
the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) in 2009 and was developed in
response to national demand for such a programme being made available in a blended
learning format. Extensive consultation with various stakeholders in the education arena
led to the development of the PDE and it has been designed to facilitate the qualification of
post-primary teachers in specific curriculum areas (Gaeilge, Mathematics, Physics,
Chemistry and Modern Languages) where a particular shortage has been identified.
The Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) provides subject-qualified graduates with the
skills, knowledge and ability to obtain employment and practice as a competent, qualified
post-primary school teacher. It aims to make full use of the new methods of distance
education made possible by the advances in information technology to provide a flexible
means of study to students.
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A sound underpinning of key issues such as inclusion and differentiation, classroom
management, history, sociology, philosophy and psychology of education is provided, as
well as an in depth understanding of the methodologies of their chosen subjects and the
ability to deliver this in a manner that maximises learning.
• Offers a student-centred, flexible, supported learning opportunity imparting high
expertise together with the development of the broader skills and mental
capabilities necessary to compete effectively in the modern marketplace
• Assembles the best available academic teams from around the world to develop and
author up-to-date learning opportunities of the highest quality
• Delivers a high quality, web-based, part-time, accessible learning opportunity at
• Promotes a lifelong web-based learning opportunity by facilitating students – many
of whom are mature professionals– who cannot attend or be accommodated by
traditional, on-campus courses
Following requests from the post-primary sector, HC reviewed the provision of courses in
Ireland that lead to a post-primary school teacher’s qualification. This indicated that
demand for the award far exceeded supply and that there was a need for a programme
delivered in a flexible manner that did not require the student to give up their current
employment or move away from home. Further consultation with principals highlighted a
number of curriculum areas where there is a national shortage of post-primary teachers.
The majority of offerings required student teachers to live near or travel to universities to
pursue a full-time course usually lasting one academic year and typically did not attract
graduates who had already secured employment outside the sector. Other providers were
largely oversubscribed with between 2,000 and 2,500 graduates applying for approximately
800 places a year. It was envisioned that HC PDE would broaden the provision of post-
primary teacher education in Ireland.
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In Spring 2008, HC undertook a nationwide consultation exercise with post-primary school
principals across Ireland. A greater understanding of existing PDE offerings was achieved
through subsequent discussion groups. An Advisory Board was then established and met on
a regular basis to give insight and information on the current programme and also provide
suggestions as to how a new blended programme could be offered.
Academic staff of the College involved in the design of the programme met with a HETAC
panel of experts on the 16th September 2009 to examine the programme submission. The
panel of experts recommended validation of the programme subject to the Teaching
Council’s general conditions of approval. Accreditation was granted by the Teaching Council
in the 2010/2011 academic year after initial review of the programme.
The programme recruited learners during the summer of 2011 following Teaching Council
Professional Accreditation. The initial cohort of learners (Oct 11) will graduate in October
2013. Subsequent cohorts were inducted in March 2012 (Mar 12) and October 2012 (Oct
In the 2012/2013 academic year a total budget of €1.8m was assigned to the development
and delivery of the project. This included €1.25m in direct teaching and student supervision
costs, €250k on online content development and €300k on the provision and support of
learning services to students. Student fees are funded entirely by the student themselves
with no subvention from the State.
Hibernia College, as an international provider of higher education, recognises the
importance of community engagement in providing education programmes that meet local,
national and international needs. Experience gained from working with the wider
community is used to inform curriculum design and delivery and also improve the
opportunities and quality of the student learning experience.
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Demographic studies indicate that Post-Primary School Enrolments will increase by 58,463
between now and 2020. At a ratio of 19:1 this would require 3011 new teachers over and
above the normal annual requirement of about 1700. Given the need for new teachers, and
the State’s cuts in HE funding, there is a need for the private sector to make provision.
As an online provider, technology plays a key role in the delivery of all programmes at HC.
The PDE is a blended-learning programme with the online portion delivered through
HELMS – the virtual learning environment. The online elements of the course are delivered
through a combination of:
Online interactive Flash-based lessons
Supplementary downloads, for example, lesson transcripts, audio files for mobile
media and downloadable lessons
Synchronous online tutorials
Delivery of the programme is designed to be ‘invisible’ to the student; technology is
considered a facilitator to learning and no part of the system should present usability
problems. All elements of the learning management system are designed with the most
technically-inexperienced user in mind.
HELMS combines open-source software, enterprise online tutorial software and a digital
library. The effectiveness of HELMS and any technical difficulties experienced are regularly
monitored to assure ongoing suitability. The combination of in-house development and
open-source community development allows HC to remain at the cutting edge of learning
All new users are initially surveyed by the College to determine available ICT resources.
Each cohort of students is required to attend an onsite induction day where they are
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introduced to all academic departments as well as the online environment in HELMS.
Students are shown important aspects of HELMS, including support systems, online lessons,
library services and the social media tools used to promote peer support and interaction.
Within the initial induction period of 2 weeks students are requested to perform various
tasks within HELMS and also take part in an online trial of our synchronous tutorial
software (AT&T Connect). A 10-15 minute demonstration is all that is required for all users
to understand the basic functionality of the synchronous software. For example, with a trial
for a new intake of PDE students, there are typically up to 150 students invited to take part
in a trial over 2.5 hours, with approximately 30 students logging in at 30-minute intervals.
By the end of the 2.5 hours, the vast majority of these students will have successfully logged
on, listened to the demo and tested that their audio and microphones are working
successfully. Review has shown there to be minimum issues in all areas and our technical
support team fully support any technical issues encountered.
A recent survey (July 2012) indicates that 97.5% of students think tutors are good or
excellent and that 94% think the content is good or excellent (Scale used is Excellent, Good,
Satisfactory, Fair, Poor).
Regular updating of the PDE site with new features and ensuring that the online interactive
sessions allow for a high-quality learning experience is a very important aspect of the
service the College provides.
The tools used by the college are constantly revised, expanded and updated. There is an in-
house technical team as well as the active Open Source Community regularly developing
enhancement to HELMS. Recent additions have included increased tracking for our
students, increased social media tools as well as improved reporting facilities for staff. Web
2.0 community-building features offers students much greater scope for informal
communication among themselves. Richer collaborative tools are proven to encourage
student engagement on learning management systems. The social collaboration encouraged
through the sites provides peer and tutor support to students.
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Enhanced reporting and tracking also allows both staff and faculty the tools for detecting
weaker or problem students. Feedback demonstrates that academic support and support
for struggling students is well managed and implemented effectively; there are strong
systems in place for monitoring student participation, engagement, performance and
achievement and the evidence confirms that these systems are effective in early
identification of learners who require interventions and additional support.
Using AT&T for the online interactive sessions has proven very effective. The AT&T tool
enables high-quality delivery that is robust and engaging. The software is used on a daily
basis and proves to be very popular and user friendly with participants in terms of
installation and functionality. General feedback from participants is that they find the
software easy to use with the image-based icons leading to an intuitive feel.
Technical support is provided by the College’s Helpdesk. The team are fully trained to
advise on any technical and software problems staff, faculty or students may encounter
while using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the AT&T software. A survey of
students undertaken in July 2012 confirms a high level of satisfaction with the technical
The PDE is a 60-credit, 24-month programme consisting of one module of Foundations of
Education (10 credits), one module of Teaching Methodologies, encompassing two subject
methodologies (10 credits), one module of School Experience Professional Practice
encompassing three blocks of School Experience (20 credits) and one module of Developing
the Professional Teacher (20 credits).
The programme is modular in its structure and delivery. Students progress towards an
award by passing individual modules. In some instances, there is a requirement for an
element of a module to be passed as well as the overall module. Modular assessment of
attainment of learning outcomes is embraced throughout the programme. It is possible for a
student leaving the programme prior to its scheduled end date to take any credit with them.
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In the PDE, full consideration is given to the issues of module completion and the suitability
of the current module structure in the context of HETAC requirements. Stakeholder
feedback and module assessment results indicate a normal distribution of results indicating
a positive and normal engagement with the prescribed material.
The PDE offers a blended learning experience, including interactive online sessions offering
maximum flexibility with on-site classroom sessions, reinforcing student integration into
the learning experience. The unique Higher Education Learning Management System
(HELMS) combines all the benefits of accessibility and flexibility inherent in online
education with a high level of interaction between students and their peers and between
students and their tutors. The design of online interactive sessions utilises a robust
pedagogical model to incorporate various elements that provide a comprehensive
multimedia learning experience for students.
The college selects faculty with special expertise from around the world to create courses of
the highest quality. The design of the courses and of student participation is based on a
philosophy of education that seeks to combine advanced expertise with the development of
the broader skills that are required for success in the modern marketplace. These skills
include IT skills, and analytical and research skills, which can give graduates the ability to
search out and exploit information and which can enhance their creative and leadership
The Knowledge Management Team (KMT), is involved in all aspects of module planning to
ensure a more holistic approach that seeks better integration of the on-demand online
lessons, the live online tutorials and the face-to-face onsite elements of each module.
Detailed information on all modules is available within the virtual learning environment
(VLE), so students have all the information they require, easily available from a centralised
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Video is used at the start of each module to provide overviews to students of the module
content and how it will tie in with the assessment strategy. This has proven to be a more
effective way of communicating with students than merely sending them printed materials.
Student engagement and interaction has been enhanced by placing a greater emphasis on
the use of blogs and module forums. Independent tasks are evidenced in blog contributions.
Topical questions for each lesson are posted on the forums and tutors are required to
actively engage with students on the forum to encourage group learning, active discussion
and debate and sharing of ideas using cooperative learning strategies.
Learning Diaries (ePortfolios) enable students to document their learning during the
programme and are suitable for continued use as newly qualified teachers using cloud
storage to access and complete their portfolios for subsequent accreditation by the
The PDE programme has grown in terms of student numbers as well as the number of
modules on offer. Of the students presently enrolled, there are students from every county
in Ireland. Of the total PDE student body (469 students), there are currently 184 enrolled in
the initial Cohort (Oct 11), the Mar 12 cohort has 95 students enrolled and the Oct 12 cohort
has 190 students. The spring 2013 enrolment target is 170 students.
The July 2012 student survey indicated a lot of positive feedback from students undertaking
various modules on the programme. Student comments included remarks such as “I think
this is an excellent module and feel I have learned a great deal while studying it. Overall I am
very impressed with the Hibernia Course and find it works very well for me” and “I really
enjoyed my learning experience during this module and it covered everything possible. I
feel I have gathered very valuable knowledge and experience.”
The PDE programme provides post-primary teacher education to people who were
previously unable to access it because of supply, geography or life commitments.
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The programme addresses teacher recruitment requirements for the 21st century by
providing suitably qualified and high quality teachers at no cost to the state. With regards to
subject specificity, the programme is addressing the particular shortage in qualified Irish
teachers – several of them have been offered jobs before even qualifying.
Ultimately, the main strength of the programme is the content, delivery, faculty and
technologies as well as the College commitment to high academic standards and the
implementation of rigorous policies and procedures to maintain this that has resulted in the
programme acquiring a positive reputation to date.
The PDE programme delivery model supports access, transfer and progression, the
accumulation of credit and lifelong learning in line with National Qualifications Authority of
Ireland (NQAI) policy and best practice and is for the most part in full compliance with
Teaching Council requirements.
Highly interactive learning technologies that are continually reviewed, updated and
resourced with a strong support team ensure minimal disruption to learners and rapid
resolution to any technical difficulties. Students and tutors have indicated that the HELMS
VLE is user-friendly and very accessible.
Excellent community and sector links, including a dedicated school partnership liaison
team, which are continually expanding as the programme advances, have helped strengthen
the programme and knowledge of sector requirements as well as current thinking in post-
primary education internationally.
The general quality of the feedback is a particular strength of the programme with an
emphasis on appreciative comments and suggestions to extend students’ thinking and
Mentors in placement schools have volunteered positive and informative feedback and
external examiners have commented on the overall quality of student teachers which
reflected very well on the quality of support and preparation provided by HC. There is also a
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high level of student satisfaction in the content and delivery of the programme and its
ability to adequately prepare them for careers as teachers.
Return on investment
Research data from surveys undertaken by HC indicate that, besides excellent student
retention rates, students undertaking blended learning programmes enjoy their experience
and also the flexibility that this format provides. HC graduates consider lifelong learning a
more realistic proposition and may be induced to continue on other programs the college
offers, for example the Masters of Arts in Teaching and Learning (MATL).
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers is another area that provides
further development potential for HC both through word-of-mouth from participating
stakeholders in the programme and for graduates who are aware of the quality and
flexibility this educational approach holds.
Through the PDE programme, the College has a number of sectoral links across Ireland.
Sector engagement ensures interaction with professional bodies, organisations, individual
schools and so on goes beyond that required for the delivery of the programme. The
purpose of the engagement is to ensure HC remains firmly rooted in the heart of activities
associated with the training of post-primary school teachers in Ireland. HC seeks feedback
and recommendations to further strengthen the programme to maximise the benefit to its
graduates and to the post-primary school sector in Ireland. The degree and type of
engagement has increased over the lifespan of the programme to date and has been of
benefit to the College as well as the sector, particularly schools who value the opportunity to
inform the training of teachers.
Faculty further strengthen their knowledge of current issues and practice and are afforded
the opportunity and ability to engage in critical debate through attendance at conferences
dedicated to education. These links with the wider educational community benefit students
and the College alike in ensuring faculty are in dialogue with peers and are informed about
the most current and relevant issues for teacher education nationally and internationally.
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The College has established relationships with a range of associations with a view to
collaboration in order to inform students of developments and to provide a platform for
these organisations whereby they can disseminate information and resources.
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Access and Instructions
The PDE web site can be accessed by using the link: http://ppe.hiberniacollege.com/
User name: samsungdma
In the PDE programme, there are four main modules, containing ‘strands’ of subject areas,
which contain multiple (usually 8) ‘session pages’ with Tasks containing less than 3 hours of
For direct access to featured resources you can click on the module, strand, sample session
and associated interactive presentation links below to visit each:
1. Foundations of Education
History of Education
Session 4: Intermediate/Secondary Education 1878–1967
Interactive presentation: Intermediate/Secondary Education 1878–
Sociology of Education
Session 1: Education and Society
Interactive presentation: Education and Society
2. Methodologies of Education
Session 1: Curriculum and Change - Starting to Teach Chemistry
Interactive presentation: Curriculum and Change - Starting to Teach
Gaeilge (Irish) Teaching Methodology
Seisiún 7: Cothú Cruinnis sa Ghaeilge
Interactive presentation: Cothú Cruinnis sa Ghaeilge
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3. School Experience & Professional Practice – (These release to GSTs at 3 different stages
of Teaching Practice (TP))
Session 1: The General Teaching Context
Interactive presentation: The General Teaching Context
Session 7: Planning for Good Behaviour
Interactive presentation: Planning for Good Behaviour
Session 6: Introduction to the Restorative Classroom
Interactive presentation: Introduction to the Restorative Classroom
4. Developing the Professional Teacher – (the BISEN and Research Methods sessions)
Behavioural Issues and Special Educational Needs
Session 3: General Learning Difficulties and Assessed Syndromes
Interactive presentation: General Learning Difficulties and Assessed
Session 1: Improving Educational Practice and the Role of Research in
Interactive presentation: Improving Educational Practice and the
Role of Research in Teaching