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DIT celebrates ten years of Students Learning with Communities

Posted: 28 November, 2018

The DIT Community Engagement Programme, Students Learning with Communities, is celebrating ten years of working with more than 100 community partners on real-life projects that benefit the lives of countless individuals while also enhancing student learning.

Since 2008, 10,000 students and 170 staff in DIT have collaborated on over 500 projects in Ireland and internationally. Managed by the Access and Civic Engagement Office in DIT, Students Learning with Communities is a simple and hugely effective concept which sees students improving their learning on a range of subjects in collaboration with a community organisation on a specific project or task. The programme is mutually beneficial, progressing the community partner's goals while they also become part of the education process contributing to the academic and professional development of the student.

Dr Catherine Bates, Students Learning with Communities Project Coordinator says the programme not only supports community organisations but also greatly benefits the personal and professional development of students through the process of collaborative research and learning. “Many students arrive in college hoping that their learning will one day change the world for the better, but can sometimes struggle to see the real-world application of their studies. Students Learning with Communities introduces students to a charity or local group that is seeking collaboration to achieve their goals, and suddenly the students’ learning comes alive as they put theory into practice, learning with and from the community partner. The work also allows students to develop their professional skills, enhance their understanding of their specialist subjects and receive module credits for their work."

Many undergraduate programmes in DIT now offer students the opportunity to become involved in projects with communities, and to date over 500 such collaborative projects have taken place. For example:

  • Interior Design students worked with residents of a senior citizens’ complex to identify low cost and achievable design changes that could make meaningful and positive changes in their lives.
  • Early Childhood Education students worked with the Early Learning Initiative to enhance support materials for a home-based literacy programme designed to empower parents in the community and make a real impact in supporting young children’s education.
  • And recently, Social Care students worked with Crosscare Prevention and Homelessness Services to develop an accessible leaflet to outline a range of services, locations and phone numbers for people experiencing homelessness.

Lorraine Owens from Crosscare said, “During the module the student's eagerness to engage was evident, and they did this in a very gentle respectful way. They stayed in touch and asked advice regularly, and they also took the advice on board making suggested changes to their leaflet. Their research also went beyond just the literature, and they stepped into the reality of experiencing homelessness by making the call to the free phone.”

You can find more information about Students Learning with Communities and the contact details of DIT Access and Civic Engagement staff on its website