Get Ready Education: A MOOC to Improve the Transition from 2nd to 3rd Level Education

Partner Institutions

Project Lead: Institute of Technology Sligo

Project Partners: University of Limerick, NUI Galway, GMIT, Limerick IT, Mary Immaculate College, Letterkenny IT


The Get Ready Education – A Learning Journey project centred on the development of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) designed to address the needs of students making the transition from post-primary education to higher education. The MOOC combines online content with optional teacher-led classroom activities, online forums and quizzes. It provided a bridge between post-primary and higher education for students and involved collaboration between career guidance staff, schools, and higher education institutions. Participants in the MOOC are awarded a digital badge upon completion. Resources from the MOOC have now been embedded in related modules of partner institutions.

Featured Resources
Primary Contact(s)

2daf6eaa8ec4adca39497742a34cb98eGavin Clinch

Institute of Technology, Sligo


Detailed Proposal

First year students find entering third level education an unnerving, isolating and intimidating experience (Kuh 2003; Lowe and Cook 2003; Yorke and Longden 2004; Byrne and Flood 2005). Furthermore, Tinto (1998) describes the experience as moving from one community group to another and by undertaking this transition, students need to separate themselves from their past school associations in order to integrate into third level college life. During this process first years will encounter lots of problems along the way mainly due to the new club they are joining. Tinto (1998) argues any student moving to a new college or community wants to fit in. Achieving this sense of belonging can depend on the personality of the individuals or of the institution in which membership is sought.

Many students are just not ready to cope with the demands of third level study and this can increase the doubts that students may have. Yorke and Longden (2004) found, for example, that two thirds of withdrawals in the UK happen during or at the end of the first year. There are a number of factors cited that make it difficult for students to adjust to third level life including: financial pressures; the wrong choice of programme or module; difficulties with making friends or being homesick. The biggest factor reported in the literature is the lack of preparation for and an understanding of the type of learning that is required at third level (Pike and Kuh 2005; Schrader and Brown 2008; Brownlee et al. 2009; Jamelske 2009; Morosanu et al. 2010). The importance of aiding students transition into higher education is reinforced by appreciating that undergraduates are likely to arrive with learning strategies suitable to second level school life which are less effective in third level learning environments featuring large class sizes and less easy access to staff (Cook and Leckey 1999). Similar to Tinto‚ findings, Cook and Leckey (1999) consider transition to be the, greatest hurdle‚ in higher education.

The proposed MOOC would support senior cycle and first year undergraduate students and support them in transitioning from 2nd to 3rd level education through the design and delivery of ten modules.

  • Learning to Learn (at third level )
  • Preparing for success ‚Äì learning to succeed
  • Critical and Creative thinking
  • Digital Literacy
  • Communication Skills
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Career advice
  • Transition from work to HE
  • Section for parents (aimed at parents of first generation undergrads)
  • Section for faculty to understand the student experience

All content would be quality assured and published as OER in line with the principle outlined in the Digital Roadmap.

The MOOC would employ gamification, simple tools like progress bars to inform learners of their progress through each section. This will maintain interest and continued activity. It will also reward learners with digital badges when they provide evidence of competences. These badges can be displayed in a, backpack‚ either privately or publicly. Students will naturally want to share their badges and the information they contain with their friends and colleagues via social networks.

Clear description of main activities

  • The design, development and delivery of a Massive Open Online course (MOOC) to support students in the transition from 2nd to 3rd level education in Ireland. The MOOC will consist of seven ‘modules’ or topics. Four of these (see 4a-d below) are specifically for senior cycle and first year undergraduate students and will constitute a 4/5 week long course. The other 3 ‘modules’ will each be designed for different cohorts (parents/faculty/adult learners).
  • The MOOC will have numerous start and completion dates, likely to be every six weeks, commencing February 2016. It will remain ‘open’ i.e. accessible at all times (unlike most MOOCs).

Specific outputs of the project
1. Initial research and consultation with stakeholders: senior cycle and undergraduate students, USI, Transition Reform Steering Group, academic and technical staff, career advisors (May, 2015)
2. Module ‘Learning to Learn (at third level)’ (L2L@3L) to be piloted to minimum of seven secondary schools (one per region of the seven partnering institutions) (October, 2015)
3. Evaluation of pilot project (November/December, 2015)
4. The MOOC will consist of seven ‘modules’ or topics:

a. Learning to Learn (at third level) (Feb, 2016)
b. Critical & Creative Thinking (Feb, 2016)
c. Digital Literacy & Communication Skills (Feb, 2016)
d. Responsible Citizenship (Feb, 2016)
e. Parental Transition: from parenting school leavers to parenting undergraduates (June, 2016)
f. Supporting Faculty to support the undergraduate (June, 2016)
g. Transitioning Adult Learners – from the workplace to HE (June, 2016)
5. A nationally available ‘Transition MOOC’ for all senior cycle and undergraduate students, parents, faculty and adult learners returning to HE.

Implementation plan for ensuring national impact of the project.

The Transition MOOC will be promoted to all schools and HEIs nationally. Promoted through the Union of Students Ireland, Career Guidance advisors and councillors, school parent’s associations/National Parents Council. Promotion primarily in the form of YouTube video feature outlining the benefits of the MOOC.