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File:Hibernia logo.jpg
Logo of Hibernia College

Hibernia College is an international provider of online programmes at undergraduate and graduate level. It is based in Dublin, Ireland and accredited by the Irish Government's qualifications awarding body for third-level educational and training institutions outside the (public) university sector, HETAC, (the Higher Education and Training Awards Council).

Hibernia College provides all of its courses with a substantial online component, using state of the art technology for both synchronous and asynchronous course delivery. Hibernia College offers a blended learning format that combines the many advantages of interactive, multimedia-rich online content with the proven qualities of face-to-face tuition through periodic on-site sessions. The college has designed, developed and implemented a system, which it claims is "at the leading edge of international educational delivery". This technology infrastructure allows for increased student-tutor contact and encourages and supports self-directed learning in a way that is not possible using conventional modes of delivery.

Its web site is at http://www.hiberniacollege.net

Programmes include:

Partnerships and Collaborations

(sourced from http://www.hiberniacollege.net/Home/About/Overview/tabid/116/Default.aspx)

Through strategic collaborations and partnerships with global leaders in technology development and curriculum design Hibernia College has placed itself at the forefront of innovative online education for those wishing to pursue formal qualifications while continuing to work.

In addition Hibernia College has collaborated with Pfizer Inc., Canterbury Christ Church University, UK and the University of Ireland, Maynooth to offer accredited online postgraduate courses in pharmaceutical medicine, post-primary teacher education and hospitality management respectively.

Hibernia College also is one of the founding members of the Global Learning Consortium at MIT. The Global Learning Consortium invited a select number of countries to participate in the international development of e-learning opportunities. Hibernia College was selected as the sole representative from Ireland because of its leadership role in this arena. Membership of this consortium affords Hibernia College an exclusive relationship with some of the world's leading e-learning think tanks including Professor Dick Larson at MIT.

Reports and case studies

The present

Hibernia College is a fully online accredited private Higher Education institution in Ireland that was set up in 2000 as the first such venture of its kind in the country. It began taking in students in 2002. It describes itself as being “...an international, third-level, online College offering accredited, niche-focused educational programmes designed to address the growing demand for flexible, cost-effective, lifelong learning that is not restricted by location or time.

Hibernia’s programme offers are organised in two distinct schools, The School of Education and The School of Management.

Students enrol at certain set times and then move through the course as a separate and unique cadre of learners defined by the time when they began the specific course.

Hibernia College is currently expanding its course offer and for the moment offers the following: (* indicates there is a full description of each course available which includes the modules each contains, the course structure and work-load , the price for each and the next date for inscription is given online, links are given for each on the Hibernia College web site)

The School of Management

The School of Education

What is the institution's annual budget?

The annual turnover of Hibernia College was approximately €5.5 to €6 million for 2007.

How many students does the institution have in total?

At the moment, Hibernia College has about 1500 students registered on the MSc, iTeach and HDAP programmes. The numbers of people taking these courses continues to grow and in addition, Hibernia College is launching a new course in February 2009, the [MSc in Financial Management & Control – Online. It is difficult to classify these students as either full or part-time. These courses represent about 20 hrs study on the part of each student each week and in very many cases, they are taken by the student in addition to full time employment.

Numbers for the summer courses are not included as these are by their nature short courses each of which represent about 20 hours of study. In 2008, about 4500 people – all in Ireland - took one or more of these summer courses.

How many staff does the institution have as full-time equivalents?

The total number of full time staff of Hibernia College is 60. They are located on two sites, the head office located in central Dublin and a second site in Westport, Co. Mayo. In addition to the full time staff, Hibernia also employs approximately 300 academic staff on a part-time basis. Academic staff are managed through the College’s two schools and are responsible for the creation and delivery of the various programmes offered by Hibernia College. All courses have a full time director, called the programme director, who is responsible for the overall planning and management of the course.

What is the institution's "business model"?

The business model adopted by Hibernia is a self-sustaining one, i.e. all costs associated with running the programmes offered are met through revenues from course fees. Hibernia College receives no outside funding from the government and is run as a private educational institution. It is established as a limited company under Irish law with a Board of Directors and publicly filed annual accounts.

What percentage of the institution's students are based outside the home country?

This depends largely on the programme. For the HDAP programme, practically all students are based in Ireland and those taking part in the summer courses are exclusively Irish. The iTEACH course is different with about 300 students based in the UK. For the MSc in Pharmaceutical Medicine, the majority of students are based in Ireland although there some non-Irish scattered in 24 different countries.

Bursaries are available for some students in some of the courses. For example, the iTEACH programme is funded by the UK Government’s Training and Development (TDA) Agency and so participants on the course are fully funded by the TDA. Teachers taking the summer courses are also entitled to extra personal vacation days from the Dept. of Education in lieu of their participation.

Describe the institution's approach to virtual mobility

Hibernia College takes a blended learning approach, their educational programmes for example mix face-to-face teaching practice with online study within a specified and explicit framework of study. The idea of virtual mobility is core to their ethos and practice and so they can be described as having a fully supportive approach to virtual mobility.

Describe how the institution manages its "brand" (a) in general and (b) in respect of any e-learning aspects

Hibernia promotes its online image as a key factor in its branding and is busy carving out a unique niche for itself in Ireland based on the online aspect. As well as this emphasis upon eLearning or online learning in their description of who they are, they also place a great deal of emphasis upon their ties with relevant bodies and their accredited status. Each of their courses is linked to significant and relevant institutions, as follows;

The past

Give a narrative description of the institution's history since its foundation, concentrating on key dates, recent years and any e-learning issues

Hibernia was set up in 2000 as Ireland’s first private online college. It began taking in students in 2002 and has continued to grow since then. It has always focused on strategic collaborations and partnerships and defines the accreditation of HETAC as being a significant milestone in its development as HETAC is the government agency responsible for accrediting third-level education in Ireland and awards qualifications at all levels of higher education and training up to PhD level. HETAC awards are recognised and respected worldwide. In addition, Hibernia College has collaborated with Pfizer Inc., Canterbury Christ Church University, UK and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth to offer accredited online postgraduate courses in pharmaceutical medicine, post-primary teacher education and hospitality management respectively. It has also established a relationship with Harvard University in the US who offer one of the modules in the new MSc in Financial Management entitled "Leadership in Financial Management".

Given its unique position in the education sector in Ireland, Hibernia has invested considerable resources in building up its reputation and now after 8 years of existence is considered to be a realistic and reasonable quality-driven alternative for students in Ireland and abroad, particularly those in full time employment who are looking for an online course offer.

One of the key drivers of its success has been the success of the HDAPE programme. This needs to be seen in the context of Irish primary education where there was a heritage of non-qualified teachers in the primary sector still teaching without any formal qualifications. These teachers, many of them highly skilled and experienced, had been working in primary schools for many years and so while they were recognised as teachers and paid a salary by the Dept of Education in Ireland, they were not able to progress in their careers – with the related impact on their salaries – due to their lack of qualification. Many of these people were unable to take the time off and to have the resources to study full time at one of the traditional teacher training colleges, and so the HDAPE programme offered them for the first time an online option with which they could pursue their career. Many of them have now successfully completed the HDAPE programme and they serve as key ambassadors for the College.

File:Students hibernia.jpg
Graph showing previous student numbers for Hibernia College and projected figures

External environment

What is the institution's funding from government as a percentage of annual income?

Hibernia College receive no funding from the Irish Government apart from occasional small project related grants which do not affect the overall business model of the college.

Describe the way that funding is provided for institutions in the institution's country, or state that it is the same as for other institutions in the country

Funding for all Irish higher education institutions is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The HEA manages and disburses recurrent funds to the universities, institutes of technology and other designated colleges including: Mary Immaculate College Limerick, St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, National College of Art and Design, Mater Dei Institute of Education, St. Angela’s College Sligo, the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

The Higher Education Authority is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA has wide advisory powers throughout the whole of the third-level education sector. In addition, it is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and a number of designated higher education institutions. The Principal Functions of the HEA are:

  • To further the development of higher education.
  • To maintain a continuous review of the demand and need for higher education.
  • To assist in the coordination of state investment in higher education and to prepare proposals for such investment.
  • To allocate among universities, institutes of technology and the designated institutions the grants voted by the Oireachtas (the Irish Government).
  • To promote the attainment of equality of opportunity in higher education and democratisation of higher education.

The majority of students entering Higher Education Institutions funded by the Higher Education Authority secure a place on a course by applying through the Central Applications Office (CAO), the number of full-time students in Ireland in 2006/2007 was: 84263 and for part-time: 16456. Figures for 07/08 are not yet available.

Funding for HE institutions is managed by HEA under one of the following;

  1. Recurrent funding: These recurrent funds include core recurrent grants, grants in respect of the “Free Fees” Scheme, funding in respect of increased student intake, supplementary funding requirements, and other miscellaneous initiatives that may require funding.
  2. Physical Development: The Physical Development Section is responsible for the capital funding allocated to universities, institutes of technology and other designated institutions that are funded from the Higher Education Authority's capital grant. Types of projects overseen by the section include; construction of new buildings, refurbishment, infrastructure development and property acquisition. Its work also includes evaluating proposals from higher education institutions seeking funding for approved projects, the setting of project budgets and the monitoring of project progress and expenditure.
  3. European Funding: The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the National Agency (NA) for the EU Lifelong Learning Programme: Erasmus. In this capacity, the NA allocates funding to the participating higher education institutions for the support of students and staff on mobility activities.
  4. Access Funding: under the auspices of the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education which has assumed responsibility for the management and administration of the three funding programmes under the Third Level Access funding. These include: Fund for Students with a Disability, the Student Assistance Fund and the Millennium Partnership Fund.

Describe the legal status of the institution

Hibernia College is established as a limited company (Ltd.) under Irish law. This means that it has shareholders with limited liability and its shares may not be offered to the general public, unlike those of public limited companies. "Limited by shares" means that the company has shareholders, and that the liability of the shareholders to creditors of the company is limited to the capital originally invested, i.e. the nominal value of the shares and any premium paid in return for the issue of the shares by the company. A shareholder's personal assets are thereby protected in the event of the company's insolvency, but money invested in the company will be lost.

List the language(s) that the institution uses for instruction with the percentage of students studying in each. (Bilingual study can also be included.)

Hibernia College works essentially in English although part of what it provides in the School of Education also has the necessary level of Irish study elements required under Irish educational policy – estimated informally to represent about 10% of its teaching activities.

Describe any specific cultural issues that affect the institution's students or state that that it is the same as for other institutions in the country. Mention any features relevant to e-learning

Given its position as the first private online college to operate in Ireland, Hibernia College faced quite some opposition and suspicion, particularly in its early years. This included questions raised in the Dáil - the Irish parliament about the quality of its teaching and – in particular – the extent to which a private online college could provide the necessary teaching practice required to train fully qualified primary school teachers.

This also included some negative media attention, particularly in 2005 when the college recorded poor trading figures. Certain elements of Irish society including the unions also expressed concerns about the approach and business model employed, e.g. Labour Youth stated on the web site in 2004 that it “firmly believes that online education in Ireland is still in its infancy and that all those involved in it should take due care to ensure that it meets the highest standards and seeks to better the individual and society. To ensure that this is achieved Labour Youth is lobbying the government to cap the number of students taking the course in Hibernia at the current numbers. We are also calling for the Department of Education and Science to undertake a complete Quality Assurance Assessment of all online courses offered by Hibernia and other such education providers to ensure the course meets the highest standards in teacher education.”

However, there is some evidence that this situation has now evolved somewhat, and Hibernia College is now taking its place in the Irish educational context as a respected and quality –driven niche provider of online courseware, particular in the area of teacher education. The announcement that the Director, Dr. Séan Rowland, has been shortlisted in Ernst and Young’s well known entrepreneur of the year competition for 2008 is an indication of this change.

Describe the external quality assurance and/or accreditation regime affecting the institution, or state that it is the same as for other institutions in the country. Mention any features relevant to e-learning

Hibernia College is accredited by HETAC as previously described which is the same body that accredits all HE activities n Ireland. The first accreditation by HETAC took place in 2002 and a further quality assessment was carried out in 2004.

Describe the approach to credit transfer with other similar institutions

Not really applicable although as the Hibernia awards are accredited by HETAC, this means they are automatically part of the ECTS system in operation Europe-wide. Therefore students with Hibernia awards can use these awards to gain access to other courses which recognise ECTS.

List the main associations that the institution is a member of, with a note as to the relevance of each to e-learning (if any)

Hibernia College also is one of the founding members of the Global Learning Consortium at MIT. The Global Learning Consortium invited a select number of countries to participate in the international development of e-learning opportunities.

List the main international partners of the institution, in the order of strategic importance, with priority given to collaborations involving e-learning

As mentioned previously, Hibernia College considers their relationship with certain key partners to be vital in the realisation of their courses. They also collaborate in the realisation with Canterbury Christ Church University, UK of the iTEACH course - this partnership is expected to expand shortly to take in a further 5 UK universities. They have also collaborated the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.


Describe or provide a document describing the current institutional strategy

Here is a brief summary of Hibernia College’s operationalised current strategy as provided in September 2008

Strategy Strategic Actions


  • Action 1: Test our activity against our agreed action points.


  • Action 2: Regularly appraise routine operations to search for efficiencies.
  • Action 3: Invest in technology to improve efficiency (e.g. SIS)


  • Action 4: Increase revenue from existing products & customers (inc. TDA, CCCU, Pfizer, HDip)
  • Action 5: Ensure early revenue generation on pipeline business. (MFMC, MATL)
  • Action 6: Develop new products for existing/new markets
  • Action 7: Pursue government funding and grants


  • Action 8: Implement marketing & PR plan to include business press coverage and research
  • Action 9: Develop website, grow traffic, increase rankings
  • Action 10: Continue to lobby & inform politicians and stakeholders


  • Action 11: Ensure operations are adequately resourced & staffed
  • Action 12: Motivate staff through objective assessment, training and incentives (focus on middle mgt team)

Describe or provide a document describing the current learning and teaching strategy

Hibernia College has recently outlined its learning and teaching strategy (PDF) specifically with respect to the new MSc in Financial Management which provides a good overview of the broad learning and teaching strategy it normally applies to all its courses.

The approach taken by Hibernia is for a blended approach. The HDAPE which is in many cases their market leader promises an average of 50% F2F – largely in the form of teaching placements and 50% online. This is of key importance to Hibernia as they did come under some fire earlier in their existence for not having or not appearing to have enough F2F elements which was considered particularly important in the training of primary school teachers. This course consists of 14 week school placements as well as F2F weekend meetings for tutorials amongst those taking part in the course. Students also have a 3 week placement in the Gaeltacht to improve their Irish language skills where necessary.

Describe or provide a document describing the current e-learning strategy

Given Hibernia's status as an online provider, so no separate strategy is given in relation to eLearning.

What is the percentage of students (a) taking courses wholly or largely delivered by e-learning (b) taking courses where the amount of institutionally supplied/guided e-learning is "significant" (i.e. has an impact on staff or students) and (c) taking courses where the where the amount of institutionally supplied/guided e-learning is insignificant? In each case comment on the answer

As this is an online college, albeit one that takes a blended approach, all students have a very significant element of eLearning in the courses they take.

Give the percentage of the institutional budget that e-learning represents


Comment on how it is measured including the assumptions made, whether it is appropriate and any trends

As Hibernia College is essentially an online college, all budgetary expenditure is linked to eLearning in one way or another and it is not possible to separate out the specific aspects that are linked to eLearning.

Categorise the role (if any) of external funding in fostering the development of e-learning as (a) not relevant, (b) useful, or (c) essential. Comment on the choice

Hibernia does not receive any external funding as such, it enters partnerships where certain roles are shared amongst partners, with Canterbury Christ Church University for example, however information about the cost implications in terms of the iTEACH course are not available and remain subject to the private contracts existing between Hibernia College and Canterbury Christ Church University.


Describe the institutional structure, preferably supplying an organogram

The following organogram porvides an overview of Hibernia's institutional structure.

File:Organogram hibernia.jpg
Organogram Hibernia College

The structure of Hibernia College from a teaching and learning point of view is based on the two schools mentioned already, the School of Management and the School of Education.

Classify the e-learning support model as (a) hub (b) distributed (c) hub and spokes (d) complicated (e) non-existent. Comment on the choice

Online support for eLearning is provided from the central office in Dublin and the secondary office in Westport. The College also works through its network of tutors around the country who sometimes set up F2F tutorial meetings with students, depending on the course and structure.

Describe in more detail the structure for the e-learning operation and how it maps into the institutional structure

As Hibenia operates as an online college, the structure for the eLearning operation is indistinguishable from the institutional structure.

Describe the committees that oversee e-learning (including the rank and role of the Chair in each relevant committee) and their relationship to the organisational structure

eLearning is overseen by the Chief Knowledge Officer in collaboration with the head of the relevant school.

Learning and Teaching processes

Learning and teaching design and delivery

Describe how choice of pedagogies and technologies is made for a typical programme that is envisaged to include significant e-learning

The actual mix of pedagogies and technologies depends on the specific programme but follows the overall strategy and approach taken by Hibernia College, see earlier section for a description of this. In broad terms, most of the courses are based on a weekly amount of week that the student does, this includes 2 or 3 hours of recorded lectures, with interactive elements - on demand content, one hours live virtual class in the week after – and online tutorial, then asynchronous tasks, blog or discussion forum and then private study time reading etc. Programmes are modular based. Students usually enrol at set times during the year – on average twice a year and then pass through the course as a cohort.

Describe what scope staff have at delivery stage to refine or in some cases override design decisions made earlier

Learning and teaching development

How much e-learning content is sourced from outside the institution? Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment (an exact percentage is useful).

Practically all content for Hibernia College programmes is created by part-time academics working for Hibernia College. The only main exception to this are the materials developed for the iTEACH programme with Canterbury Christ Church University. Therefore this should be rated at 4.

Of all e-learning content sourced from outside the institution, what fraction is OER? Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment.


When staff in the institution develop content, is the content (a) owned by them and licensed to the institution, (b) owned by the institution but with some licensing back to staff, (c) owned by the institution but with no licensing back to staff, (d) unclear or disputed IPR position? Whatever option is chosen, provide a narrative describing the situation in more detail.

Hibernia College employs about 300 faculty on a part-time basis and they are used to either create the courseware used or to teach on a specific programme. In terms of the content created, the actual materials used belong exclusively to Hibernia College although the intellectual ownership of the ideas etc remains with the academics. Hibernia has a standard contract they use for the creation of content in this way.

When content is sourced for a programme within the institution, how much is sourced from other departments within the institution? Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment (an exact percentage is useful).

Not relevant as the entire college works on an online basis.

What is the role of student-generated content in the institution's programmes? Use a scale of 1-5 with a comment.

This would score 1 – the only user generated content that does emerge are the lesson plans which are produced by trainee teachers in the Education programmes which are then used as exemplars for other students.

Learning and teaching evaluation and quality

Describe the quality procedures (a) in general terms and (b) with respect to e-learning.

The quality of Hibernia College’s programmes is measured every 5 years by HETAC. The last time this took place was in 2004 and HETAC brought in external reviewers to manage this process so Hibernia expects they will do the same again in 2009. Obviously as Hibernia is essentially an online college there are few distinctions made between the general procedures and those pertaining to eLearning.

Describe the approach to evaluation of programmes (a) in general terms and (b) where such programmes have significant e-learning components.

Hibernia carries out its own internal research activities and uses these to assess individual programmes. This includes particular attention to the use of ICT amongst target students and the level of ICT related skills amongst its academics. Hibernia provides training to both newcomer students to familiarise them with the tools and facilities used by Hibernia as well as running training courses for its academics.

Meta Learning and Teaching processes


Describe how the institution communicates good practice in e-learning within itself, focussing on communications across internal boundaries.

Hibernia College tries to keep abreast with developments in eLearning and is actively engaged in networks like the Sloan-C consortium http://www.sloan-c.org/. They publish online articles on related subjects intended for their own staff and they run training and induction courses for new academic staff in the tools and methodologies employed by Hibernia.

Describe how the institution communicates its good practice in e-learning to organisations outside.

This is key to Hibernia’s image, they promote the value of eLearning and hence Hibernia College, they stress the following:

Time: One of the key benefits of online study is that the students can access course material whenever it is convenient for them. Podcasts and downloadable lectures mean that students are no longer constricted by a conventional timetable of lectures.

Location: Neither are students restricted by their physical location. With an internet connection they can attend live online tutorials, participate in dedicated discussion forums or download course material and notes regardless of where they are. This saving on the time and cost of travelling to and from lectures makes online study particularly suitable for those with busy lifestyles and those do not live within easy commuting distance of conventional centres of education.

Communication: Another key advantage of online study is that it encourages and enables students to collaborate and communicate with their fellow students as well as their tutors. The innovative use of live online tutorials, discussion forums and email ensures that all members of the Hibernia College community are constantly in touch with each other.

Flexibility: One of the key objectives of Hibernia College is to make education available to as wide an audience as possible. To achieve this goal the college developed its unique Higher Education Learning Management System (HELMS). This technology infrastructure allows for increased student-tutor contact and encourages and supports self-directed learning in a way that is not possible using conventional modes of delivery. The end result for the student is an “anytime anywhere” educational experience ideal for those who do not have the time to spend travelling to and from lectures at set times and locations.

Describe how the institution communicates good practice in e-learning from outside organisations into its own organisation.

See above

Describe recent occasions on which institutional leaders or managers have made presentations with significant reference to e-learning.

Hibernia Staff have done so in the past and have participated in events like those run by Sloan C and EDEN although they describe themselves as not having enough time to do a great deal of research at the present time. They do see research as playing a more important role in their future strategy.

Value for money

Describe the annual planning procedure (a) in general and (b) how it handles e-learning aspects.

This is part of the process undertaken by the company board and senior staff and no information about how it is formally undertaken is available at this time.

Describe the decision-making process for a typical academic programme, with particular reference to how e-learning aspects are handled.

Part of the internal discussions that take place in Hibernia College.

Describe the decision-making process for a typical large IT project such as selection and installation of a new VLE.

It is difficult to identify a separate decision-making process for large projects due to the size and scope of Hibernia, as such a project would come under the overall responsibility of the existing staff. The installation f a new VLE for example, would be part of the work of the Chief Knowledge Officer who set up the HELMS system used in Hibernia and so not subject to a separate formalised or explicit decision-making process.

Describe the approach to budget management with particular reference to the staff versus non-staff issues in budgeting for e-learning.

No information about this specific aspect available.

Describe the procedures in the institution for assigning or negotiating teaching workload to/with staff, taking account of non-traditional styles of teaching as well as classroom teaching and taking specific account of e-learning.

This is negotiated by the head of the relevant school and largely on an individual basis depending on the responsibilities and role of the individual academic.


Teachers, lecturers, trainers and equivalent support roles

Describe the approach to development of e-learning technical and pedagogic skills among staff, taking account of the different needs of different categories of staff. Set this within the context of staff development generally.

Hibernia College selects its faculty from amongst teaching staff in other colleges in Ireland and the UK. They strive to select leading academics and then provide them with training in online teaching. Academics are paid for the work they do on a pro rata basis. Staff induction and development for these academic staff is specific to developing and monitoring their skills in online teaching which Hibernia College carries out on a formal basis – this is normally a 2 week online training course.

Describe (a) the current level of staff competence in e-learning and (b) the expected level of staff competence in five years time. In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

All academic staff is trained in the delivery of Hibernia courseware using the tools and facilities proscribed by the College, so it is reasonable to score this at 5.

Describe the extent to which staff attitudes to e-learning are favourable or not. Use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

As all teaching staff is committed to the practices of Hibernia in respect to eLearning it is also correct to ascribe a score of 5 to this category.

Describe the way that the institution rewards and recognises staff with competence in e-learning, in (a) monetary and (b) non-monetary terms.

Staff are paid for their delivery of courseware in a pro-rata basis and also for their tutoring and teaching work on the basis of the hours worked. As all are by default competent in eLearning related skills and competencies, this question is not really relevant. For many academics, the salary they earn for their work from Hibernia College is seen as a supplementary income to their other teaching or research work in the universities and colleges where they are employed – often on a full time basis.

Management and leadership

This subsection concerns leaders (Rectors, Vice-Chancellors, etc) and academic and support service managers (Deans, Directors, etc). These do not need to have specific knowledge of e-learning details but must have the necessary strategic, management, costing and foresight capability to preside over decisions on key e-learning issues such as procurement of a new VLE, development of a new distance learning programme, rebalancing the library and its staff more towards web 2.0 and less to books, etc. This will require appropriate manager and leader training.

Describe the approach to development of e-learning-related skills among (a) managers and (b) leaders.

As there are a relatively small number of staff involved, there are no formalised procedures in place to help develop e-learning related skills amongst managers and leaders. Each of the core relevant senior staff in Hibernia College are already committed and experienced in online learning.

Describe the current level of (a) management and (b) leadership competence in e-learning related skills appropriate to their levels. In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

As Hibernia is an online college, it is not unreasonable to score this at 5.

Describe the extent to which (a) management and (b) leadership attitudes to e-learning are favourable or not. Use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

As Hibernia is an online college, it is not unreasonable to score this at 5.

Give details of the job description of the most senior manager/leader in the organisation who spends a significant portion of his/her time on e-learning matters (e.g. the Director of E-Learning).

As Hibernia is an online college, there are no separate and distinct senior staff dedicated to eLearning, as they are all dedicated to eLearning. See organogram for jobs and roles


Describe the approach to development of e-learning skills among students, taking account of the different needs of different categories of students. Set this within the context of students' more general information literacy and communication skills.

As students taking part in Hibernia College courses already know that the courses are essentially using a blended approach, a certain amount of self-selection can be expected, i.e. only those comfortable with the idea of online learning will apply. Based on the conversations going on in some of the online communities linked to Hibernia it is clear that they are at least on the surface ready and prepared to use the tools and facilities that Hibernia requires. In addition, a 2 week induction course for all students at the start of a new programme of study is used to familiarise students with the specific tools used by Hibernia.

Describe (a) the current level of student competence in e-learning on entry to the institution and (b) the expected level of student competence on graduation from the institution. In each case use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

Based on internal analysis carried out by Hibernia into the level of IT skills amongst new students, there is clear evidence that the level of skills is increasing year on year. Anecdotal evidence would suggest this to be in the order of 3 - 4 on a scale of 1-5.

The College also prides itself on the fact that as well as the actual course content, Hibernia students also gain significant experience and know-how in online working and other activities which adds to their overall level of skills. Anecdotal evidence would suggest this to be in the order of 4 - 5 on a scale of 1-5.

Describe the extent to which student attitudes to e-learning are favourable or not. Use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

Given the nature of study at Hibernia, this is estimated as being in the order of 4 – 5.

Describe the extent to which students understand the demands on them placed by e-learning systems (e.g. for assignment handling).

Difficult to assess without more in-depth analysis.

Describe the current approach to handling student plagiarism, both prevention strategies and detection strategies.

Hibernia College has a stated and explicit approach to plagiarism.

Describe the current (i.e. at last survey) level of student satisfaction with the e-learning aspects of their courses. Use a 1-5 scale with a comment.

Hibernia do not carry out systematic student surveys, however their level of student attrition is quite low which would indicate a high level of student satisfaction, e.g. on the HDAPE course this is 2%, while in the MSc in Pharmaceutical Medicine this is 20%. Therefore we estimate the level of student satisfaction to be between 4 and 5.


For each of the following technologies relevant to e-learning describe how much it is used on a scale of 1-5 and add a comment if appropriate.

VLE and/or content repository

Hibernia loads most of its content online – in its own customised VLE called the Higher Education Learning Management System (HELMS). This is a system adopted from an open source system. Students are divided into different tutor groups in the LMS – each supporting about 25 students. The platform also supports social networking and other networking functionality to facilitate private messaging, etc.

email or bulletin boards

They use the VLE for all communications and so don’t use an external pathway like email unless in certain admin related situations.

automated assessment

This is not really part of what Hibernia offer apart from some limited use of multiple choice questionnaires on one or two courses. Exams are carried out on an ‘open book’ basis, exams are posted online at a certain time and on a specific date, students then have a certain amount of time to complete their exam and post it back. No additional checking for authentication, etc is foreseen at this time. Their overall approach to assessment is one of continuous assessment.

Web 2.0 tools especially blogs, wikis and social networks oriented to the institution

Blogs used a lot especially in learning diaries used for teaching practice which are built around reflective practice, instituted with course – reflect on experience, that go towards the portfolio of evidence created by each student which is used to check they are meeting certain standards.


see above

laptops - and comment on student ownership issues

Students have to have access to a networked computer. Requirements are listed as follows:
The computer hardware required to access Hibernia College services consists of a personal computer, equipped with a modem and a sound card.
Minimum Specifications
*Windows 9x, NT 4 (SP4), 2000 Professional, Vista or XP (WARNING - Interwise is not compatible with Microsoft Windows ME, Windows 95 or with Apple Macintosh computers)
*233 MHz processor
*64 MB RAM
*Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later
*Monitor: 800 X 600 resolution & high colour (16 bit) display definition
*TCP/IP intranet access or modem Internet access
*Headset or microphone and earphones
*Microsoft JVM if using the Java Participant
Additional Recommended Specifications
*330 MHz processor or faster
*128 MB RAM or higher
*100 MB or more set aside for event materials (this setting is configurable)
*Internet access = 64Kb

Students access all Hibernia College services via the Internet. To access the Internet students require an Internet Service Provider (ISP) account.

All Hibernia College web enabled services run in standard browsers (i.e. Internet Explorer 5+ and Navigator Netscape 6+) both of which are freely available. In addition, a number of browser plug-ins will be required. For example the Macromedia Flash and Shockwave plug-ins and the Adobe Acrobat pdf file reader. All such plug-ins are also freely available on the internet.

Students are expected to have access to the Microsoft Office suite of products for their own use in preparing continuous assessments. Students are also required to be equipped with an email address and be fully conversant in the use of web-based mail services or a desktop mail service such as Outlook Express.

audio or video podcasting or streaming - and comment on student ownership issues

Hibernia uses both audio and video in its courseware and students should have the facilities to access both.

mobile devices (not laptops) - and comment on student ownership issues

not specifically mentioned.

And finally:

Provide a description of any other technologies with significant use in the institution.

Hibernia also uses Interwise for synchronous teaching, this is a proprietal communication tool that allows for audio and video as well as a shared desktop and whiteboard. Interwise is quite similar to Illuminate.
As part of their online offer, Hibernia also has a dedicated set of library resources and external websites, where students can access an array on online peer reviewed journal articles, fully online e-books, newspaper articles and other resources.


Describe the expected changes as they relate to e-learning within the institution's current strategic horizon (from the institution's strategy documents).

While nothing specific is mentioned in relation to future developments specific to eLearning, it is clear that Hibernia College is now in a strong position and describes itself as have reached a turning point about 18 months ago when the college’s prospects seem to have become more positive after the challenges of the first 5 years. At the moment, they have quite a few new projects and programmes, the new MSc in Financial Management in particular is viewed very positively within the college’s senior staff. The fact that this programme can contribute significantly towards professional accreditation is seen as a key point. This is increasingly seen as a cornerstone in the expansion of Hibernia’s activities, collaboration with a key organisation - in this case CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Hibernia also count on the fact that eLearning is becoming more and more mainstream and this in turn means that students and employers view courses delivered online as being of high quality.

Describe any changes further downstream that the institution is now considering or concerned about.

The current downturn in the economy is not seen as having a particularly negative impact on Hibernia’ operations, indeed, it is believed that this may in fact make careers in teaching – often seen as being very stable – more attractive to students so heightening the attractiveness of Hibernia’s educational offer.

Describe how the institution handles the foresight aspects of its operation with regard to e-learning. Describe how the institution handles advanced development oriented to e-learning (e.g. by a "sandbox" lab, innovation centre, etc).

Staff keep abreast of developments through conferences, journals, news items and the usual channels of information used in any professional sector.

Describe how the institution analyses and takes into account present and future markets for its offerings.

No specific strategies mentioned.

Describe how the institution analyses and takes into account present and future competitor suppliers for its offerings.

No specific strategies mentioned.

Describe how the institution analyses and takes into account the views of other stakeholders, including but not restricted to employers, local authorities and the social partners (unions).

No specific strategies mentioned.

References and reports

  1. Official homepage of Hibernia College: http://www.hiberniacollege.net
  2. Hibernia College - The School of Education
  3. Hibernia College - The School of Management
  4. Hibernia College - Partnerships & Collaborations
  5. Hibernia College - iTEACH
  6. Hibernia College - HDAPE programme
  7. Hibernia College's stated and explicit approach to plagiarism
  8. Oireachtas (the Irish Government)
  9. Department of Education in Ireland
  10. Higher Education Authority (HEA)
  11. Council for Education in Pharmaceutical Medicine of the International Federation of Associations of Pharmaceutical Physicians (IFAPP)
  12. Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)
  13. the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
  14. Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) qualifications
  15. Government’s Training and Development (TDA) Agency

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