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Student-staff partnership: a case study of the Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities Project (EDTL) internship model.

  • Technological Higher Education Association


The Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities Project (EDTL) is aimed at enhancing the digital attributes and educational experiences of Irish university students through enabling the mainstreamed and integrated use of digital technologies across the teaching and learning process. The project has an internship model where students are hired to work collaboratively with staff based in each collaborating university. Interns have to be currently enrolled students in one of the partnering universities. From 2019 to date, over 25 interns have been hired to work 15hrs per week in the project. Towards the end of 2021, we invited 10 (current and former) student associate interns and 8 project staff to take part in in-depth qualitative interviews. The general aim was to understand the role of students as co-creators in digital teaching and learning. Specifically, we were documenting how students contributed when actively engaged as co-creators in digital teaching and learning as well as investigating how they benefited from these student-staff collaborations. In this session, we propose to present the results of this qualitative study which will be led by one of our current interns and another former intern to share their perspectives of engaging with staff based on their internship experience in our project. This will capture the internship experience touching on what worked well, the challenges, as well as recommendations for building effective student-staff partnership in teaching and learning. From our interviews, we found that students were helpful in the development of digital learning resources, hosting webinars where they shared their perspectives in teaching and learning (especially during the pandemic) with both teaching and non-teaching staff among other participants. They also helped with project-related duties such as contributing to the bi-monthly project newsletter, student-facing social media content creation and website management. In addition, student involvement as co-creators in the project saw them gain practical skills such as designing digital learning content, hosting podcasts, social media management, hosting webinars, and conducting research among many other useful skills. Interviews with project staff revealed that actively involving students in the co-creation of digital learning and teaching resources brought authentic student voices to the project and brought different perspectives that would otherwise not have been possible to achieve with only staff. As students were not required to be physically present during their internship, collaborating using digital platforms made it easier for them to actively participate in co-creation of their learning resources without disrupting their college schedules, as well as making it easier for staff to schedule time to work with students. On the other hand, students felt that their learning needs were included in digital teaching resources as they were actively involved in the process and could give their perspectives. Lessons drawn from the experiences of our interns highlight the value of digital spaces in enhancing student-staff partnership in teaching and learning, bringing flexibility and convenience specifically with less disruptions to college schedules. This partnership is also a learning experience for students as they gain skills from staff as they co-create. Holen, R., Ashwin, P., Maassen, P. and Stensaker, B., 2020. Student partnership: exploring the dynamics in and between different conceptualizations. Studies in Higher Education, 46(12), pp.2726-2737. Whelehan, D., 2020. Students as Partners: A Model to Promote Student Engagement in Post-COVID-19 Teaching and Learning. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, [online] 112(3). Available at: <>.
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching
& Learning in Irish Universities Project
We would like to acknowledge Fernandos Ongolly who conducted
the research that led to this report and all the student interns and
project staff who participated in the research.
From 2019, the Enhancing Digital
Teaching and Learning (EDTL) project
hired student associate interns to
work with project staff in each of the
seven IUA universities* in creating
digital resources to support teaching
and learning.
At that time, these interns were all
students enrolled in the seven universities
and were employed as interns for a period
of up to one year. In-depth qualitative
interviews were conducted among these
interns/former interns and staff from the
seven IUA universities in the EDTL project
as well as the student associate interns
who worked with the project at the IUA,
with the objective of documenting student
staff partnership in teaching and learning.
This report presents experiences
of student interns and staff on their
involvement in the EDTL project. It
describes the EDTL internship model,
the role played by students in the
internship, how students beneted from
the internship, staff thoughts about the
model, student-staff and student-student
collaboration in the project, what worked
and what did not work, and students’
recommendations based on their
internship experiences.
* University College Dublin, Dublin
City University, Trinity College Dublin,
Maynooth University, University of
Galway, University College Cork,
and University of Limerick.
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
The Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning
in Irish Universities Project (EDTL) ran from
January 2019 to September 2022, funded
through the Irish Higher Education Authority’s
Innovation and Transformation Programme.
It aimed to enhance the digital attributes and
educational experiences of Irish university
students through enabling the mainstreamed
and integrated use of digital technologies
across the teaching and learning process.
Between 2019 and 2021, the project recruited
student associate interns with the main
objective of bringing students’ voices to the
project and actively involving them in creating
digital resources to support online teaching
and learning in the seven universities* under
the IUA.
Each university had at least one student
associate intern who worked collaboratively
with a member of staff afliated to the EDTL
project (EDTL project leads). In addition,
there was always one intern working under
the EDTL project at the IUA apart from the
third cohort (2021) where the project hired two
interns at the IUA, one who worked mostly in
coordinating other interns as well as editing
the newsletter and the other mostly on the
research role that contributed to this report.
In late 2021, after TU Dublin joined the IUA, a
student intern for that institution was recruited
to join the team.
Whereas most universities had one intern at
a time and hired new ones after at least six
months, some universities had more than one
intern working concurrently.
Each student associate intern at the university
level worked on projects related to their
own university’s EDTL project activities and
often collaborated with other interns across
the seven universities and the IUA. These
interns completed tasks such as organizing
and hosting webinars, contributing to and
editing newsletters, updating EDTL Instagram
posts, as well as creating digital teaching
and learning resources for both students and
At the time of hiring, the interns had to be
actively enrolled in an ongoing course in one
of the partner universities. The internship
period ran for a rst period of six months
with most interns accepting to extend their
contracts after the initial six month period.
During their internship, students were paid at
an hourly rate of €13.91 with the expectation
that they would work for 60 hours per month
in whatever format that best suited their
needs, factoring in university schedules and
demanding assessment periods. The model
acknowledged that interns were full-time
students and part-time employees, hence
bringing about exibility that prioritized
college work.
* University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Trinity
College Dublin, Maynooth University, University of Galway,
University College Cork, and University of Limerick.
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Diversity among interns
The project hired from diverse disciplines, level of studies and type of students
from the partnering universities.
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Study backgrounds
Note: This nature of diversity enabled the inclusion of various perspectives
from different groups of students based on the unique experiences that could
not be captured from hiring from one group.
Recruited in 2019
Vish Gain
IUA 1 July
PG Journalism
Alice Hynes
UL 1 Sept
UG International Business
Katharina Kurz
MU 4 August
PG Anthropology
Recruited in 2020
Ruairi O’Gallchoir
IUA 1 July
PG Data Science & Analytics
Laura Anne Scanlon
DCU 20 July
PG Digital Marketing
Catherine Dawson
UCC 20 July
PG Mathematical Modelling
Aoibhínn Gilmartin
UCD 20 July
UG Law with Social Justice
Michaela Waters
MU 4 August
UG Business & Accounting
Lauren Muldowney
UG 10 August
UG Medicine
Ben Ryan
TCD 24 August
UG Business & Political Science
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
Recruited in 2021
Míde Nic
IUA 19 July
UG Law with Social Justice
Fernandos Ongolly
IUA 16 August
PG Anthropology
Jasmine Ryan
UL 19 July
Politics & International Relations with Philosophy
Eimer Magee
UCD 1 August
PG Biopharmaceutical Engineering
Hannah Arthurs
TCD 13 Sept
PG Law/Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Stephen O’Riordan
UCC 1 Sept
UG Applied Maths & Physics
Laura Ilupeju
UG 6 Sept
UG Biomedical Science
Sinéad Mooney
DCU 6 Sept
UG Communication Studies
Robyn Meyler
MU Sept
PG International Business
Chris Abraham
MU May
UG Electronic Engineering
Kyle Wright
TUD 6 Dec
UG Creative Digital Media
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Using qualitative research methods and case study research design, we
interviewed student associate interns (both former and current) and project
staff in 6 of our partner universities, aiming at documenting student-staff
partnership in digital teaching and learning, based on the IUA EDTL project
internship model as a case study. The ndings of these qualitative interviews
with our interns and staff contribute to the content of this report.
Prole of interview participants
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
In-depth qualitative interviews with
student associate interns focused on
exploring the role of students as partners
in digital teaching and learning through
capturing individual intern’s experiences in
their role in the EDTL project.
In-depth interviews with the project staff
in each of the participating universities
focused on the perspectives of those staff
on the contributions of their respective
student associate interns to the project.
What contributions did the
student interns bring to the
The core objective of hiring students
in the project was to bring their voices
and perspectives in the development of
digital teaching and learning resources in
collaboration with project staff. Just like
the evolution of the internship program
from one intern to over twenty interns
across partnering universities, our student
interns adapted into other roles outside
what had initially been dened. We saw
the adapability of our student interns
into other roles especially as a result of
the pandemic. Generally, student interns
contributed in the following ways:
1. Developing digital teaching and
learning resources. 2. Ideating and leading webinars (where
topics such as assessment during
the pandemic, resuming on-campus
teaching and learning, experiences with
various virtual learning environments
among others were discussed). In total,
8 webinars were hosted by students
and staff reaching live 279 attendees,
attracting 1727 playback views on our
website and 768 on Vimeo.
Students have developed great
resources for us and the good
thing is that they do it a lot
from the top down bringing
in their perspectives.
- Staff
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
3. Contributing to the project newsletter
by writing on different topics based on
their experiences as learners.
4. Conducting project research and
disseminating research ndings in
workshops/conferences both locally
and internationally.
Student led webinars
(aimed at staff) Date Attendees Views*
The Student Perspective
of Online/Remote
5 October 2020 47 464 (website)
368 (Vimeo)
The Student Perspective
of Online/Remote
2 November 2020 39 276 (website)
50 (Vimeo)
Student Feedback on
Online Learning 18 January 2021 42 220 (website)
88 (Vimeo)
Student Collaboration 8 March 2021 37 117 (website)
36 (Vimeo)
Inclusivity in Digital
Learning: Student
22 March 2021 55 378 (website)
144 (Vimeo)
Student Perspectives:
Back on Campus 1 November 2021 29 70 (website)
34 (Vimeo)
Student Perspectives:
Motivation for Learning 31 January 2022 19 97 (website)
30 (Vimeo)
Student Perspectives:
Open Book Assessment 28 March 2022 11 105 (website)
18 (Vimeo)
We contributed at different
conferences and presentations
as well as the fortnightly IUA
webinars. We were also at a
library event where we spoke
and gave student perspectives
regarding the library and ways
that it could be improved.
- Student
I was involved in student
surveys where I was
responsible for sorting the
data. - Student
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
Contribution Type Event
11 International
Association for Learning Technology Annual Conference (ALTC), Manchester,
UK ALT Annual Conference 2021
European Conference on Academic Integrity
and Plagiarism 2021
International Conference on Engaging
Pedagogy 2021
Change Agents Network (CAN) Conference 2022
Generation Z in Higher Education Conference 2021
ICAI Annual Conference
SEDA Summer 2021 Conference
SEDA Spring Conference: Brighter Future – Opportunities for Educational
Surviving & Thriving in the Online Space – the experiences of Staff and
Students. SEDA Winter Festival 2020.
6 National conference
EdTech Winter Online Conference 2021
Advance HE’s Island of Ireland Symposium: Partnership for Student Success:
Developing graduates for the 21st Century
Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) EdTech Conference 2022, Cork
EdTech Conference 2021 (2 or more)
1 Peer reviewed
journal publication Inclusive Learning in Higher Education Symposium, University of Galway
3 Invited Keynotes
Co-Creators in Enhancing Digital Teaching & Learning. University of Brighton
Education and Student Experience Conference
GMIT DigitalEd week
CONUL T&L Seminar 2021
1 Invited Panel Inclusive Learning in Higher Education Symposium, University of Galway
1 Other categories Open Scholarship Week Galway 2022
5. Giving feedback in modules that were
being developed by staff as well as
piloting some of the modules.
6. Championing and managing the
project Instagram account that became
a key channel for sharing digital
learning and teaching resources and
marketing project events to students.
I was responsible for reviewing the
materials put together by staff from
various departments and giving the
student perspective and experiences.
My feedback was received positively
by staff and they were willing
incorporate in campaigns that
they were working on.
- Student
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Graphic design and social
media management have
been two major areas of
work for the Interns, I
might have established a
social media account, but
essentially, I would have
passed over what is put
up onto the social media
account to our intern.
- Staff
As part of the project we
received a lot of technological
training as I said we got training
in Canva, Amazon Web Services,
video editing and so many other
different things like that.
- Student
When I joined the project, I did
not have any work experience.
To be honest I would never
be in the job that I am in right
now if it hadn’t been the EDTL
internship position. That gave
me the interest in the academic
stuff to go on to do this job.
Note: Having a project intern work
with them was like having an extra
pair of hands to assist in project tasks,
hence students were also actively
involved in many more project tasks
on an ad-hoc basis whenever their
time allowed.
What benets did the students
get from the project?
The internship program came with mutual
benet both to the project and the students;
whereas the project beneted from the
many skills and perspectives that students
brought with them, the students also
reported to have gained a lot from their
internship in various ways.
1. Students gathered useful work experience
that they would use later while seeking
employment and even applied in their
employment after the internship.
2. Developed digital competencies and
learnt new skills such as hosting webinars
and podcasts, website management,
editing, developing of graphics using
programs such as Canva, social media
management among others. This was
both from experience gathered on-job
and training by IUA staff.
3. Developed social skills such as condence
and how to relate with other people
as the internship exposed them to
collaborative activities both with staff and
fellow students.
One of my main roles that I
was required to do was to
review this Microsoft ofce
course that my university
provided and then I had to
promote it to the student
body and as a result I had to
do the course myself before
I could review it and then
promote it. That was a major
benet, taking that training
and then upscaling my
personal skills.
- Student
- Student
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
4. Developed their presentation skills and
condence to speak in events such as
webinars and workshops.
What did the EDTL staff think
about the internship?
1. From our project we have learnt that
student partnership is successful when
the relationship is mutual between staff
and students. In our project, generally
staff appreciated the value that the
students brought to the EDTL project
with greater emphasis on the authenticity
of their representation. According to
staff, involving students as partners in
the project brought authentic student
voices in each and every project activity
where students were directly or indirectly
2. Involving students and working directly
with them brought in perspectives that
would have never been captured by staff.
During the internship, students brought
in their lived experiences as ‘students’
highlighting issues that affected them
from their point of views. Such examples
are their experience with open book
examination, virtual learning, remote
assessment, blended learning in times of
a pandemic as well as return to college
after a pandemic could only best be
understood when shared with students
who had lived experiences of learning in
this period.
I denitely felt the webinars
gave me condence when it
came to public speaking even
though I wasn’t bad before,
and now, I‘m so comfortable
just doing a webinar and being
involved it denitely improved
my condence.
- Student
My soft skills improved during
the year. As I said at the start of
the year, I was afraid to give my
input at meetings or over email,
but I got better in expressing
my own input and expressing
my voice and getting heard
throughout the year.
- Student
I delivered a workshop in
collaboration with one of
our interns. I have done
that workshop many times
over the years but when
I delivered it in conjunction
with the student, it was
completely different for
the better, because she was
able to bring much more
of a nuanced perspective
to the workshop.
- Staff
Involving students has really
brought the authentic student
voice to the project activities
and has helped us to shape
the project. - Staff
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
3. Having student interns in each university
brought about some sort of convenience
of partnering with students as they were
accessible and were always available not
only to bring student perspectives in the
project but also to help them with project
Collaboration in the project
Two forms of collaboration came out from
the internship programme. Even though the
initial objective was concentrated more on
student-staff collaboration, we saw a natural
growth in collaboration among students as
well; either in their respective universities or
with other interns in partner universities.
How did students collaborate
with fellow students?
1. Students collaborated in developing
digital learning and teaching resources
either with other interns in their respective
universities or in other partner universities.
2. They also collaborated in contributing to
the bi-monthly newsletter.
3. Students developed and managed the
project Instagram page.
4. Students collaborated in the
conceptualization, mobilizing, and
hosting webinars.
5. They also collaborated in the review of
training tools developed by project staff
that were going to be used for other
The staff aren’t getting
inside a real insight into how
students are experiencing
things. And to be completely
honest sometimes when the
students came together and
discuss those and allowed us
to get that insight, to hear
them speaking, to talk about
the impact that was having on
them in brought out different
One particular thing we
were trying to do, especially
towards the end was promote
Blackboard Ally, which is
a tool for Blackboard the
VLE and which allows more
accessibility for content that’s
posted online.
- Student
We did campaigns on
Instagram that were
collaborative. The idea
generation were collaborative
and then some people
will take on the different
responsibilities of developing
the graphics. For me the
students I met from the EDTL
project on a weekly basis
were from the Instagram
team so that is the most part
we collaborated on.
- Student
- Staff
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
How did students and staff
collaborate in the project?
Student-staff collaboration was the core
objective of hiring interns in the project.
Involving students in the project saw a lot
of meaningful partnership in various areas
of digital teaching and learning and in
many ways.
1. Interns were involved in reviewing,
piloting, and promoting teaching
and learning resources that had been
developed within the project.
2. Students and staff collaborated in the
ideation and implementation of various
workshops & conferences within their
local universities and at the national
project level.
Notes: Even though most of these
workshops were staff-led, students
were given the opportunity to
collaborate among each other in their
respective universities as well as with
other interns in partner universities.
3. Students and staff also collaborated in the
creation of resources that resonated with
current student needs.
Notes: It should be noted that
students’ needs change over
time (especially during and after
the pandemic) and it is therefore
important that a currently enrolled
student is involved in infusing
contextual student needs in teaching
and learning.
In some cases, staff have
asked students to review
tools or training opportunities
for students or perhaps to
engage in the organization of
focus groups and engaging
in developing resources.
They have also been asked to
engage in kind of spreading
the word of the project on
- Staff
More recently, we collaborated with our staff and students to develop a
program of activities for academic integrity week. And as part of that we
delivered some workshops in partnership between staff and students. We
designed them together and, in many cases, we delivered them together.
- Staff
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Barriers and facilitators to
working with students as partners
We asked our interns and staff to point out
barriers/would be barriers to engaging with
students as partners. The following barriers
1. Student-staff power dynamics
Overall, we note that students are more
likely to engage comfortably when the
power dynamic fence between staff and
students is reduced as these dynamics
create hierarchies in partnership that may
intimidate students and make them withhold
their contributions.
Notes: Due to the student-staff power
dynamics, students fear being judged
and being reprimanded when they
share their thoughts. There are some
students who think that they will be
penalized in one way or another if
they gave staff feedback, and hence
withhold their thoughts (especially
those contradicting with what staff
think or how they act).
2. Failure to compensate students for
their time
We learnt from our internship model that
students work more efciently when they
are valued and compensated for the work
they do as well as the time they spend in
projects. In the EDTL project, all interns were
employed on a monthly contract amounting
to 60 hours of paid work with the core duty
of bringing their voices in the project.
Notes: It is important to recognize that
when students are involved in any sort of
partnership with staff, more often they
would have given up something they were
supposed to be doing (sometimes part-time
jobs) hence compensating students for their
time (just like other project employees) came
in as a key incentive in motivating them
to be actively involved as well as ensuring
retention while recognizing the importance
of their contribution. Where students are
not paid; there is a likelihood of intermittent
participation and drop out. Paying students
for their work enhances student-staff
3. Failing to implement student feedback
Whenever students give feedback, they
prefer that their feedback be implemented
or acted upon in some way or another to
show concern. Not taking any action to the
feedback that they have already given serves
as a barrier to continuous participation.
Implementing students’ suggestions
highlights the importance of their
contribution and motivates them to engage
further as they feel ‘listened to’.
4. Lack of knowledge on avenues of
student-staff partnership
Sometimes as much as students may wish
to engage actively in teaching and learning
by bringing in their perspectives, some of
them do not have the knowledge of how
and where to engage or sometimes are too
busy with their college work to get time to
Notes: Apart from student unions,
most of our institutions of higher
education often lack structured
channels of student-staff partnership
hence not seizing the opportunity
as well as providing conducive
environment to enhance student-staff
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
Overall recommendations based
on the student’s experiences
Lessons learnt from our internship model
show that it is feasible to actively engage
with students as partners in higher education.
However, it is key to make sure that avenues
of student-staff involvement are facilitated
as well as students being compensated
for their time and contributions. Based
on the student interns’ and project staff’s
experiences as captured in this report, the
following recommendations are proposed
as a way of enhancing student-staff
partnership in higher education.
1. There is need for a structured model of
involving students as partners in teaching
which denes the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of
student-staff partnership other than the
student union.
2. It is highly recommended that students
be compensated when they are involved
to cater for the time that they spend
collaborating with staff, as they would
otherwise sometimes be engaging in
part-time work. This will also encourage
retention for a longer period and enhance
their participation.
3. Training for both students and staff is
important in highlighting possible areas
of student-staff partnership as well as the
processes of collaboration.
4. There is need to sensitize students on
ways of giving feedback to staff without
fear of being reprimanded.
5. It is important to be diverse and inclusive
as students from different backgrounds
bring different perspectives when involved
as partners in teaching and learning.
This could include various disciplines,
academic levels, age, gender, racial
backgrounds, social backgrounds etc.
6. It is important to involve currently enrolled
students as it brings about a more
authentic representation on issues that
affect students, and their experiences
change over time depending on the
prevailing circumstances, such as a
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
Gallery of student events
Ed Tech UCC
Student co-creation event
Student co-creation event
Student co-creation event
Student Partnership in Teaching & Learning 2022
Student co-creation event
Student co-creation event
Student co-creation event
Student co-creation event
Lessons from the Enhancing Digital in Teaching & Learning in Irish Universities Project 2022
The Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning
(EDTL) project is funded under:
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