CIRCLET CASE STUDIES

Find out how CIRCLET was run locally in the different partner universities. How did lecturers re-imagine their teaching to include (more) community engaged learning and research? What does it mean to be part of a local and/or international CIRCLET-community? How can community partners and students benefit from community engagement?

On this page you can find inspiring course practices from within the CIRCLET consortium. Each case study consists of a short teaser of the course. The hyperlink below the teaser leads to a detailled external page with plenty of in depth information. You will find out more about how the course was thought, which assessment methods were used, how students and community partners experienced the project, the different challenges that occured and how they were overcome. Most case studies offer clickable resources (ex. course sheets, content created during the project or reflection and learning materials).

We hope this resource can inspire you in the redesign of your own educational or research projects towards more and better community engagement!

ENGINEERING, ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING 

Architecture students re-designing/re-purposing a former factory, based on interviews with ex-employees

Architecture 

The project proposes to imagine a new public relationship with the iconic ‘Braun’ building in Carlow town through multi-disciplinary site-responsive artistic programming as part of Carlow Arts Festival in 2021 and in collaboration with VISUAL Carlow and Dublin School of Architecture, TU Dublin.

Through specially commissioned projects by professional artists, alongside research and engagements by TU Dublin students the project intends to transform Carlow’s long empty industrial ‘Braun’ building from a stubborn void for many, to a temporary cultural behemoth during CAF 2021.

Read about the project in more detail

Biomedical design students developed 3-d printed designs to support individuals and communities

Engineering

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students?

Just start, just do a CERL project. The project can grow legs then, and once it’s established you will develop other streams for the work, which makes it easier, as it’s less onerous to find ideas for new projects etc. Particularly in relation to technical projects, be very upfront with the community partner about the technical side, and what you hope they’ll actually get in the end. It’s not about a transactional relationship – you giving something finished and brilliant from a university to a person outside it – this is really a collaborative process, and they’ll be getting a first prototype, which can only be developed fully when their feedback is received, because their input is just as important as that of the professors and the engineers etc.

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Design apps for community organisations
Computer Science Software Engineering

Final year undergraduate Computer Science students work in teams to solve problems that are put forward by external client organisations, typically industry. This module is set up to run team projects involving the development and construction of an Information Technology solution with each team member responsible for the development and construction of a sub-section of the completed solution.  Promotion and demonstration of the completed solutions to judges, peers and representatives of the computing profession. A project requires the construction of a software system (specification, user interface design, system design, realization of system design and associated testing). 

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OPEN BOTANIC - DEVELOPING A CYCLING STRATEGY FOR BOTANIC AVENUE
Planning
Urban design

What do you think the benefit was to the partner? 

We worked with the Northern Ireland Government Department for Infrastructure Active Travel Group. This group is under-resourced and sometimes finds it hard to make its voice heard in a department which is mainly prioritises roads.  This group were pleased with the data collection and we then employed some of the students to continue outside the module with our engaged research seed funding. Forward South as the local partnership body in South Belfast were very positive, in particular they played a role in linking this work to the wider Public Health agenda. This has led onto other research opportunities with them which could have a stronger CERL focus.

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Horticultural students developed resources to support allotment owners production and preservation methods to minimise food waste

Food Science & Management 

This module is about teaching students about the technologies involved in the manufacturing of products from horticultural origin. The continuous assessment part of this module was changed to incorporate a CERL project working with allotment holders. Students were asked to research and develop resources on useful preservation techniques, to reduce food waste, this also aligning with sustainability goals.

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BIOSCIENCE STUDENTS DEVELOPED A 'SWITCH ON STEM' EVENT WHICH CONSISTED OF BIOLOGY WORKSHOPS FOR LOCAL PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS

Bioscience 

Primary education 

51 students worked in 9 small groups to develop interactive resources and to deliver 10-minute demonstrations on a biology topic of their choice, which they had previously studied on their programme. Students had to guide the children in doing simple experiments, encouraging them to ask questions about the topics. Eg ‘Legos of Life’ was about DNA, ‘Happy Hearts’ was about exercise. The CERL project was worth 15% of the module assignment total. It was broken down into 10% for the infographic produced by the students for the primary school, and 5% for their individual reflection on learning.

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HEALTH, DENTISTRY, MEDICINE

Pharmacy technician students co-designed fundraising events with community partners

Pharmacy Technician Studies

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students?

‘Be clear on what is the objective of the CERL project, and what the expectations of the students and the community organisation are, and what the output will be. If all that can be tied up at the outset, it will smoothly. Less is more – even if it’s just a couple of pages of a report in the first year, that’s sufficient, maybe you can build on it the following year. Don’t be too ambitious, take a step back, get the links going in year one, get the community organisation on board, and the students, then you can build on it the following year, I would say it’s a five-year project. Then you can do something different!’

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SUMMARISE A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW OF DENTAL ISSUES IN PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA
Dentistry
Medicine

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the importance of critically appraising different studies, different papers, different types of research.  A range of different staff teach on the module, and there is also teaching on statistics. After critical appraisal the students were to sum up the info as practical information that the community partner could apply to its users. Students were required to critically analyse a research paper (in this case systematic review paper).  The module refocused to carry out this critical appraisal on papers generated by a community partner.  The module lead was keen to see what a connection with community can produce.

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SKIN CANCER AND SUNBED USE IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Biomedical Science
Medicine

 

This module is the capstone/dissertation module for the BSc. Biomedical Sciences and BSc. Human Biology degrees. It provides students with the opportunity to undertake a substantial piece of project work that will provide an introduction to scientific research, further develop their capacity for independent, analytical and critical thought and improve their application of technical/transferable skills. In the first semester students interpret and analyse the scientific literature around a specific question of relevance to biomedical or human biology research.  They produce a layperson mini review that provides a distillation of the science for the consumption of the educated layperson.  In the second semester students carry out a short, closely defined project and analysis of data that is directly linked or closely related to the scientific question posed in semester one.  At its conclusion they produce a final report in the form of a dissertation and give a presentation to a panel of subject experts. Changes in the wider curriculum and policy environment meant that they had the opportunity to come up with innovative projects not just based in a lab.

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MUSIC-BASED INTERVENTION IN PATIENTS WITH ALZHEIMER’SRe DISEASE
Health-care
Music therapy

The main aim of this CERL project is to study the validity of a music questionnaire in a group of patients with Alzheimer’s disease who will participate in a music-based intervention carried out by music therapists from ‘Singular Música y Alzheimer’ in Barcelona. This questionnaire has been validated in healthy adults but not in clinical populations. Indeed, knowing individuals’ attitudes towards music and their preferences helps design tailored interventions to increase the therapeutic benefits of music. 

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WEAVING SCIENTIFIC OUTREACH AND CERL INTO BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES AND HUMAN BIOLOGY CURRICULA

Biomedical sciences
Human Biology

What did the students learn or how did they benefit?  

The students often struggled with striking a balance between the theories of complex science and the ability to communicate these theories effectively to diverse audiences. They tended, on occasion, to veer towards language and applications which were too simplified, thus potentially alienating their target audience. One student commented:

The live sessions were quite enjoyable and allowed discussion between peers and organisers, it also enabled me to meet more people in the year. Study cycle 2 illustrated the need for public engagement and the messages scientists may need to put across when being interviewed by media outlets.”

With respect to CERL, many students commented on the importance of being introduced to key research themes and topics before their final year of study. They felt that this meant that they were primed for the year ahead, having been able to engage with relevant content in advance of choosing their final year project. Another student commented:

Additionally, I found the research component very informative and it provided me with useful background information about research, before starting my final year project.”

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BUSINESS, ECONOMICS, MANAGEMENT

Corporate Social Responsibility & Social Entrepreneurship
Solvay Business School
Economic and social sciences

Students are requested to select one project and they are given the possibility to look for several alternatives. The main source of information for the last academic years has been the Belgium Impact Platform which is the Belgian national platform in support of Social Entrepreneurship. There, students can see the most outstanding organizations in support of social entrepreneurship in Belgium, but also more than 300 cases of inspiring social enterprises.

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Potential CSR cooperations for a nonprofit casting agency

Corporate Social Responsibility
BA in Commerce and marketing, Business and management

During the course students will learn about the development of social responsibility, current trends and the goals, tools and target groups of CSR (corporate social responsibility) communication. The integrated, communication-oriented and practice-oriented approach of the course prepares students to face the challenges of social responsibility during their professional career.

The students have to select a company and write a CSR cooperation proposal in the name of the partner. Part of this cooperation can be supporting Ethnic Talents’ work both as a casting agency as well as their diversity training in breaking down stereotypes towards Roma and other disadvantaged people.

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Integrating social enterprise into a non-profit
MA in Management and Organization

Building on the Fall semester work of a previous student group with the same organization in this course, the students developed a step-by-step plan how to launch and integrate the Give Work! project idea as a new social business into the profile of the organization. The group worked together with two other students from BA and MA in Finance writing their thesis about the financial planning of the social business to be launched.

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Sustainability problem solving with Greenpeace and Fridays for future
BA in International business Decision Techniques on Sustainability Issues

The course intends to familiarize students with professional attitudes and methods, which are applied by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the field of sustainability. Accordingly, CSOs are contacted and involved to share their knowledge and skills regarding how they approach and tackle various sustainability issues. Also, CSOs are invited to propose problems which can be approached by students – CSOs are mentoring student groups through their problem-solving and action creating steps. Finally, when the groups share their experiences and insights, the members of the CSOs are there to constructively give feedback regarding the work and results of the group.

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Enhancing visibility of a non-profit casting agency

Business Communication and its Strategy
MA in Marketing

How did students experience the course?

“It was complex and challenging to elaborate these many factors. I liked that we were assigned with a really important task instead of working on a fictional company’s fictional marketing campaign.”​

As an assistant professor, how did you look back on the course?

“I wish to believe the students got a better understanding of the possible roles of marketing communication, especially the role of communication practices in a non-profit environment.

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International marketing plan for social enterprises

International Marketing, Bachelor in Commerce & Marketing

Testimonial from a student:

“So far I didn’t have to work with external partners throughout my studies, but it was extremely exciting since it’s different when we learn about something at the university and when we use what we’ve learnt in real life and create value for companies trying to improve something for society on their own way. I appreciate this and I am very happy to have been part of it.

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HR postgrad students evaluate HR-oriented communication of an autism association

Diversity Management, Postgraduate in Human resources management

Benefit for the partner involved?

Aura Association was reassured about what they already do well and was grateful for the feedback they got about their work from an HR professional point of view.

“I was amazed how many ways you could grasp it and give us feedback on it. I thank you very much for analysing where the potential fears lie. We encounter this every day but couldn’t put it into words and thank you for encouraging us to focus on what we already do well.

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Integrating the new social enterprise idea called Give Work! into the profile of the organization
MA in Management and Organization

Building on the Fall semester work of a previous student group with the same organization in this course, the students developed a step-by-step plan how to launch and integrate the Give Work! project idea as a new social business into the profile of the organization. The group worked together with two other students from BA and MA in Finance writing their thesis about the financial planning of the social business to be launched.

Click here to learn more about this CERL project!

ECONOMIC STUDENTS DEVELOPED IDEAS FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR GAELIC ATHLETIC CLUBS TO GENERATE REVENUE POST COVID

Economics & Finance  

Economics of Strategy is the application of the economics way of thinking to management issues. In such an application not only are there challenges in developing and applying the economics tradition but also in seeing its limitations and interactions with other traditions within management learning.   This module aims to develop the participant’s ability to understand, evaluate and apply economics concepts, acquired in this and earlier courses, in a focused and critical way in the context of analysis of particular sectors and their firms. 55 students worked in 9 small groups. They each completed an economic analysis of new opportunities for Gaelic Athletic Clubs post-Covid, working with St John Bosco GAC. The club had lost many of their revenue streams due to Covid restrictions, and they wanted the students to explore alternative revenue sources.

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Ideation on regenerative value creation with non-profits

Digital Disruption
BA in Business Informatics

Students working in groups of 5 must prepare a project description of non-traditional, regenerative value creation with outlines of a business plan. During the preparation they must co-create a visual explanation of the concept (video presentation). Each group must provide written feedback (at least 3 questions and 3 proposals) for the work of all the other groups. Each must indicate also which feedback was the most and the less useful for their further work. Then the groups prepare the PPT version and present their concept receiving feedbacks from the other groups and from the representatives of the partner organizations. Based on all the feedbacks in two weeks they have to finalize and submit the project description of about 1500 words.

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POSTGRADUATE FINANCE STUDENTS DEVELOPED RESEARCH FOR THEIR COMMUNITY PARTNER TO USE IN A FUNDING APPLICATION

Economics & Finance  

Any challenges and how you overcame them?

At the beginning Lucía found it challenging to find a community partner. The module content is quite technical and is based on econometrics. She was worried about what value they could give to a community partner as often this particular area of work is misunderstood.  Lucía received a list of projects from ENFUSE and they seemed to be mostly based around marketing and management. They chose a community partner, a non-profit organisation called SPADE who are in the field of entrepreneurship.  The community partner had a shared kitchen facility and they wanted the students to develop research that they could use to secure funding.

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SOCIAL SCIENCES 

SOCIAL CARE STUDENTS WORKED WITH A VARIETY OF NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANISATIONS IN THE AREAS OF MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP

Social care leadership & management

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

This should be a great opportunity for the students to ‘learn by doing’ and relate theoretical concepts to real life practice. For some students who have a lot of experience in one service (example, homeless services) they have the opportunity to work in a different area (for example disability services). Some students who return to a Master’s programme are looking for opportunities to change direction and this can give them an insight into the different services. The sharing of expertise with peers is important, linking to the UN Sustainable Goals. Particularly in relation to funding and commissioning work, students would rarely have the opportunity to work on this in practice, it would usually be an exercise on paper.

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AWARENESS RAISING FOR SERVICE DOGS BY MARKETING STUDENTS

Creative Media Planning and Advertising

Marketing 

Challenges and how you overcame them?

It was not easy to understand the point of the community partner and to find partners with specific marketing communication projects and achievable goals. It also took time to fit their availability with the time schedule of the semester – which can be very different then the organization’s own time schedule. Finally, we agreed to have more pre-work (before the course) and actively worked together with the partner on the case and the presented marketing brief. At the same time, we asked Corvinus Science Shop to pre-select the possible partners for us and also to connect us with these partners and to support the first steps and meetings as professional “matchmakers”. The latter made it easier to understand different points of view and to find common ground.

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TENDENCIES OF HOSPICE AVAILABILITY AND DIGITAL VULNERABILITY OF ELDERLY PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES

Demographics

Increasing life expectancy and declining fertility lead to demographic ageing which is the 21st century’s dominant demographic phenomenon. Population ageing is fundamentally changing the countries of Europe as the relative and the absolute number of older people is increasing rapidly. Japan is the oldest and Korea the fastest ageing country in the world.

The class provides a broad overview of the global demography of aging, its impact on the economy, and welfare of the state by the example of European and Asian countries as well. We will explore patterns, trends, and projections of demographic ageing. The increasing share of older people brings with it sweeping changes in population needs as a silver consumer with potentially significant implications for older workers called silver workers, consumption, economic growth, and fiscal balance.

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RESEARCH ON HOUSING WITH DISABILITIES BY SOCIOLOGY STUDENTS

Sociology

Building on the work started in the previous semester on inequalities in access to education, this time students learn about inequalities in the area of housing. In the spring semester, we collaborate with two NGOs working to ensure access to housing for different social groups. In addition, students gain insights into different dimensions of housing inequalities through presentations by a variety of NGO partners, thus gaining insight into the operation of civil society organisations as well.

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Student action with NGO on reducing taboos and othering

Decision Techniques
BA in Human resources, Business and management, Commerce and marketing, Tourism and Hospitality

What do you think the benefit was to the partner?

I think the community partner gained knowledge on the way of thinking and sense of responsibility of students nowadays studying at the Budapest Corvinus University, Hungary. They could use this knowledge in a communication campaign focusing on youth.
However, I have the feeling that the benefits and the outcomes for the partner should be more adequately planned and encouraged to come true. It is not an easy task, since the course is also based on the free will of the participating students and the freedom to choose, with all of its consequences and make decisions as a group using different decision-making techniques.

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Students explore the impact of watching documentary film on inequalities
Bachelor in International studies, Political sciences, Communication and media

Our partner Northern Point of Support Association joined the course and met all students, and a group of 5 students chose to work with the partner as part of their course assignment. The students and the partner met regularly to discuss which topic to cover from the course and which short film to test. The students then conducted a focus group about one of the association’s short films highlighting the work of Bagázs, a non-profit organization working with and for Roma people, connected to the topic of education and inequalities. Students tested how the audience reacted to the film and how it influenced their opinion on the topic.

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Students work with mentoring social enterprise on reducing school dropout

Decision Techniques
BA in Human resources, Business and management, Commerce and marketing, Tourism and Hospitality

What did you change about your programme/course in relation to CERL during CIRCLET?

Before CERL during the course the students’ groups only needed to take an interview with somebody who is connected or affected or has and affect to their problem. It was just a one-way communication (and only one time) when the students had the possibility to get more information from somebody, who is more involved in that problem they were working on. Now for that group – who worked with the community partner – the world opened up and they had the possibility to dig deeper in their topic.

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STUDENTS MAKE AN INTERDISCIPLINARY ANALYSES OF A COMPLEX PRACTICAL PROBLEM PROVIDED BY A LOCAL ORGANISATION AND DESIGN SOLUTIONS

Applied social studies & Master in Educational Sciences

Using a case study/ problem-solving approach, an (interdisciplinary) theoretical analysis is carried out on a concrete practical problem and solutions are proposed. The problem has relation with challenges outlined in the UN’s Sustainable development goals (SDGs).

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BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN TWO KNOWLEDGE WORLDS: THE SCIENCE AND THE PRACTICE OF MARTIAL ARTS

 Applied social sciences & Criminology

The Brussels Martial Arts Living Lab is funded by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and contributes to the implementation of the University’s General Strategic Plan. This 2-year project aims to bridge the gap between two knowledge worlds: the science and the practice of martial arts. The purpose is to translate existing scientific knowledge  into relevant and usable knowledge and tools for martial arts clubs in Brussels, in close collaboration with practitioners.

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STUDENTS WORK IN COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Communication Sciences

L’Agència is a CERL project promoted since 2012 by the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. It is based on the collaboration between students who carry out curricular internships collaborating with community partners. The project provides an authentic experience for students, while helping to support the communication of non-profit organizations. This CERL project is developed completely online, within the framework of an e-Learning university.

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CROSS-DISCIPLINARY

CROSS-DISCIPLINARY COURSE: CRITICAL REFLECTIONS ON HUMANITY AND SOCIETY

Institution-wide & cross-disciplinary  

‘Reason and Engage’ is an interdisciplinary course that puts into practice the VUB’s vision on society and education. Evidence-based education, free research, co-creation, sustainability and civic engagement are the VUB’s core values. Based on these pillars, ‘Reason and Engage’ wants to stimulate critical reflection on some of the most urgent and challenging issues of our times. The course focuses on one overarching and thought-provoking topic each year. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) serve as framework to choose this theme.

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DEVELOPING A TRANSDISCIPLINARY MODULE ‘HACK 4 SUSTAINABILITY’ WHERE STUDENTS WILL WORK COLLABORATIVELY WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS ON SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES

Transdisciplinarity

This CERL project, which is still in the planning stages, is designed to address Generation Z’s concerns about Climate Change, in the context of sustainability being a ‘wicked problem’. It’s also in line with TU Dublin’s strategic focus on People, Partnership and Planet, and the new University Education Model which is being developed. Postgraduate students will work in transdisciplinary teams to develop entrepreneurial approaches to sustainability issues.

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TOURISM 

Tourism students developed Dublin heritage trails across 3 modules.

Tourism 

The students produced videos, which were evaluated both from a tourism perspective and from a technological perspective for those 2 modules, and a separate video with a plan for a social enterprise development which was evaluated from an enterprise development perspective as well, to meet all 3 module requirements. They also produced reports, and a partially-constructed website, as well as a brochure.

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DRAMA, APPLIED THEATRE  

Drama students developed and piloted lesson plans for primary school drama workshops.

BA Drama Performance
Applied Theatre

Five primary school teachers from 2 DEIS (designated socio-economically disadvantaged) schools, each commissioned a different 4-week drama scheme (40 minute online session each week) on a collaboratively negotiated theme or topic, to be delivered via zoom into their 3-6th classes.

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The fitness of and purpose of the SDGs

Educational Studies

The module has a strong critical orientation to curriculum as a means for educational change. It seeks to support students to challenge dominant discourses about the formation of the self and the social, and about knowledge, in education at micro, meso and macro levels. To do so, students are introduced to various theories and debates about ideals, practices and experiences of formal, informal and hidden curriculum and policy. They are also provided opportunity to consider structural and agential approaches to addressing controversy, division, conflict, inequality and oppressions.

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MATHS, STATISTICS

MACHINE LEARNING TO ANALYSE STATISTICS ON CULTURAL AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT DURING COVID-19
Mathematics
Statistics

 

On completion of this two-semester module, it is intended that students will be able to: undertake a substantial research project in which they increasingly take ownership of the planning and development of the work; work independently, under supervision; survey and use existing literature as a basis for their work; develop mathematical theory of models relevant to the project and where appropriate use or develop computer programs to advance the work and draw conclusions;  give a coherent written account of the work undertaken, of its significance and of the outcomes of the research, in a technical report which is accessible to a range of interested readers; make a substantial oral presentation of the work undertaken, the results obtained and the conclusions drawn, to an audience not all of whom will be experts in the field of study.

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EMBEDDING PUBLIC TRANSPORT SIMULATION FOR COMMUNITY IN AN UNDERGRADUATE MATHEMATICS MODULE
Mathematics

 

The module was redesigned around the community engaged project with Fermanagh Community Transport.  The module content was taught during the first six weeks through a series of structured formative assignments.  Students learned to write simple programs for modelling random time series through completing these formative assignments. In the second half of the module the students then used what they had learned to complete a project for Fermanagh Community Transport.  Students could either choose a project that the module lecturer designed for them or they could design their own project.

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COMPUTER SCIENCE, DIGITAL MEDIA

SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATION AND SUPPORT

Computer Sciences

This is a computer science module and is designed to introduce students to the common areas of systems administration and support focussing on Hardware and Windows-based systems along with SoHo networking principles and Windows administration at a system admin level. It is a very specific module so it wasn’t possible to find a community partner for it, however I implemented a lot of the learning from CIRCLET in it.

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APPLYING THE POTENTIAL OF ICT AS A MEAN FOR SOCIAL ACTION AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Educational sciences 

This initiative aims to bring the students of the subject of Digital social dynamization, an approach to real cases related to this practice, in order to reflect on and analyze them, including the virtualization of these initiatives following the Covid pandemic19. This will allow students to detect the complexity of learning digital skills with certain groups, in order to develop well-founded actions that can respond to these needs, while collaborating with professionals, and enabling knowledge creation in this field. 

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Creative Digital Media students developed website designs for a community partner
Digital Media 

No short description yet, but you can read about the project in more detail

Computer science students developed culturally-specific website templates to attract international tourists.

Computer science 

The goal of the module is to show students that when you’re working in a global market you’re working with people from different cultural backgrounds, and culture impacts on your expectations of how information is presented, how you process and interact with it. It’s a significant challenge for designing the user experience.

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