Name of the participant and other supporting staff if relevant

Kathy Young

Name of the module and discipline, level and  year of study and any useful background info

Higher Certificate in Pharmacy Technician Studies, year 1. This module is called professional development and runs over both years of the programme.

Name of community partner and/or any other supporting partners (public or private sector)

St John of God Community Services (SJOG)

CERL project title(s)

Fundraising Co-design Projects.

What they changed about their programme/course in relation to CERL

Kathy coordinates the ‘volunteering initiative’ part of the 1st year section of the professional development module. In previous years students ran fundraising events for charities, but they hadn’t really worked with a community partner as such before, and Kathy was keen to build this in to increase students’ collaboration with communities.

This year the collaborative element was greatly increased because of the engagement with SJOG. Students worked with the SJOG participants (service users with intellectual disabilities and support staff) to co-design fundraising events, to collaboratively raise money for charities chosen as part of the collaborative process. Kathy felt it was quite empowering for them to choose the charities they would raise money for, rather than having this decided for them.

Tangible info – e.g. module descriptor, learning outcomes, assignments, assessment criteria, …


Assessment: for this part of the module (the volunteering initiative) students have to submit a 1,000 word reflective report, which is 40% of the module overall. Kathy developed a rubric on reflection, and a colleague from the student counselling service delivered a workshop on reflection (this was used as part of an application for funding, which they secured, to develop a number of workshops including assertiveness, conflict resolution, etc). Very few students incorporated this material into their reflective report, which was more descriptive of what they did than reflective (see section below on ideas for improvements, to see how Kathy would address this). Kathy gave students audio feedback on all the reflective reports. 

How was it taught:

·        number of students

·        student groupwork or individual,

·        how they worked with the partner,

·        how the project proceeded,

·        any reflection done with students,

·        evaluation or formal assessment of their learning,

·        Could or should we follow up with students?

·        tech used

·        Anything else interesting?

40 students. All teaching was online, no-one met face to face. They met every week online with the SJOG participants for 40 minutes.

At the start of the project Kathy met the students and went through the objectives and plan for the project.

 Students and participants were broken into 5 groups, each group met online every week in the SJOG online platform. SJOG provided a facilitator for each group, which was great as Kathy was the only lecturer involved.

 They designed pared back, simple objectives for each week’s collaborative session, such as ‘what charity would you like to support in the fundraising, and why?’. This approach worked well for TU Dublin students too as it took some stress and pressure off them in relation to being involved, and encouraged them not to be too concerned about their academic performance, which Kathy feels can hold them back from participating fully and freely. In Kathy’s evaluations with students they said if they were to do the project again they would like to become more involved, and speak up more in the sessions. Kathy feels that academic fear is a big thing for first years, particularly when they’re all online, so this kind of project can help them become a little more confident and adept about participating, hopefully also when they come to other more academically challenging modules.

 The co-design groups fundraised together for Temple Street Hospital, the Irish Dog’s Trust, the Irish Cancer Society, and Jigsaw. In one group the participants pledged to walk 1,000km over several days to support their chosen charity. Although they didn’t get to 1,000km, it worked really well, with the participants all doing their work, charting their kilometres – the students included all this in the reflective report at the end. Another group designed an online quiz based on the interests of the service users, using photos and asking them to identify things etc –  they really enjoyed that.  

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

The project supported these 1st year students to make friends, which was important as all their college work was happening online – there were photos in the reflective reports of them with their peers doing the fundraising activities. 

In terms of graduate attributes, which all courses are designed to support, Kathy felt students primarily developed their communication skills. When they finish college they will be in the community in pharmacies, working with people all day, and will need excellent communication skills.

Project management was something they wouldn’t have done in school, and requires attention to detail.

Kathy was keen that they develop resilience, which they need when working online, and which will stand to them as they will need resilience in their lives.

Emotional intelligence: working with a group of people with intellectual disabilities offered lots of benefits and learning for the students, such as developing patience. Kathy also noted that she also had to develop patience, working with a cohort who worked at a slower pace than her students. Although they didn’t achieve as much as Kathy expected to in each session, she feels maybe that wasn’t a bad thing, and helped people to slow down and enjoy the journey. 

Kathy hopes the project helped the students to understand their strengths better, for example that they might have developed strengths in leading, or encouraging other students, or speaking up and using their voice. 

Kathy feels it’s important for students to have fun and enjoy the learning, some of them get really stressed and can struggle, hopefully this has done something to assist them on their journey.

Finally, during the pandemic, anything that got people out and exercising, and feeling part of a bigger project or group, was positive. One student said she walked about 70km over the week. 

What do you think the benefit was to the partner? Do they have any feedback from the partner?

The SJOG participants said they loved getting to know the students. They also developed their communication skills further. They said the project was fun. 

The SJOG service users were able to draw on their families and friends to support their fundraising activities, and it was important for the students to see this and be reminded that they also have networks, and that they should draw on them if they are struggling. 

The 4 charities also received the funds raised for them, the co-design teams collaboratively raised €2800 for the 4 charities combined.  

How could/will you improve your CERL teaching practice next time?

Ideally this would be a blend of online and face-to-face meetings – meeting face-to-face at the start and then collaborating online during the project. Next year Kathy would like to bring in another colleague to support the online interactions on the project. 

Kathy might see if they could all agree on one charity for the group to support next year, to maximise the impact of the fundraising. 

To prepare the students for meeting with SJOG, Kathy met them and went through the objectives and plan for the project, but to maximise their confidence and encourage them to participate next year she might do more, including small group work etc, to prepare them for working with the community partner. 

The SJOG participants really wanted the students to put their cameras on, as being able to see people was very important to them for communication, but most students were reluctant to do this. Kathy feels that next year she would insist on this, and that this is a principle that could be carried over into other online classes – not that they would have to put cameras on in a group of 40 students, but if they were in breakout groups with 8 or so students, that they should put cameras on. 

Next year Kathy might develop a sheet before each session outlining her expectations for the TU Dublin students for the session.  Kathy had thought about using a fun powerpoint slide as a talking/focal point for the start of each session, but that didn’t happen, and she would try to do this for next year’s sessions, using visual materials and colours, and symbols, in consultation with the SJOG partners. 

Kathy would work more with the students around using social media, and their social media networks, as she felt they didn’t use them as much as they could. The SJOG service users posted about the fundraising on their social media, with photos of them doing the activities. 

To address the fact that the students’ reflective report was more descriptive of what they did than reflective, Kathy would run a longer reflection workshop next year, breaking students into small groups so that they would really get to grips with the principles of reflection, and how it connected to things. 

Kathy might also look for some funding from the school budget for prizes for some of the initiatives next year (such as fundraising quizzes). 

Any challenges and how you overcame them


Kathy had a plan for students to be grouped into different committees, such as a social media committee, a finance committee etc, to break the fundraising into different tasks. But that wasn’t going to work for the SJOG participants so this was redesigned to put the students and participants into small groups that would each do all the tasks required for their own fundraiser. 

Kathy found the interactions with the SJOG clients challenging, because sometimes it was hard to understand them, but a facilitator from SJOG would support the communication. It was interesting that the SJOG participants were very eager to speak and participate, much more so than the TU Dublin students were – but then again they may have felt more comfortable as the sessions took place in their online learning environment. 

One group wanted to do a bake sale, but in order to do risk management they agreed they couldn’t sell the bakes, instead they could give them to family and friends and ask them if they would like to make a donation. It’s important that everything is risk assessed, and it was challenging to keep on top of everything they were doing – in the classroom it might have been a bit easier to keep on top of everything, moreso than online. 

Working online was a huge challenge, for everyone involved, but at least the wifi mostly worked. Next year Kathy would do preparation to address the different approaches to using cameras online, and to prepare students for using the different online interfaces – we assume students know where the camera icon is etc, but it can help to point out where things are, so they feel comfortable. 

It was time-consuming to keep up with everything. There was a feedback exercise after each session. They set up a shared document online and after each session, each group uploaded what they had agreed on, and both Kathy and the main SJOG coordinator had access to it, and would view it every week to keep the students on track, and highlight any issues.  Week-to-week there was lots of interaction to keep the groups on track and to push the students. 

There were some challenges with interactions with external organisations – some charities didn’t respond to student emails, and some corporate funders who had been approached to offer prizes didn’t follow through. Kathy emphasised to the students in these situations that the process and learning was the most important outcome. 

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


If there is a community organisation out there that your university has worked with in the past, that can be of great benefit. Otherwise Kathy feels that lots of NGOs would be happy to be approached by a university offering to support them, and students can do lots of relevant research.

‘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!’ 

Any good quotes we could use in the IO1 report

See advice immediately above. 

Did anything notable come up that about their LC, Triad, ILC, LTTA  or module experiences?

Kathy enjoyed the CPD module, it was a challenge after not being in formal learning for a while. She feels the resources are there for her to use if she needs them, but suggested that the reading lists could have been a little more focused, as she was trying to read everything. 

Anything else notable about the practice that there wasn’t space for elsewhere


Kathy plans to write up the project and has already had an abstract accepted for an academic journal. 

The pre-existing relationship between TU Dublin and SJOG was invaluable to this project. Also very important was the project planning meeting with SJOG and staff from Students Learning With Communities, where a detailed week-by-week plan was co-designed and agreed.