Publication of Digital Survey Report from Irish Higher Education Coincides with Sector’s Move to Online & Remote Learning in Response to Covid 19 Pandemic
By Maura O'Shea
Posted: 7 May, 2020
Minister Launches INDEx Survey Report –Findings Show Ireland’s First National Picture of the Digital Lives of Both Students and Those Who Teach in Higher Education
Higher Education Minister, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, officially launched the report from the Irish National Digital Experience (INDEx) Survey (today Thursday 7 May 2020) which captures the first national picture of the shared digital engagement, experiences and expectations of Irish higher education students and those who teach. The report comes shortly after higher education’s unexpected move to online and remote teaching and learning as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and “showed the important role digital technologies and digital capabilities play in a well-functioning higher education system”, said the Minister. The INDEx Survey Report was issued by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the body responsible for leading and advising on the enhancement of teaching and learning across the sector.
The Minister commended higher education’s response to the crisis, noting that it showed “the robustness of the sector” where “the remarkably quick and focused responses across departments, disciplines and institutions demonstrated how much had been achieved in the realm of teaching and learning up to that point . . .The importance of the digital lives of teachers and learners has never been more in focus than it is at the current moment”.
Completed by 25,484 students and 4,445 staff who teach at 32 higher education institutions in autumn 2019, the INDEx Survey aimed to gain a deeper understanding of what makes a difference to students and staff who teach in Irish higher education and to provide an evidence base to inform decision-making and future enhancement of digital teaching and learning.
Launching the findings from the INDEx Survey the Minister said:
“We now have a unique national evidence base and we also have the evidence of the experience of learners, teachers and leaders, who have gained new perspectives, considered new approaches and shifted thinking with regard to teaching and learning in recent months. This is an important moment for Irish higher education.”
Today’s publication of the INDEx Survey report makes Ireland the only country with a national dataset representing higher education students and staff currently experiencing the sudden shift to online teaching and learning. “This is remarkable. We have a unique dataset at a unique time, and it is up to the whole higher education community to make the most of it”, urged the Minister.
Digital transformation is a major item on the agenda of the Higher Education Authority and all higher education institutions and representative bodies. It is recognised that without the ability to harness the potential of digital technologies it will not be possible to keep pace with and influence decisively the direction of change.
Speaking on behalf of the Higher Education Authority, CEO, Dr Alan Wall said:
“Our higher education system continues to demonstrate its ability to respond to national needs. In the most challenging of circumstances institutions have repurposed facilities, developed novel responses and meanwhile continued the day job of supporting students to progress. All this has created a new opportunity for institutions to learn, to innovate and to capture and share the experience in support of students and other stakeholders. We too are supporting this journey by continuing to promote best quality teaching and learning so institutions can use these INDEx Survey outcomes as a catalyst for growth as we exit the Covid crisis”.
Dr Terry Maguire, Director of the National Forum, welcomed the report: “In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, the rapid process of moving to online and remote teaching and learning has not been without significant and ongoing challenge for higher education. The response of the sector, collectively and collaboratively, in the face of the Covid 19 pandemic has been exceptional. I am delighted that we now have the INDEx findings, which provide an invaluable evidence base for future action. We will work with the higher education community to ensure that the insights from this national survey are combined with new knowledge gained from the shift to online teaching and learning so that the potential of digital technologies can continue to be leveraged for the benefit of all”.
A full copy of the INDEx Survey Report is available from