DCU's Covid-19 Response 2019-2020

Pivoting to online teaching and learning 

Like every other Higher Education Institution across the country, DCU closed its campuses in March 2020 as the Covid lockdown came into force. That meant that Teaching and Learning went online while the public health emergency continued. The rapid pivot to web-based lectures and tutorials represented a challenge for students. To assist the transition, the University produced a free web module (or MOOC) called Digital Edge that was designed to help students to “learn how to learn online”. DCU teachers also faced a major challenge in adapting so quickly to the “new normal”. DCU launched a Covid-19 Student Emergency Fund in response to the challenges and financial hardship facing students, in collaboration with communications services company BT Ireland. Examinations had to go online and DCU staff volunteered to be on call at the DCU Examination Support Centre (DESC).

As Covid restrictions continued, it soon became clear that September’s in-person graduations would have to be cancelled.


DCU plays its part in the national effort

Following the lockdown, the DCU Community was quick to act in support of the national effort. A Contact Tracing Centre and a Covid-19 Assessment Centre was set up by the HSE in DCU's Glasnevin campus. DCU Faculty of Science & Health, and the DCU School of Chemistry supplied PPE to hospitals in our region, including Beaumont Hospital, James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown and the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore. DCU School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering and I-Form started producing PPE for frontline health staff using state-of-the-art 3D printing equipment. Meanwhile, technical staff at DCU’s Faculty of Science & Health and DCU’s Nano Research Centre produced hand sanitiser. The DCU School of Health & Human Performance hosted Facebook Live Q&A’s for people and families looking to stay active under the COVID-19 restrictions. Their first three episodes attracted close to 12,000 views. 


Research and the pandemic

The critical role of Universities in responding to a global challenge like Covid was very evident from the start of the pandemic. Alongside the race to find vaccines and treatments, Universities like DCU leveraged their research expertise to address the many other issues that arose from the crisis. 

DCU quickly established a COVID-19 Research and Innovation Hub that focused its efforts on four key areas: Healthcare, Society, Economy and Technology.

With support from the hub, researchers worked on developing a low-cost device for the detection of Covid-19 in health-care settings, while on the economic front a DCU team analysed the key role of Chief Human Resources Officers in coping with the pandemic’s impact on businesses. As Ireland’s population is more diverse and multilingual than ever, researchers assessed how well Irish institutions implemented translation of critical information as a risk reduction policy during the pandemic.

With children spending more time online during lockdowns, our researchers assessed the impact on their online safety and on family wellbeing, while other research looked at the effect of restrictions on children with special needs. DCU Researchers developed Machine Translation Systems trained in COVID-19 data to help multi-lingual information about the disease for medical professionals and the general public. Another team launched an Irish Covid-19 oral history project to capture the lived experiences of ordinary people during an extraordinary time.