The online course is the first part of a new government initiative called Fáilte ar Líne (Welcome online), which the Dublin government hopes will engage the huge numbers of people around the world who identify as Irish in modern Irish culture and language.
“This course will not only be of great interest to the Irish diaspora, but to many Irish people at home who would like to re-engage with the language”
At the unveiling of the course, Irish minister of state at the department of culture with responsibility for Gaeilge, Joe McHugh said the initiative would use technology to bring the history and culture of Gaeilge to a new audience.
“This exciting new endeavour demonstrates how we can utilise modern technology and innovation to bring our language and culture to new audiences around the globe,” McHugh said.
He added that the interest in the course would be widespread, and not limited to those outside Ireland.
“I believe that this course will not only be of great interest to the Irish community and diaspora abroad, but also to many Irish people here at home who would like to re-engage with the language, as well as new communities who may be connecting with the language for the first time,” he told those at the launch event.
The project is being lead to professor of Irish language at Dublin City University Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl. She said the MOOC format gives the course a “global reach”, as well as fitting around people’s busy lives.
“Everyone is so busy – MOOCs give an option for someone who wants to do something different and expand their learning, or reconnect with other parts of their identity,” Nic Giolla Mhichíl told The PIE News.
She added that because of the Republic of Ireland’s long history of emigration (“migration from this beautiful country has happened over I don’t know how many hundreds of years and has happened recently”), the course will appeal to learners in all corners of the globe.
“Whether they’re new Irish, 3rd or 4th generation in the UK, Australia, or even newer places like China and Taiwan where more recent migrants have gone”.
Mark Brown, Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning at DCU, said that taking this course online, and in this format, was part of a longer term strategy from the institution.
“This is part of a much larger strategic investment that DCU intends to embark on in partnership with FutureLearn. We just don’t make a distinction… going forward… between online and on-campus [students],” Brown related to The PIE.
Finally, commenting on the deeper cultural reasons behind the MOOC, Nic Giolla Mhichíl said the spread of languages outside of the global leaders (English, Spanish, French) being provided on platforms such as FutureLearn is a “democratisation” of language learning.
“We know English is very well represented… but one of the important things for us and for other multilingual nations, as it’s part of our DNA, is to have this representation, the presence of language.”