Rising Tide: Empowering through Education

Building better communities and overcoming poverty through blended learning

An Cosán, which means ‘the path’, is a community education centre in Jobstown in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght West. Created as a beacon of hope for disadvantaged communities, An Cosán delivers free or affordable blended learning courses as a way to fast-track people out of poverty and assist communities to help themselves.

When An Cosán wanted to widen its remit and help people and communities, not only in Tallaght West but across the country, it looked to Learnovate to help build an educational platform for blended learning that could reach a wider audience.

“We were very successful in what we were doing but I always had a dream of going national by providing blended learning and that’s where Learnovate came in.”

Liz Waters, CEO of An Cosán and CEO and Director of An Cosán Virtual Community College

Developed with Learnovate’s guidance, An Cosán’s award-winning Virtual Community College (VCC) enables An Cosán to expand its ethos of empowering through education beyond Jobstown to locations across the country.

Liz always had a dream to grow An Cosán and bring its essential services to a wider audience. Her belief in the power of education to transform individuals and communities has been a driving force in engaging digital technologies to provide education to disadvantaged communities in Ireland.

When An Cosán was drafting its strategic plan, they decided they needed to think bigger and Liz instinctively knew that online was the only way to go. Her unique vision was to bring social equality and an end to poverty through education – using online and mobile technology.

“I knew online was the way to go but I could not find the right blended model I wanted out there. We didn’t know if the idea was right, if it would work, and how to ensure quality assurance.”

I was working with a colleague at the time who said to me: ‘If you can imagine it – it can happen – and I know the people who can make it happen.’ It was then that I was introduced to Learnovate.”

Funding from ESB allowed An Cosán to engage Learnovate’s services. An Cosán commenced a pilot project in collaboration with community partners across the country. The pilot blended-learning project began with 15 people, with Learnovate monitoring it all the way.

Learnovate held brainstorming and solution-storming sessions with An Cosán Stakeholders to identify the most valuable solutions to meet the instructional design needs of An Cosán’s learners. Learnovate then developed a bespoke instructional design model for An Cosán, which they have been running and delivering ever since through their Virtual Community College (VCC).

The model, based on solid research, combines face-to-face workshops with online learning and assignments as well as virtual classrooms. Discussion, interaction and teamwork make for both an enjoyable and rewarding learning experience.

“One of our key strategic goals was to scale the centre’s impact nationally. Learnovate’s support allowed us to move seamlessly towards a blended model of virtual and face-to-face learning that made courses accessible to disadvantaged communities nationwide.”


Scale impact by implementing blended learning


Blended model of offline and online learning with self-paced learning on-demand, face-to-face collaboration and synchronous and asynchronous collaboration via the virtual learning environment


  • Learning needs analysis workshop
  • Virtual learning environment strategy
  • Instructional design model prototype
  • Change management strategy
  • Facilitator training

Since the completion of its work with Learnovate, An Cosán has increased the number of courses offered, expanded its pedagogy team and moved to larger premises.

“We put our hearts and souls into it and are so proud of ourselves – we are now able to deliver a top-quality instructional design model and I am not sure we would have been able to do that without Learnovate. ”

Liz Waters, CEO of An Cosán

About Liz Waters

CEO of An Cosán, Liz Waters is the director and visionary behind virtual community college (VCC). The start of Liz’s career had a profound effect on her. Working with homeless young women and teaching in prisons brought her into contact with bright, intelligent people who, because they left school before they were teenagers, held little hope for their future. These experiences informed her lifelong dedication to educating people not only for themselves but for their communities. Her belief in the power of education to transform individuals and communities has been a driving force in engaging digital technologies to provide education to disadvantaged communities in Ireland.