For most students, their lecture timetable will be unaffected by the Government’s recent escalation to Level 5 restrictions as part of their ‘Living with Covid’ plan. This is due to the fact that Universities and other third level institutes have been operating under Level 3—lectures hosted primarily online—since the beginning of term. As previously reported in the University Express, this virtual learning experience is set to continue until at least the end of Semester One. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, alluded to the challenges posed by online learning for Semester One but highlighted that this would be reviewed by the end of this calendar year. Minister Harris said that ‘in light of experience and the progress of the disease’ a decision will be communicated to third level institutions as soon as is practicable.
UCC Students’ Union (UCCSU) are currently looking for feedback from students about online learning. In an email sent to all UCC students recently, UCCSU President, Naoise Crowley, encouraged all students to fill out the survey, to have their say on the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of online learning. Mr. Crowley explained that the more responses they receive, the clearer the picture they can form of what is working well and what could be improved. These results will then be communicated to the college, the SU President assured.
In response to the announcement of Level 5 restrictions, Mr. Crowley explained that given education is considered ‘an essential service’ some classes and practicals will take place on campus, where possible. According to Mr. Crowley, UCCSU have ‘been highlighting the need for access to campus facilities the past few weeks.’ As a result of this students still have access to the Boole Library, as well as designated study spaces on campus for the next few weeks. These include the Aula Maxima, Kampus Kitchen and the upstairs of the Main Rest. No booking is required for these facilities, which are open from 8am until 10:30pm, seven days a week. In addition to this, UCC Interim President, Professor John O’Halloran, confirmed via email that the current levels of ‘onsite teaching and learning activities will be able to continue during the new restrictions, with appropriate precautions.’ Prof. O’Halloran confirmed that teaching will be delivered online to ‘the maximum extent possible during this period of Level 5 restrictions.’