In the run up to the start of term, students have had to deal with a number of issues relating to the publication of timetables and sudden module cancellations. These issues have caused confusion among students already dealing with an entirely new method of online learning for the year. The problems faced by students seem to suggest disorganisation and poor communication from various schools within Trinity and, more importantly, a lack of resources given to schools to handle the return of students to college.
When timetables were announced on September 14, a number of students realised that they had been assigned consecutive online and face-to-face classes. This meant that they would have to remain on campus to complete their online classes, which some felt would defeat the purpose of online learning. Speaking to Trinity News at the time, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Education Officer Megan O’Connor referred to this as an “ongoing issue” and said that schools had been advised not to schedule consecutive online and face-to-face classes. O’Connor mentioned a number of other issues, including classes being scheduled as late as 9pm, and students being assigned multiple daily classes rather than blocks of face-to-face learning. O’Connor said that this meant students would have to travel to and from college multiple times a week, and that this was “needlessly endangering students”.
O’Connor suggested that these issues may be attributed to timetables being “prematurely circulated” and that a number of schools may not have been ready to publish their timetables. Trinity’s plan to introduce blended learning was announced in early June, with a Resumption of Teaching Working Group formed to find the best method to deliver the hybrid model to students.
As well as issues with timetables, a number of students have faced problems relating to module selection. Students have been notified of modules being cancelled close to the start of term, resulting in uncertainty with regard to timetables. A number of modules assigned to third year Economics students were cancelled, and students were told that they would have to select new modules, with selection forms due back on September 24, meaning many students have not received their full timetable for the semester.
Business, Economics and Social Science (BESS) and Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Sociology (PPES) students were notified of this change on September 11, while TSM Economics students were not informed until September 17. Speaking to Trinity News, a third year TSM Economics and Sociology student described the situation as “a bit of a mess”, saying that “most TSM Economics students have no idea if modules clash or if they’ve even got their module choices”. Students were not given a reason for their modules being cancelled.
Modules have also been unexpectedly discontinued for students in Sociology, Philosophy, and Political science. Sociology students enrolled in the module ‘Globalisation and Development 2’ were told that the module was no longer being provided due to teaching shortages. In April, it was revealed that Trinity would freeze recruitment of new staff to mitigate the financial consequences of the pandemic. College had previously planned to recruit 263 new academic staff members in order to reduce its staff-student ratio.
Senior Fresh students also saw their online module enrollment delayed a number of times. Originally scheduled for September 21, the process was pushed back to September 23, and then again to September 25, when an online registration system would open on a first come, first served basis. Students were told that the system would open at 11:00am, but an error meant that it did not open until 11:30. TCDSU on Twitter described the situation as “unacceptable”, saying that “the college has left hundreds of students in the dark about a decision that will affect their academic career”.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Research Simon Harris confirmed on August 31 that all students would receive their timetables in the first two weeks of September. As a result of changes to modules, many Trinity students were left without a timetable within days of the start of term. A College-wide move to blended learning is bound to be accompanied by teething problems, but disorganisation and lapses in communication between schools and their students have amplified students’ confusion and frustration at what is already a difficult time for many.