College has confirmed that teaching is to remain primarily online for the Hillary term.
The email to students, which was signed by Provost Patrick Prendergast, stated: “As you will be aware, the public health environment has deteriorated dramatically and unexpectedly.”
“The situation domestically and overseas is currently very serious and is likely to become even more serious in the weeks ahead. Covid-19 infection rates across Ireland are at an all-time high.”
Prendergast also acknowledged that while current restrictions are only in place until the end of January, they will “most likely be extended beyond this period”.
All semester two teaching in lectures, small group classes and tutorials is to remain online, or move online. “If there was no in-person teaching on your course last semester, there will not be in-person teaching in the coming semester.”
Teaching this term will be entirely online for the School of English, Computer Science and Statistics, History and Humanities, Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies, Mathematics; Law, Religion, Social Sciences and Philosophy and Trinity Business School.
Students in these schools are not to physically attend Trinity at all for semester two, except for project work or using the library.
Some “essential practical or lab-based work” in other schools is to continue, “where feasible”. The decision on this will be taken by individual schools based on local conditions and requirements.
Prendergast explained: “Schools and programmes with practical classes or other lab-based activities including capstone research projects are assessing the new situation to determine what can be delivered safely in the current situation and what amendments to teaching formats or scheduling changes might be needed.”
For students who cannot attend scheduled in-person teaching events, alternative formats or hybrid teaching will be put in place.
“We are working on enhanced protective measures and all face to face teaching in semester two will strictly adhere to the public health guidelines and sectoral provisions in place at the time,” Prendergast continued. “We will give a more detailed breakdown before the start of the semester of what teaching will look like subject-by-subject.”
“Every effort”, Prendergast explained, is being made to ensure scheduled placements will go ahead, and arrangements are being put in place so that students required to be in clinical settings receive priority access to vaccination.
Students will also be required to attend face-to-face teaching sessions in the Health Sciences where it is deemed essential to meet the requirements of professional regulators. Students in these subjects will need to be in Dublin for semester two.
The email also outlined the new, reduced opening hours that the Library will operate under “until further notice”. The Berkeley, Lecky, Ussher and Hamilton libraries will be open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays. The John Stearne Medical Library will be available from 9am to 4pm, also on weekdays. Kinsella Hall will be open from 6pm to 10pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The 1937 Postgraduate Reading Room will operate every day from 8am to 10pm.
All libraries will continue to require students to book seats prior to use. Breakout spaces on campus are to remain open, but should only be used “as a last resort”.
The Library closed unexpectedly on Monday two hours early, without any prior warning having been given to students. Some students were locked out of the library while their belongings were left inside. A handwritten note on the door advised that it would be moving to new opening hours, but today’s email is the first announcement of what those hours will be.
This incident has occurred just as exams are due to commence next week, on Monday January 11. The exams will take place exclusively online, and will be a combination of real-time “live” exams and “take-home” exams.
The Provost went on to say that College will “provide additional training and resources” to “improve the quality of online teaching”. Students are advised to contact their tutor or the postgraduate advisory service if they are unable to access WiFi in their current home or accommodation, as there is “some financial help” on offer.
“Essential” on-site research activities are to continue, but Prendergast asked that this only include “time-sensitive, essential work that cannot be done at home”.
Students who have “essential accommodation needs in Dublin” will be permitted to continue to reside in College housing. The email said that this “includes students who are already currently in residence for exams”, but that students within Ireland who do not have on-site teaching should refrain from returning until the semester begins. It also drew attention to the government’s tightening of rules regarding quarantining for those returning from overseas.
Prendergast also advised that until January 31, entry to campus will be severely restricted. Only residents, essential researchers or staff, those with library/study space bookings, those taking exams, and “pre-approved visitors” will be permitted access.
“There is no hiding the fact that for many of you these arrangements will be a disappointment.”
Prendergast continued: “This is not what we had hoped would happen, but it reflects the best health advice and current government policies for the sector. We will continue to monitor the public health situation and government guidelines continuously and will be flexible in adjusting our plans where necessary.”
“It has to be our top priority to reduce risks to you and your family and reduce the amount of movement nationally in line with the Government’s strategy to contain the virus, while ensuring the best possible educational experience for you under the current, difficult circumstances.”
Yesterday, College announced that mitigation measures that were in place for assessment and exams last term would again apply to the upcoming exam period.
Trinity students who have been “adversely affected by the pandemic” are now allowed to choose to defer exams or assignments from Michaelmas Term until the end of Hilary Term, during Hilary assessment period, May 10 – May 17.