In an email circulated to students on 27 November, Provost Patrick Prendergast announced plans to increase the amount of in-person teaching next semester. Following this, students were invited to participate in a survey to evaluate their opinions after a full semester of remote learning.
Of Trinity’s 18,000 students, 6,053 responded to the survey sent out by college. The mandate from students is clear, with 79% in favour of increasing the amount of on-campus learning in semester two. Importantly, the survey results showed that 72% of respondents in Trinity are not able to keep up with their studies under current learning conditions.
While only 28% of respondents said they were keeping up with their studies “reasonably well”, 36% of respondents stated they believed they are managing the current situation well. An overlap between students who are not keeping up with their studies, but still consider themselves to be managing the situation quite well under the circumstances, suggests a lack of expectation that online learning will allow students to properly keep up with their studies.
The survey follows a November filled with mixed messages to higher education students across Ireland on whether in-person learning will return in 2021. Both Dublin City University (DCU) and Maynooth University announced in early November that they plan to continue teaching online until the end of the academic year.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, responded to these online learning announcements by advising universities to increase on-campus teaching in 2021, citing worries about first year drop-out rates increasing should online teaching remain the status quo. After this intervention, Irish universities have remained quiet about their plans for January. University College Cork (UCC) for instance, told the Irish Independent on November 6 that they planned to release details of their semester two arrangements by mid-November, but have so far no information has been circulated to students.
While the survey results show that most are in favour of more in-person teaching next semester, the delay in announcing plans has doubtless caused further stress for students in a year where decisions are being made with little information. Some students are deciding whether or not to stay in their accommodation or return home for semester two and vice versa.
Further, there is still no guarantee from College that in-person teaching will resume next year. With this in mind, it is worth questioning why College waited so long to conduct a survey on student experiences with remote learning until the semester is almost finished and little can be done at this point to improve the online teaching experience of semester one.