May 27, 2020

Classes of Up to 25 Students Could be Taught In Person Next Year

Internal minutes show College is considering holding classes of up to 25 students in person, with groups bigger than that held online.

Emma DonohoeScience & Research Correspondent
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

Classes of up to 25 students could be taught in person next year, with groups bigger than that taught online, among a number of contingencies Trinity is considering for teaching in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The University Times has learned that Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff told University Council members on May 13th it is “expected that the commencement of the academic year will involve a blended learning approach, with online teaching provided to groups of 25 students and greater, and face-to-face teaching with small class groups and tutorials”.

Unpublished minutes of the meeting, seen by The University Times, show the proposal ranks among a number of options College is considering for how to get back to teaching next year.


Council will discuss the matter further at a meeting next Wednesday, with more concrete decisions expected.

Responding to questions from The University Times on the specifics of the discussions about College’s return, Catherine O’Mahony, a Trinity media relations officer, wrote in an email: “All of these decisions have yet to be taken. Many are due to be taken next Wednesday when they are also due to be communicated to the college community.”

Earlier this month, Provost Patrick Prendergast announced in a video on social media that online teaching was likely to continue into next year, with large lectures to be delivered online while smaller lectures, seminars and tutorials return to campus,

Today, based on minutes of the same meeting of Council, this newspaper reported that students are likely to return to College on September 28th, with first-term assessments likely to take place in January 2021.

Earlier this month, Dublin City University (DCU) announced similar plans for a “blended learning approach” during the first semester of the next academic year, set to begin on October 5th.

On its website, DCU said: “We expect that social distancing requirements will operate through the rest of 2020 and into 2021. This will mean that we are unlikely to be able to run any large-group, campus-based activities in Semester 1 at the very least.”

“As a result of this, we are planning for dual-mode delivery of teaching, involving both online and face-to-face delivery as appropriate.”

Two weeks ago, the chair of Science Foundation Ireland warned that Irish universities will struggle to “compete” in the sphere of online learning when it comes to attracting students over the coming years.

Speaking at a webinar on the future of higher education in Ireland after the pandemic, Peter Clinch said said the “centralised” approach to administrative and technical support of Ireland’s universities means it will be difficult for them to implement “blended learning” – a combination of online and in-person learning – in the coming months and years.

“In the next couple of years, if we think we’re going to be able to compete online and with blended learning, we’re really going to struggle in the Irish system – and that’s a big threat”, he said.

Clinch added: “If students are going to look to blended or online [learning], they’re not going to look to Irish universities.”

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