IT Sligo Improves Access Through Online Writing
Course Profile: BA in Writing and Literature from IT Sligo
Few students have been admitted to campuses in the past year. But for many aspiring students with disabilities, underlying health issues, or caregiving commitments, campuses have long been inaccessible.
Last year IT Sligo launched one. The course, part of IT Sligo’s Higher Education for All initiative, a partnership between the institute, Mayo Sligo Leitrim Education and Training Board (ETB), Donegal ETB and Family Carers Ireland, was designed to be fully online to make it more accessible. to everybody.
“The great advantage of e-learning, of course, is that it can help fill the accessibility gap for those with limited geographic location,” says Gerard Beirne, president of BA Online. “Financially, too, it can be more affordable, which eliminates the cost of meals, travel or accommodation.”
The college was keen to ensure that students taking an online program did not miss out on the social element of a campus-based program and to that end designed an online space with images. daily live on campus, a “virtual canteen” for lunch, an online environment that connects with the student union, clubs and societies, as well as campus social events and activities through “live” technologies “.
Dr Una Mannion, program director of the BA in Writing and Literature, says IT Sligo has created interactive online workshops where students collaborate together on projects, share their writing, and give and receive feedback from their peers.
“The online writing community worked. The students trusted each other, got to know each other’s work and contributed significantly to workshops. Online students also had the opportunity to attend live events such as The Word, an author series run with Sligo Central Library where they read their work to a live Zoom audience which was also broadcast on Facebook. They attended events together, including book launches and online theater. We brought together groups of students from the on-campus program and the online group to screen films that they each made as part of digital storytelling. The online platform has allowed us to create a community that we all feel part of.
Mannion and Beirne say the distance has become negligible. A student based in Vienna, Austria, worked with a student from Carrick-on-Shannon on a creative response to Sophocles Antigone’s play.
“Students who in the past did not feel comfortable speaking in front of a class are relieved,” Mannion says. “Everyone participates and when the students present the discussion box, they are inundated with support and ideas from their peers. We are constantly communicating and the learning environment is always student-centered.
“I was struck by the remarkable energy of the virtual classroom,” says Beirne. “Interacting with people up close on screen created a surprising sense of intimacy distinct from the physical setting. The breakout rooms have been very successful and allow students to be easily divided into small groups, which facilitates peer participation.
“Online classroom tools mean that groups can still interact with each other. For students, it helps them break down barriers and get to know each other socially. Once again, from my observations, the “closeness” of it all seems to encourage bonding between them, and I love how it promotes self-direction. It was heartwarming to witness the camaraderie among the students and how they seem to care for each other.
Sarah O’Keeffe, class representative, says she has become a member of a virtual community. “Although we couldn’t be physically together on campus, we formed an almost immediate bond. We created chats on WhatsApp and Teams, as well as frequent “coffee breaks” on Zoom. We used technology to support each other and a classmate was just a click away. As the transmission of documents in a classroom is not an option, shared files or even shared screens have become commonplace. The online format of the course offers accessibility from afar, being in different locations in Ireland, and even in Europe. This allows for a more diverse group, bringing new perspectives. “
O’Keeffe created a podcast, “If 5-year-olds ran the country,” in which a mock mock election installed some of his son’s elementary school classmates as new ministers. “She interviewed the children on the phone, recorded their thoughts and edited their voices in a new Dáil newsletter,” explains Alice Lyons, lecturer for the course.
Another student, comedian Connor McDonough-Flynn, has tried to make the most of the locked Connemara. “He improvised new material on trying to develop the superpower of seeing in the dark while walking and talking on his light-up phone in the unlit fields around him,” Lyons says.
The resulting ‘Land of the White Vans’ podcast also sees McDonough-Flynn speeding up on his (fictional) scooter through the Burren, being (fictitiously) cursed by passing motorists, his destination a cave where the bear Irish brown might still inhabit indeed. The podcast ending, a patchwork of roaring beast sounds captured from YouTube clips, is worthy of Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. “
“There are many different ways of learning and while some students thrive in the classroom, others, I have found, are more comfortable participating remotely in a small online group.” , explains Beirne. “Independent learners generally find online courses to be well suited to their needs. It also seems easier to accommodate and complete a variety of learning styles, whether visual or auditory, using audio, video, graphics, text, etc.
Beirne says the course made him re-evaluate the way he engaged. “The classroom has become a much more interactive learning environment where my role is to guide students and facilitate discussions among them. It becomes a learner-centered approach that lends itself to greater student participation and that is more personally meaningful. ”
For more information see: itsligo.ie
Virtual since 2014: MSc in Data Analysis
Data analytics is one of the main areas of growth over the past decade, and the pandemic has accelerated the need for businesses and organizations to operate efficiently online.
In 2014, UCD launched a three-year part-time master’s degree in data analysis, with students also having the option of leaving after one year with a professional degree in data analysis.
The course was fully online from the start, so the Covid-19 emergency hasn’t changed too much. “Our lectures have always been pre-recorded,” says Dr Michael Salter-Townshend, program director and lecturer at UCD’s School of Mathematics and Statistics. “Our students are located all over the world and generally work full time, so we had to be as flexible as possible.”
Salter-Townshend says the course is different from a free open online course (MOOC) because of the level of interaction between students and teachers.
“A few years ago we were offering live tutorials, but they weren’t suitable for all students, especially those based overseas where there was a jet lag. The interaction takes place mainly through discussion forums. These are study-oriented and followed by a doctoral student or post-doctoral tutor who answers as many questions as possible; if there is something that they think is complex, it is sent back to the director. Usually, they don’t wait more than 24 hours for a response. “
Students are generally advised that they will need to devote around 10 hours per module per week, with two modules being studied at any given time. Employers often give their staff time off to study. Many of the professors and tutors of the online course are partially funded by Insight, Science Foundation Ireland’s data analytics center, which means they can benefit from broader research expertise.
When Covid-19 hit, the course continued as usual, but the assessment changed. “Previously, students had to take exams at the end of each term in the RDS [Dublin], even if they had to fly. This was not possible with the restrictions of Covid-19. We looked at surveillance – monitoring students on the exam with a camera – but surveillance looks for unusual typing patterns, and since our modules are computer program based, that would have flagged all of the video. Instead, I wrote an eight-question article, with two versions of each article. Then I made the exam extremely short and gave them two hours to complete it, so they couldn’t really check in with each other. “
This change may be permanent, making the UCD course fully and completely online. “From the UCD’s point of view, it saves money; from a student perspective, they save on travel and a hotel room. It could be a very good option for our international students.
For more information see: ucd.ie/courses/msc-data-analytics