Please note that this article was written before NUI Galway cancelled most on-campus activity for Semester One.
By Fiona Lee
Students have raised concerns over their timetables on account of NUI Galway’s new ‘blended learning’ system.
Students will have both online and on-campus lectures as a part of the new structure. With online lectures potentially being scheduled directly before or after on-campus lectures, students could only have 10 minutes to travel between their homes and the college campus, which for most students is not doable.
SIN spoke to students about their timetables and how the lack of confirmed classroom space for online lectures on-campus will affect their college year.
“My timetable currently has me down for six on-campus lectures and seven online lectures. This wouldn’t be a problem except many of them are directly after each other. For example, one afternoon a week I have a five-hour block of campus, online, online, campus, online lectures, in that order.
“It takes me at least 20 minutes to get home cycling, so there’s no way I’d get between campus and my home on time for my lectures, let alone unlock my bike and set up my learning space. As a result, I have to either rush from place to place and miss a minimum of a 10-minute chunk from every lecture, or I have to pick lectures to miss so that I can attend other ones properly. Either way I’m going to miss out on valuable learning time”
Commuting students are also struggling with the mix of on online and in class learning.
One commuter spoke to SIN about the issues facing students travelling to and from university this year and called for every lecture to be made available online,
“I’m a commuting student this year and my timetable is so awkward. With the mixture of online and in-class lectures, it’s very hard to gauge whether it’s even worth coming into college this year at all.
“Some days I have to do a 2-hour commute for only 3 lectures! Everything should be available online in my opinion, it’s unfair given the situation, especially for students who are vulnerable or live with vulnerable people”, she said.
SIN spoke to Student Unions president, Pádraic Toomey, who is aware of the issue and is working towards a potential solution.
“We are looking for spaces on campus to facilitate online learning. We have been suggested that the Bailey Allen could be one of these spaces and we are pushing for that and more” he told SIN.
The Student’s Union have been in contact with the members of NUI Galway’s University Management Team, outlining the issue in a letter,
“Students will need spaces where they can participate in activities such as synchronous lectures and peer learning activities. These activities involve students using laptops and speaking. Obviously, the limited spaces in the Library and Reading Room are not conducive to these activities. Pod type spaces would be ideal for this.”
The letter also highlighted the lack of sufficient social and study spaces on-campus.
“Instead of telling students where they can’t go, they will need spaces they can go. Social spaces will need to be created as places they can go between physical lectures, labs and tutorials.”
“Study spaces will need to be widely available for students to use between lectures, and for students who do not have suitable space at home or in their shared accommodation. The reopening of the library has been a welcome relief, but obviously space is very limited”.
The University addressed the issue and outlined how they have encouraged Schools to accommodate students through the blended-learning model.
“Asynchronous online materials (learning materials that can be viewed online at any time and are therefore not scheduled) have been encouraged, though it is not possible for all online content to be delivered asynchronously.
“Many classes are also recorded and can be viewed after the scheduled slot. In all cases, where a student is not able to attend a scheduled online class, the core module material will be made available on request, in an alternative format.”
Students are scheduled to return to campus on the 12th of October after a two-week suspension of in-person lectures and campus activities imposed on all Irish universities by the government.