Students have unrealistic expectations, academic says

Attendance rates for third-level lectures are falling due to online notes, committee hears

Attendance rates for lectures at third-level are falling as students increasingly opt to rely on notes posted online by their lecturers, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Dr Greg Foley, an associate dean for teaching and learning at Dublin City University, said students today seem to have unrealistic expectations on the level of work required to perform well in college.

This was aggravated by the “highly distracting smartphone culture in which they live”, he said.

Many academic staff were critical of a growing dependency culture in which students rely on material posted on the internet by their lecturers.


“This has led . . . to an increasing reluctance on the part of students to study or read any material beyond what has been provided by the lecturer,” he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection.

“The subject becomes the online notes and nothing more,” he said.

“We have evolved a paradoxical situation where education is dominated by discussions about problem solving, critical and creative thinking, 21st century skills and the like.”

Sense of fear

“Yet, we are increasingly adopting – out of a sense of fear perhaps – teaching methods that actually discourage students from being independent learners.

“We have designed a system whereby huge numbers of school-leavers attend third-level education but it is increasingly a case of ‘third-level education but not as we know it’.”

While Dr Foley said student surveys indicated a high level of satisfaction with the performance of lecturers in higher education, he said it was clear that the quality of teaching and learning has been affected by the “death of a thousand cuts”.

He said many lecturers were over-teaching to the point where they had become “stale and uninspiring”, and “operating at far less than 100 per cent of their ability”.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent