’There are many advantages to the virtual environment’

What will college look like? A third-year student tells us about Law and Business at Trinity College Dublin

As universities and colleges prepare for the return to college in the autumn, many prospective students will wonder what their course will look like this year. While many courses are being redesigned to cope with the Covid-19 environment, the process of conversion started for many others before the end of last term. Others again were already being delivered remotely or in part with the use of virtual or online tools.

We thought it would be helpful to talk to current students who are studying courses in order to show what students might expect this autumn. Ruby Porter is a third-year student of Law and Business at Trinity College Dublin.

Can you describe how the course is delivered?

Normally, the course is delivered on campus through a series of lectures and seminars. However, the past semester, the course was delivered virtually with pre-recorded lectures and live seminar streams.

What do you think of the virtual environment

There are many advantages to the virtual environment, particularly that it allows you more flexibility in your day and week. I also benefited from being able to go back and listen to certain lectures again, in the run-up to the exams.

Both the lecturers and seminar leaders made sure that students could still ask questions, either by email or during the live seminar sessions. Some lecturers even organised Q&A sessions to allow us to ask questions using the chat function in Blackboard Collaborate.

I think that the most significant disadvantage of the virtual environment is the absence of the social element. But in terms of course content and delivery, I found that remote learning has worked well for me.

What does your typical day look like

I try to structure my day as a typical college or working day, starting at about 9am and finishing around 6pm. Leading up to exam time, I worked later into the evening, similarly to what I would have done had we still been on campus. Generally, I tried to watch all my lectures and seminars in the morning and focus on readings and assignments later in the day.

How do you submit assessments/do exams?

Assignment submission was much the same as normal, without the requirement of a hard copy. Some deadlines were pushed out, given the disruption to term time.

Exams were different to normal but ran very smoothly in practice. I had four exams, two online and two take-home style. The online exams allowed you to sit the two-hour live exam at any stage during a 24-hour period to accommodate people who might only have access to wifi at certain times of the day. The take-home exams required you to download the paper from Blackboard and then fill out a Word document, which had to be uploaded to Blackboard before the end of the exam.

How do you interact with fellow students?

Interacting with fellow students was definitely the most challenging part of online learning. I am fortunate enough to be in a relatively small course where we all know each other so we managed to stay in touch and organise the odd Zoom study session. However, for bigger courses or for people just starting out in Trinity, there were no real mechanisms through which to interact with other students. I think this was partly because most society activity was winding down although it seems as though societies are making plans for online social events next year to fill this gap.

Is it easy to interact with tutors/lecturers?

During my time in Trinity, I have found the tutors and lecturers to be consistently engaged with their students and this did not change in the virtual environment. Lecturers organised Q&A sessions, while tutorial leaders were quick to reply to emails and stay in touch.

Any tips for incoming freshers?

I think it’s important for freshers to try and interact (virtually) with as many people as possible in the first few weeks and get involved in the online society events, although they may seem weird. I think Trinity will need to play a role here to ensure that it is easy for students to get in touch with other people in their course. It’s also important to remember that everyone is in the exact same boat.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí is an Irish Times journalist and editor of the Irish Times Student Hub