Online teaching at third level


A chara, – Kevin Nolan’s letter (September 14th) should be required reading for all concerned with the third-level sector.

However, he concentrates on one side only, delivery, rather than the circumstances in which supply takes place.

About five years ago, I prepared a module (24 hours of lectures) for an online master’s course. It comprises a handbook, recordings, readings and assessments. Preparing it took six months, with helpful professional advice from UCC’s instructional design team.

Challenges colleagues now face include the transfer of teaching exclusively to IT platforms with a few weeks’ notice.

It was possible to decide recently only whether lecturing would be in person, blended or online. Doing so, they will not normally have in-house IT expertise to call on at the levels of department or school in which they operate primarily.

To furnish that assistance, I estimate would require scores of dedicated appointments across the institution.

We are currently in a budgetary situation equal to, or possibly worse than, cutbacks during the late 1980s, or post-2008.

Covid-19 demonstrates that infrastructural shortcomings in Irish universities appear not so much cyclical at this point as systemic.

I happen to agree with Mr Nolan that conventional teaching is superior to the virtual variety. Unless he or others come up with a cure for the present ailment, all concerned are facing into some of the worst conditions I have seen in 40 years of university pedagogy.

It stands to reason, therefore, to recognise, and acknowledge, that outputs can only be according to inputs, and that the latter are ones over which lecturing staff have limited control. – Is mise,


Department of Modern Irish,

University College Cork.