Simon Harris says colleges to offer online learning alternatives after September reopening 4 months ago

Simon Harris says colleges to offer online learning alternatives after September reopening

"We are eager to keep what has worked during Covid."

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said that colleges and universities will be encouraged by government to offer online learning alternatives after their September reopening.

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The Minister also said that he is hopeful for a return to as many college facilities as possible in September due to the success of Ireland's vaccination rollout programme.

He said that colleges will likely make a "staggered return" as 70% of the population are expected to be vaccinated by July, with a further percentage receiving the jab by September.

"It's a really important point, because when we talk about students, firstly, not every student is a school leaver," he said on Ireland AM on Wednesday.

"So the student who is 18 or 19 wants the Freshers' week and the RAG week and the craic and the full college experience. But, for the student in their 40s or 50s, it might actually suit to be able to do education in a flexible way - where you can boot up the computer after a day's work," he continued.

The Minister said that the Government will be eager to "embed" elements of online learning, such as recorded lectures, into the college learning experience after they reopen.

"We are eager to keep what has worked during Covid," he continued.

"A lot of students are saying to me, they liked the idea of being able to playback the lectures as well.

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"We will sit down with Unions and we will talk about some of the good things that have come from Covid, can we embed them. I think the recorded lectures are a great idea."

200,000 college students are set to return to campus from September with large-scale lectures and nearly all facilities fully open, under plans being considered by Government.

However, numbers at campuses at any one time would likely continue to be monitored, using timetabling, and the use of rapid antigen testing at universities would also likely come into effect.

If approved, institutions should plan on the basis that everything will return as large-scale lectures will be permitted if the public health situation at the time allows.

The government is likely to analyse public health data closer to the time and if case numbers are low, facilities such as laboratory teaching, tutorials, workshops, smaller lectures, research, workplaces, libraries, canteens, sports facilities, clubs and societies, and bars, will be able to reopen.