Paul Hannigan, President LyIT - New beginning as college introduces blended learning model of face-to-face and online lectures.
The President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LyIT), Paul Hannigan, has moved to reassure the college’s first time and returning students regarding the coming post-covid academic year.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Mr Hannigan said LyIT was planning to welcome first year students to the LyIT campuses on Monday, September 28.
He also acknowledged the large proportion of LyIT’s 4,500 students who came from Inishowen, to avail of its 50 CAO programmes.
Paul Hannigan said: “LyIT receives fantastic support from principals, guidance counsellors, teachers, parents, students and community organisations in Inishowen. We appreciate this support and these strong partnerships and relationships.
“Students entering LyIT as first year’s, or as returners in 2020/2021, will receive a blended learning model, which includes a combination of face-to-face and online lectures.
“The executive management team has been putting plans in place to ensure that the new academic year will give new first year students the traditional LYIT student experience.
“Students will undertake the same number of contact hours with lecturers and fees will remain the same as previous years. We also want to remind students that SUSI grants have also adapted their application process to factor in ‘changes in financial circumstances due to Covid-19’ which means that people who are in receipt of a Covid-19 payment will be considered for grants in 2020/21. Inish Times readers should visit www.susi.ie for further information and advice on this,” said Paul Hannigan.
In terms of potential deficits in students’ skill set’s and learning should practical classes be reduced, Mr Hannigan said LYIT’s Executive Management team was “working hard” to ensure that practical classes and tutorials take place in 2020/21.
He added: “Our Estates Office is currently planning how this will happen and it is conscious of the practicalities involved in this, from a social distance and health and safety perspective.
“We plan to deliver practical and tutorial modules despite this challenge and will do this in a safe manner, delivering the highest standard of teaching.
“Practical classes are at the heart of what we do at LyIT, 72% of LYIT’s CAO programmes offer work placement opportunities.
“In preparation, Through its Teaching, Learning and Student Engagement Office, LyIT has undertaken a survey/audit on the needs of students regarding access to technology if they are working off campus from home. The Institute has carried out a survey with students to identify their experiences throughout the lockdown. This survey had almost 600 responses and the data emerging from this is extremely useful in planning for the next academic year and ensuring that the student voice is heard in any decisions taken,” said Mr Hannigan.
LyIT plans to support / meet the needs of students with identified special educational requirements in the coming academic year, for example students with an ASD or dyslexia diagnosis, via its Student Support Centre, The Curve.
According to Paul Hannigan, The Curve is one of the “longest established” Student Support Centres in Higher Education in Ireland.
Mr Hannigan explained: “When students apply to the CAO, students with a disability or resource requirement, tick a box in their CAO application, which is then communicated to LYIT by the CAO.
“Prior to joining the campus, students with special educational requirements are contacted directly by the team at The Curve, who then devise an educational plan that supports learners.
“This will not change regardless of Covid-19 restrictions. Delivering a positive student experience for students with varying needs is significantly important to us,” affirmed Paul Hannigan.
Again, reassuring LyIT students regarding the possible pitfalls of remote learning, primarily connectivity or the lack of it, Paul Hannigan said: “LyIT lecture sizes are small when you compare them to larger universities, this is actually a major positive for the institute, particularly during this challenging time.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, LyIT’s Academic staff monitored closely student participation and identified high-risk students, including students who had dis-engaged with teaching during the crisis.
“Students that highlighted technology and connectivity issues as a reason for dis-engagement were then contacted by their relevant Head of Department and arrangements were put in place to support these learners further, this will continue in 2020/21.
“LyIT is a strong, close-knit community and this was very evident during this pandemic. We will continue to make every effort to support our learners facing connectivity and communication issues. It is also hoped that some finance package could be offered by our bank to support students purchasing laptops,” said Mr Hannigan.
The LyIT President said the college understood, sports, extracurricular activities, and friendships were “significantly important” for new and returning students.
He added: “Our LyIT community is strong and vibrant and at LYIT we will follow Department of Health guidelines to ensure students receive a positive student experience, despite the challenging circumstances.
“We are heartened to hear that the GAA Summer Camps will re-commence on 20 July and this gives LyIT hope that as each day passes, more and more positive activities, and social gatherings can be organised.
“All colleges and universities face this significant challenge, however, we expect that LYIT sports teams and individual sports training activities will re-commence in the academic year with social distancing and Department of Health guidelines in place,” said Mr Hannigan.
Paul Hannigan was at pains to point out LyIT students will not be penalised due to family circumstances arising from Covid-19.
He said: “Students are the heart of the LyIT ethos, student representatives are members of LyIT’s Governing Body and ‘students as partners’ is of significant importance in LYIT’s Strategic Plan 2019-2023.
“Penalising students due to illness and strained family circumstances because of Covid-19 will not happen.
“In relation to childcare commitments, we are delighted to hear that creche’s will re-open on 29 June, in the next phase of re-opening Ireland. At LyIT we offer significant supports for mature students and students with families.
“In fact, we offer financial supports which include a Crèche Subsidy Scheme, which is administered by our Students’ Union, and financial supports from The Curve, which includes the Student Assistance Fund and also, the 1916 Bursary Fund. These financial support schemes support students returning to education, many of whom face particularly challenging financial and/or family commitments, these schemes have been in place for many years at LyIT,” said Paul Hannigan.
Students interested in knowing more about these bursaries were advised to contact LyIT’s Schools Engagement Officer for further details on firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the event of an LyIT student or staff member presenting with Covid-19 symptoms in the incoming academic year, LyIT will follow Department of Health guidelines when it comes to contact tracing, isolation, and quarantining.
Paul Hannigan said all Higher Education institutions and universities would comply with national guidelines in this instance.
Mr Hannigan added: “In the coming academic year, LyIT students will receive a blended model of course delivery, which includes a combination of face-to-face and also, online contact.
“Face-to-face contact will allow students to build relationships with their lecturer and LYIT is working hard to ensure significant face-to-face contact between first year students and academic staff.
“We expect that bus operators will make every effort to ensure that all clients are brought to, and from, their respective destinations.
“LyIT’s programmes begin on Monday, September 28 and students are advised to contact LYIT’s Student Union before securing and booking student accommodation to get the most up-to-date and accurate advice,” concluded Mr Hannigan.
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