The coronavirus has brushed aside everything we thought we knew about College. Once, there were three certainties for students: death, lectures and exams. It is unclear whether or not this will continue to be the case.
So far, Trinity has faced up to an impossible situation valiantly, shutting down the college quickly and without too much ado. College kept a level head after it reported its first case of the virus on March 5th, and refunding students living in College accommodation who wanted to go home was a classy touch.
The government’s stance on colleges has been decisive: if the pandemic sweeps across the nation, Ireland’s colleges will not shoulder the blame.
But Trinity now faces a staggering number of obstacles. Students are set to return to campus on March 29th. It appears unlikely that College will be able – or allowed – to open its gates by this time. Trinity Ball is set to take place on April 17th. This now sounds like a laughable proposition, but cancellation will hurt the College’s pockets.
As reported by The University Times today, SIPTU has justifiable complaints about cleaning and catering staff being forced to work by the College – another business question that College will have to grapple with.
Trinity wants to replace lectures and tutorials with online teaching, but will it be possible to convert traditionally old-fashioned lecturers into technophiles? IT services will have a lot on its plate in the coming weeks.
And, as if running classes online wasn’t hard enough, exams are going to be an even bigger minefield. In-person examinations will be replaced by online assessments, but it is unclear what these assessments will entail, and how exactly they will be run. How will the college stop students from cheating? How will students study for them if the library is closed?
Trinity has done well so far in what are totally uncharted waters, but it now faces almost insurmountable problems. No one expects answers to every problem straight away, but Trinity can’t afford to dilly-dally. These are strange, strange times, and the College must be bold in the face of them.