Teaching staff in Trinity have hit out at College for failing to provide additional funding to facilitate online teaching and learning, which will continue into the next academic year.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has been told that individual schools will be responsible for securing funding to ensure that staff can facilitate online teaching and learning from their homes.
In an email statement to The University Times, John Walsh, the chair of Trinity’s IFUT branch, said: “A key issue raised with IFUT by academic colleagues is non-availability of IT equipment and facilities at home, sometimes at a basic level – there is a digital divide here.”
“Not all staff have access to the necessary ICT for online teaching and learning, even in terms of basic hardware such as laptops or desktops at home and there may also be issues in terms of physical space for home working”, Walsh said. “Some academics have been trying to offer classes through mobile phones.”
“The College centrally should be supporting staff in securing the essential basic equipment for online teaching and learning.”
At a recent webinar, IFUT inquired about the support that would be available to staff if they do not have the necessary ICT facilities or equipment to facilitate online teaching and learning. It was told, Walsh said, that “this is currently being addressed by the ‘Preparing for Teaching and Learning Online Group’ and training courses will be available over the coming months for academic staff to use the various VLE platforms”.
However, it was told, “if additional hardware is required for staff members, this is an issue to be addressed on a School by School basis as no central funding is currently available for such equipment”.
Walsh said this response was “disappointing”: “It is unrealistic to place the responsibility on schools which are already hard pressed and sometimes face budget deficits of their own to solve a college wide problem.”
“This will have to be addressed if a hybrid model of teaching and learning is to work for staff and students”, he said.
Trinity did not respond to a request for comment from The University Times.
Last month, The University Times reported that classes of over 25 people will be held online next year. Provost Patrick Prendergast had previously announced in a video on social media that online teaching was likely to continue into next year, with large lectures to be delivered online while smaller lectures, seminars and tutorials return to campus.