Last week, there were mixed feelings following the news of the closure of Irish colleges and universities, but it is now perceived very much as a necessary measure, among the many others that the government is putting in place. While the university may not have activities on campus, the university simply does not stop and we have actually already moved all the teaching activities online.
As lecturers, we are doing our best to guarantee the continuity of academic activities and are implementing effective systems so that you can access material remotely. Even before the announcement of the shutdown last week, universities began providing all staff with accounts to be able to deliver classes online in a setting that replicates the class dynamic and interaction in a very efficient way.
Make the most of this time, while taking care of yourself
This emergency that we are facing is showing resilience and creativity. With Industry 4.0, digitalisation is a minimum standard. The virus is speeding up our digital learning curve, and we are now looking at new and innovative ways of using online technologies for our teaching. This emergency is forcing lecturers to go out of their comfort zone and explore new and fascinating methodologies of real-time and remote interaction with students through digital platforms.
So what are our students supposed to do? Here are five very simple and practical suggestions that all students can follow at this time to stay updated and follow the university continuity plan:
Check your email
Your lecturers are doing their best to keep you informed about the way in which they will deliver the educational services you were supposed to receive in person in the coming weeks.
Read the news
I often ask in class how many students actually read the news and the answer is not reassuring. The large majority of students are not used to going online and browsing well-known newspapers to read the news. They are more used to scrolling through their social media feeds and reading what other people "select" for them. This can be a very good opportunity to become familiar with well accredited newspapers and to receive accurate and verified information about the situation that the world is facing.
You are not on holiday
it may seem obvious advice, but you are not on holiday. It is important that you keep up your reading and that you do not give up studying in these weeks. You do not have to commute to the university, so you have more flexibility in managing your schedule. Make a good plan and use your calendar in the smartest way possible, so you know what you are supposed to at different points of the day. You will end up realising that you have more time than expected, probably even a bit of free time.
Follow your online lectures and do your assignments
If you manage your schedule well, you will see that it will be easy for you to keep up with all the modules of this semester. Moreover, you can now reflect more on your learning experience: this is the time of critical thinking and smart interactions, it is not a time for passive reception of content. It is the time of inquisitive minds.
Enjoy some free time
Make sure that your free time is not all screen time. Technology is useful only if it really helps us flourish as human beings. We can use our screens, but we are not made to be in front of them all the time. Free time is a time for wonder, amazement, and the rediscovery of real interactions - first of all with oneself. This is a unique time for self-reflection and real human conversations (with the distances recommended by healthcare agencies, of course). Do not waste your time, invest it in the best way possible.
Dear students, make the most of this time, while taking care of yourself. Universities are not just institutions that deliver a service: they are living communities that share a clear mission. Your personal flourishing as critical and independent thinkers and good professionals is at the heart of the mission of a university. We are exploring new ways to be a supportive and innovative educational community, in light of the new circumstances. The word "crisis", in its Greek etymological root, means "judgement": take this moment that the world is facing as a constructive time to reflect and keep building up the best version of yourself. Your universities are here to help.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ