Teaching and Learning – Rising to the Challenge through COVID 19 crisis

Niamh Moore-Cherry, Vice-Principal for Teaching and Learning

At our regular monthly College T&L meeting on March 4th, the support of technology-enhanced learning within our curricula was one of our key discussion topics. Little did we know that within a week, the University campus would be closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Closing the university with six hours notice was shocking but attention immediately turned to how our students and their learning journeys would be supported. 

Campus closure meant that all of our teaching for the remaining 5 weeks of the trimester would have to move online. This required an extraordinary commitment by faculty, staff and tutors to upskilling rapidly, learning to use new software, adapting learning materials to the new context, rewriting assessment strategies and rethinking the dynamics of student engagement. Despite the scale of the challenge in a very short timeframe, the resilience of our educational activity to this systemic shock has been extraordinary.

Enabled by a profound sense of community and togetherness across College and the University T&L Community in general, the wellbeing and welfare of our students and colleagues has been our core priority. A herculean effort has gone in from individual faculty, School admin teams, College programme offices, the University T&L unit, IT Services, student advisers and all the central units to ensure the continuity of our educational mission. This has involved cancelling the ‘RDS exams’, putting online and other alternatives in place and rescheduling them all, delivering lectures remotely via Zoom and Virtual Classroom, writing new guidance to support faculty and students on new learning approaches and technologies, and developing a series of working groups to respond immediately as critical issues arise.  

The key driver has been supporting our students - whether they are in Ireland, on exchange or studying overseas - to fulfil their full potential even in these challenging times. Seeing our UCD alumni leading the response nationally and internationally to the pandemic has been an inspiration to all of us. Despite the difficult circumstances, our classes of 2020 will leave UCD knowing they have been fully supported – and may in fact have become more adaptable, resilient, and creative graduates - in their transition to become part of our global alumni community.