After a couple of weeks break, I am now "back" to work, but working from home. It's a strange feeling not to be riding into the College in Dublin City Centre this morning trying to see what has changed on the street landscapes since before my holidays. Though NCI is opening its campus next Monday, I have no plans to go there in the next few weeks - I will continue to work from my home office.
The Government has published guidelines for third-level institutions today. Shauna Bowers writes in today's Irish Times that Students to wear face coverings in lectures where two metre distance not possible. She also reports that "In the event that tuition requires the staff member to be less than two metres from students, the staff member should wear face shields, visors or other protective equipment which will be provided by the college or university", and that class sizes be restricted to just 50 students. All of this makes perfect sense from a public health point of view, though NCI is way ahead with plans for opening the campus next Monday:
But will there be any students? Most classes are going to be on-line in semester I - both Lecturers and students will be at home for class. Some Colleges are planning to provide classes both on-line and live in the classroom - I wonder how well that will go down with the unions? Is it practical? Is is necessary? Who is going to come to the College campus when classes are also on-line? We showed at the end of the last academic year, and with courses running over the summer, that everything is possible on-line. True - many students might prefer to study in the library, but with more ebooks available, this too seems to be a bit old-fashioned.
It is my view now that physical classroom space in a College campus is no longer necessary. It is possible or even probable that students feel the same. No one thought a few years ago that the likes of Tinder and Bumble would replace the pub or disco as a place to meet someone - yet it seems to be very normal now. It is not that long ago that it would have been unusual for a student to bring a computer to College - now they almost all do. An true education revolution has taken place over the past few months, and Colleges will struggle to justify the existence of their old-fashioned lecture halls and classrooms.
There should be no going back.