'We're only a week in but it's working well': Cork schools adapting to online learning

'We're only a week in but it's working well': Cork schools adapting to online learning

School principal Aaron Wolfe sitting in one of his classrooms at Coláiste Éamann Rís, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

SECONDARY schools in Cork have reported a “successful” and “positive” experience with online learning as they head into the second week of at-home tuition of 2021 for students.

With a lot of the initial teething problems ironed out during the closure of schools in March 2020, a number of second-level schools across Cork have, this time, received positive feedback from teachers, students and parents after the reintroduction of online learning.

Principal at Coláiste Éamann Rís, Aaron Wolfe said that online learning has been “successful” this time around, with most of the groundwork completed during the lockdown in March last year.

“A lot of schools have set up systems in place already to use Google Meets, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, so we’re now in a much better place and a number of teachers have embraced the idea of live classes,” he said.

“The attendance has been fantastic as well,” he added.

Mr Wolfe also noted positive feedback from both students and parents during the first week back to online classes.

He said that adapting to online learning initially last year was a bit of challenge but now, students and staff are used to the setup and they have adjusted accordingly.

“They turn up for class at 8:45, they’re having an assembly and they’re even getting to meet their friends through breakout rooms on Google Classroom.”

Though the school are eager to return to the classroom, Mr Wolfe said some pressure has been taken off with the early success of the reintroduction of at-home tuition.

“We’re always keen to get back but this time, I don’t think the urgency is there. We’re only a week in but it’s working so well.”

Bríd Lysaght, Principal at Nagle Rice Secondary School in Doneraile, has echoed a similar experience among her school community.

Ms Lysaght also said that there were some “teething problems” last year but that the school learned a lot during the first lockdown and now, “it is working well”.

“This is working out. It is working out and certainly, since March, the course has been tweaked and we have gotten clear instructions from the Department on their expectations. I think we learned a lot from the first lockdown and certainly, the whole system has improved,” she said.

With a school located in a more rural area, Ms Lysaght said that internet connection would be the only issue with at-home learning.

However, the ability to provide devices to some students has resolved one of the issues they ran into in March and there is now “less of a problem with devices this time”.

“Am I happy at the end of week one? Yes, I’m very happy and I think our staff are so committed to our students and great work has gone here during the week for students at our school.

“I would be very positive about it and again, the work that the SNAs and the teachers are doing is just amazing,” she added.

As a Microsoft Showcase School, students and staff at Kinsale Community School were able meet the challenges of online learning quickly last year.

Pictured at Kinsale Community School was principal Fergal McCarthy. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at Kinsale Community School was principal Fergal McCarthy. Picture Denis Boyle

Principal Fergal McCarthy said that the school have adjusted their teaching methods with the implementation of online learning again last week and have worked hard to mimic the typical classroom setting.

“We came into this last March in a really, really good place but we have been able to take it up a notch and our virtual classroom is really close in terms of content, atmosphere and quality, to that which is available in an in-school setting.

“Obviously it is hard to trump the in-school setting and that human engagement… but we have now taken it to a degree that it’s almost as good as that.”

Mr McCarthy also noted excellent engagement from students with online learning and has found the new method of teaching “much more captivating” as staff work to mimic the school environment.

“We’re finding that students are actually enjoying their lesson,” he said.

“What I’m really proud of is how my staff have really met the moment and met the challenge of the time and adapted their teaching to such an extent that I have been inundated with positive comments from parents and students of the week that has just passed,” added Mr McCarthy.

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