In a survey conducted before Covid-19 restrictions were put into place, 80% of Irish students said they were satisfied with their college experience. Students post-implementation of restrictions have told The College Tribune that they are significantly less satisfied with their college experience.
80% of Irish students indicated that they would evaluate their overall educational experience at their institution as good or excellent. 84% said that if they could start over, they would probably or definitely attend the same institution they are in now.
The annual Irish Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by StudentSurvey.ie, was published on November 24th. The report stated that all but five higher education institutions had completed fieldwork before campuses closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey looked more closely at the responses of first-year undergraduates this year, in response to the 2020/21 first-year cohort’s substantially different experience to previous years. The majority of first-year students in 2020 are experiencing higher education online for the first time, with little to no time on campus. 39% of students who responded to the survey were first-year undergraduates.
To establish a national baseline of first-year experiences, StudentSurvey.ie’s report considered the average results of first-year undergraduate responses from 2018, 2019 and 2020. The survey also focused on the areas of education most likely to be affected by the move to online learning.
The results of the survey highlight the importance of interaction with other students to a positive college experience. 81% of first-year students rated their interactions with other students highly, with 35% rated them as “excellent”. 83% of first-years said that they prepared for exams with classmates at least “sometimes”, with 44% of these doing so often or very often. 54% of first-year students said they worked with peers on projects or assignments often or very often.
The College Tribune spoke to students about what has changed for them since college moved online.
Tamara O’Neill-Coyle graduated from University College Dublin (UCD) this year, and is now studying for a Masters degree. She feels that she is missing out academically as a result of online learning. “I miss being able to use the library on campus as I was able to find more resources for assignments,” she told the paper. “I also miss being able to talk about assignments in person with lectures and other students. I feel like I never know what’s going on now.”
Other students emphasised the loneliness of studying from home. Eleanor Dunne is a final-year student at UCD, and told the Tribune she misses seeing people on campus. “I’ve managed to stay in touch with friends from college, but it’s sad not seeing classmates that you have a good relationship with. I’m in final year now and I’ve realised that I won’t see most of those people again.”
Pierce Mulholland graduated from Maynooth University this year, and also feels online college is much lonelier. “I miss the social life and little things like getting coffee and lunch with friends and just forgetting about lectures for an hour. It’s a much more lonely experience now,” he said to the Tribune.
Isobel Dunne – Reporter