Drogheda Institute in a Covid-19 World
March 12th 2020, is a day very few of us in Drogheda Institute will forget. Just like other life-moments, we will probably all remember where we were when we heard the news that from 6.00 p.m. that day all schools and colleges were to close.
Drogheda Institute of Further Education went from the classroom to online in six hours. Our contingency plan was in three parts – part 1: finish the courses, part 2: complete the assessments, and part 3: process and approve the results. This contingency plan could not be a solo effort. We had to work within the parameters of the LMETB Contingency Plan which also had to be agreed with the the major awarding body Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). While maintaining the integrity and the standard of the qualifications system, we had to move this part of the operation entirely online. It proved to be a great collaborative exercise across our entire college and was ably facilitated by our excellent ICT technical staff.
Unlike the Leaving Certificate which was forced into cancellation our online virtual learning environment – Moodle, enabled our students to complete their course and achieve certification. Once again our students have excelled in both coursework and examinations and many will now have the opportunity to progress through CAO to further and higher education. It is a great pity that we have had to postpone our annual graduation ceremony but will look forward to holding the event later in the year and celebrating our students outstanding success.
As we draw this academic year to a close, and we turn our focus to September, there are a number of key issues facing Drogheda Institute. Assuming some degree of social distancing and without knowing the details, these issues will include new forms and modes of provision, online assessments, new teaching and learning methodologies and dealing with work experience placements. IT connectivity for our students will also need to be addressed and we must make sure that this does not become a barrier to student participation on our courses.
Each year DIFE offers more than 50 full time further education courses to over 960 undergraduate and mature students within its state of the art campus in Drogheda, Co. Louth. The diverse range of courses span the following disciplines Art, Design & Technology, Business Humanities & IT, Sports, Leisure & Tourism, Applied Science and Community & Healthcare. These full time courses allow students to progress to Higher Education and Employment. All courses are fully accredited by QQI Level 5 and 6 and relevant professional examining bodies.
An increasing number of students are choosing to study a one year full time course in DIFE to allow them to upskill, gain relevant industry qualifications, progress to higher education or an employment/apprenticeship. Work placement in every course allows students to make an informed career decision and develop excellent collaboration with local employers.
Just prior to college closure DIFE were awarded the overall winner of the “Best Provider of Further Education in Ireland” at the ‘Education Awards 2020’ gala awards ceremony in Dublin. This prestigious award, which is open to all FET providers (both within universities and the private sector), recognises excellence in the provision of Further Education over the previous 12 months. It is recognition for the hard work and dedication of the entire staff and a testament to the excellent teaching and learning that takes place.
In the past the vast bulk of education has been calibrated to be predominately classroom based and supported by online provision. Circumstances might be somewhat different but Drogheda Institute plans to reopen to students from next September 2020. Indeed applications for 2020/2021 are currently open, check out the college website at www.dife.ie to apply. In these uncertain times, Drogheda Institute will rise to the new challenges presenting in a Covid-19 World and will provide the people of Drogheda and its hinterland a Further Education and Training service of which they can feel justifiably proud.