For Cavan twins Cian and Leah Murray, remote learning is working better during this lockdown but it still presents challenges.
“At the start it was a bit hectic, trying to organise laptops, printers and wifi connection but now it’s settled down” explains Leah Murray.
Leah Murray is a Leaving Cert student at St Bricin’s College in Belturbet. Her twin brother Cian who did Transition Year, is in 5th year.
While their timetable is different, sometimes online classes clash.
“If we both have live classes at the same time and you’re trying to keep the volume down and each hear your own and still be able to contribute, it can get a bit difficult” explains Cian.
“Sharing printers and then there’s the wi-fi, it’s fine in the morning but then in the evening when you are trying to send stuff, it gets very slow” says Leah Murray.
She’s also dealing with the added worry of the Leaving Certificate and whether it will go ahead. The Minister for Education Norma Foley has said she wants the exam to go ahead but Leah Murray has her own concerns.
“Like you’re worried about when you’ll have your mocks, when are the orals, if I’ve a practical, when can I get into the school to finish it” she says.
“And then I think about the Leaving Cert, is it fair for me to do it? Are they really thinking of putting us all in a class? And what will the numbers be like then?” she said.
The students say they miss their friends and the interaction in the classroom.
“Normally when you’re in school, you just chat away to your friends when you’re doing your work. You’re sitting at your table here and you’ve no one to chat to”, said Leah.
“There’s no real socialising now, you’re just sitting at home, looking at a screen 9-4” said Cian.
He also says that online classes can lead to some confusion.
“You can be asked a question and then everyone goes to answer it. Or then you wait for someone to answer it and it goes dead silent. So it can get a bit confusing”, he laughs.
Alysha Millar is another Leaving Cert student in Belturbet.
“I wouldn’t mind sitting the Leaving Cert but I feel we’re at a real disadvantage because we missed so much last year and we’re still trying to get our course covered. I would just rather find out soon what’s going to happen instead of being left with the uncertainty” she said.
There’s no doubt online teaching is running much smoother this time. However, it takes time and it’s not plain sailing for everyone.
David Brady, a maths teacher at St Bricin’s College in Belturbet, explains “it takes between around 14 or 15 hours a day to prepare a lesson, record them, present them, set assignments and correct them”.
Mr Brady said most students are embracing remote learning however it has presented some challenges.
“I looked into students that weren’t engaging and in a lot of case there’s a few students in the house and they’re sharing a device so it can be difficult for them”, he said.
Barry Reynolds teaches history and geography at St Bricin’s College. He explains what while students are enjoying it more this time round, it’s not a long-term solution.
“Virtual teaching is good and it’s come on a long way but I don’t think virtual learning is easy for every student and I think most of them would like to be back in a face-to-face setting”, he said.