Lectures during lockdown — student looks back on year with Whatsapp classmates

College life without meeting classmates, playing sport, or the social interactions that come as a rite of passage have been mentioned as the more obvious side effects of a year of studying virtually. But it has its pros and cons, according to one NUI Galway journalism student gave her view on what life was like while studying for post graduate studies.

Louise Toal is a Masters in Sports Journalism student from Sligo, who is also the first woman to study an MA in Sports Journalism with NUIG. She found that there were perks and drawbacks to studying for a Masters online.

Louise is no stranger to unusual environments and has a wide range of media experience.

“I began my broadcasting career at 16 with Ocean FM and travelled around Connacht working on live broadcasts as a runner. I moved to Dublin to study journalism with Ballyfermot College and then transferred to DCU where I studied a BA in Communications. I worked with RTÉ as a Broadcast Coordinator with RTÉjr and RTÉ Radio 1 for 4 years and had the pleasure to work alongside incredible teams from RTÉjr, The Marian Finucane Show to Liveline and Sport. I also used to schedule for Television for RTÉ One and RTÉjr.”

“With Erika Sassone, Charlotte Lavin, Philip Downes and Stephen Holland, we produced and edited a podcast called Bye Bye Briquette that’s about the cease of production of the peat briquette by 2024. It has been nominated for an award at the National Student Media Awards.”

She found that there were a lot of perks while attending online classes. She would have commuted four hours a day to college by bus. Louise feels that having online lectures was great because she saved time and money on transport.

She didn’t have internet at her house in Sligo until last Christmas, so she needed to invest in its installation because they were switching to online.

“I moved out of my aunts and I was told by Eir that I couldn’t get proper high-speed broadband because only a certain amount of people can get it in my area.

“My sister is studying with UCD online also so we got the next best thing which was mobile broadband. It can be temperamental but it usually behaves itself. I look forward to hearing more about the government’s National Broadband plan.”

They switched fully online for February and returned in March to a blended learning experience again — something she would strongly recommend in the future for students.

“It was great that you had the option to go back on recordings of class in case you missed one. She says she was lucky she didn’t have exams, just continuous assessment.”

She would have worked in groups for different assignments and it was challenging because they were all communicating on WhatsApp.

When asked about how it affected her field placement she said: “This year it wasn’t compulsory to take up placement but there is a good selection of jobs and grad programmes that I have applied for. The college has been great in pointing us to opportunities out there.”

“I can’t say the term ‘new normal’ sits well with me. There’s nothing normal about the situation we find ourselves in. Sitting in a class having my glasses fog up because I’m wearing a mask isn’t normal, not being able to play sports in college isn’t normal or not being able to go to a pub for more than two hours isn’t normal.

“I hope that the vaccines that we have will stand against all variants of Covid and that we can return to a normal way of living,” she said.

Louise is not alone in her experience. Many students in Galway have had similar memories of living and studying in extraordinary times. Our admiration lies with the students who embraced remote learning and managed to complete the year.


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