UCD to conduct classes online and exams 'at distance' due to coronavirus spread

Speaking at a press conference in Washington DC on Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that schools, colleges and other public facilities would close from Thursday evening for at least two weeks in response to the spread of coronavirus. 

In an email to UCD students, following the Taoiseach’s announcement, President Andrew Deeks said that from 23 March, the university will be "adopting an at-distance teaching and learning model for all undergraduate and taught masters students." 

"We will continue to schedule teaching activities for each module in the existing semester timetable and academics and tutors will continue to interact with you in line with this timetable, but through electronic means," the email read. Students were told that some lectures will be podcasted whilst tutorials and group work will be mediated through online video services. 

Regarding assessments, including final exams, President Deeks announced that these will take place 'at distance'. 

The library and student centre will remain open, although limits will be placed on the number of people allowed inside at any given time. Some buildings are set to remain open as usual and catering provision will continue, although at a reduced level. Campus residences will remain open. 

Student support services will continue to be available and students will be contacted by their module coordinators to outline the delivery methods and assessment for their modules. 

All overseas travel is suspended until further notice and UCD Global is due to get in touch with students who are currently overseas. 

At the press conference in Washinton DC, Varadkar said: “I know that some of this is coming as a real shock and it is going involve big changes in the way we live our lives. I know that I am asking people to make enormous sacrifices. We’re doing it for each other. Together, we can slow the virus in its tracks and push it back. Acting together, as one nation, we can save many lives. Our economy will suffer. It will bounce back.” 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the decision to close colleges and other facilities was 'not being taken lightly'. "The closures proposed will disrupt the everyday connectivity that makes us who we are," he said, adding that the days and weeks ahead will be difficult, but the Government cannot succeed on its own. 

At a briefing on Thursday evening, Department of Health officials said the closure of schools, colleges and childcare facilities could extend beyond the two weeks first proposed by the Government, depending on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team. 

Other universities, including Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin, have also moved their lectures online and are arranging alternative assessment methods for most students' final exams.