Agri colleges amid Covid-19: What should students know?

Agricultural colleges run by Teagasc are continuing to run with the aid of technology – which will continue over the coming weeks and months, according to Tony Pettit.

Pettit, who is head of education at Teagasc, explained to AgriLand what the agricultural authority’s current position is.

Online channels

“Existing Teagasc courses have continued since the Covid-19 lockdown using online channels to support delivery and assessment,” he said.

As for all providers there are challenges involved in remote delivery; however, Teagasc has been satisfied with course outcomes to date and with the exceptional level of commitment by staff in maintaining remote delivery from their own homes.

Turning to the application process for next autumn, Pettit said that Teagasc is open for business and taking course applications as normal.

Virtual open days

“Applicants for full-time Level 5 courses at the Teagasc network of colleges should apply now using the ‘Apply Online’ link on the Teagasc website homepage,” he explained.

Teagasc is hosting a series of virtual events for prospective applicants to its full-time Level 5 agriculture, horticulture, equine and forestry courses.

The first in the series commences on Wednesday, June 3, with the final event on Wednesday, June 17.

The head of education noted that most events are scheduled for 7:00pm but events for some specialised course areas are at a different time.

Each event in the series will focus on an individual college in the overall Teagasc network.

“Staff from the relevant college will provide live presentations on their college and courses interspersed with video footage of college educational facilities and farm enterprises.

Each college will also host a virtual question-and-answer session and advice on how to complete the online course application process.

Those interested in Teagasc’s adult part-time or distance education Green Cert courses should contact their local Teagasc Education Officer or College for information, the head of education added.

Autumn 2020 delivery

Turning to the agricultural authority’s plans for September, in light of the coronavirus situation, Pettit said:

“Teagasc intends that full-time Level 5 and 6 for the 2020/2021 academic year courses will commence in September, which is the normal starting time.

“Adult part-time and distance education course will commence as normal on a rolling basis.

However, delivery models will be adapted to the national Covid-19 management guidelines for education institutions in regard to resumption of courses. These guidelines have not yet being issued.

Pettit explained that Teagasc is planning for a blended education delivery model, adding that this blended model will include face-to-face delivery combined with remote delivery.

The ratio of face-to-face delivery to remote delivery will be adjusted as necessary to meet Covid-19 restrictions in place at a given time, he stressed.

“As for all workplaces and education environments, Covid-19 management and social distancing will bring new challenges that staff and learners will have to adapt to. Colleges and all Teagasc centres are preparing Covid-19 compliance plans for staff and learners.

Learners will be briefed at the time of course registration on education delivery approaches and Covid-19 compliance requirements.

“In summary, courses will commence in September, applicants should apply as normal, but in light of Covid-19 restrictions expect that more of the course content will be delivered online than has been the case to date,” Pettit concluded.