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COVID-19: National College of Ireland's Response


National College of Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has primarily been motivated by the College’s duty of care to its students and staff, while observing international best practice and abiding by national governance.

In February, following WHO/HSE advice on how to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, the College swiftly took every precaution in advising students as to handwashing and cough/sneeze hygiene, communicating directly via email as well as displaying information posters throughout the College, alongside making alcohol-based hand sanitiser readily available, and freely supplying paper handkerchiefs in the atrium of the campus. These actions were complemented by additional cleaning throughout the campus, especially of frequently used surfaces such as desks and door handles.

On March 10th, as part of its contingency planning, the College announced that its May exams would be replaced with alternative assessments that would not require in-person attendance at exam centres.

The Government’s decision to commence ‘Stay At Home’ and ‘Social Distancing’ was implemented at 6pm on Thursday 12th March. At this point, the College’s duty of care to staff and students included ensuring that alternative teaching and assessment was both possible and would satisfy QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) criteria, so that NCI student results/qualifications would not be compromised as a result of the global pandemic.

From March 12th onwards, as each point on the College’s contingency plan was confirmed and implemented, students and staff received regular updates on the College’s response to COVID-19 via their NCI email accounts; students received specific course-related information via Moodle and directly through their NCI email; the NCI website and social media channels contained and/or linked to and pushed relevant information and Frequently Asked Questions. FAQs are updated on an ongoing basis to reflect the evolving situation both within the College (academic governance and management), and in response to Government, HSE and Department of Education advice and instruction.

The College has continued to communicate with staff and students via these routes. For reference, below is a summary of the communication of COVID-19 contingency measures, notified to students and/or staff throughout March and April 2020, showing the evolution as plans were implemented and/or questions arose.

Note: This summary includes links to information that may be of interest to staff and students right now (30th April 2020), however it will not be regularly updated. Our FAQ section will continue to be updated in 'real time'. As always, students should check their course Moodle page for the most current information specific to their own studies and assessments.

Transition to online delivery:

  • No face-to-face classes or tutorials would be held for the remainder of Semester 2 2019/20.
  • Alternative delivery of classes would continue throughout Semester 3 2019/20.
  • Projects, undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation supervision would continue online.
  • School of Computing Final Year Projects would be supervised online.
  • Teaching materials are available on Moodle and voice over presentations are provided for students where possible/appropriate.
  • Faculty allocated specific times during teaching weeks, usually during the normal delivery time for the module, so that students could contact them with queries and/or further instruction.
  • Faculty provided additional directed reading materials and/or video clips for students to review where appropriate.
  • Moodle pages were used as the primary source of information for updates from faculty on programme and module specific contingencies, supports and guidance.
  • All institutional-level support services and structures were made available online (including student study supports/welfare/guidance/counselling services, library and academic integrity supports, careers service, registry, IT support etc).
  • Decisions are currently being made regarding the continuation of alternative arrangement for teaching and assessments throughout Semester 1 2020/21. These will be communicated when approved within the academic governance and management structure.

Transition to online assessments:

  • There will be no in-person end-of-semester or terminal examinations in May or August 2020. We will only use alternative assessments.
  • Alternative assessment offered across NCI include a range of timed online exams as well as alternative assignments.
  • Programme coordinators and Moodle will be used as the primary mechanisms for confirming the alternative assessments being applied at a programme level.
  • Faculty will be available at the pre-defined times to answer questions and queries on alternative assessments.
  • In the event of a resit, alternative assessment will be arranged, which will not require students to be present in the College.
  • School of Computing Specific Arrangements:
    1. Assessment Presentations/Vivas will take place online.
    2. August Terminal Examinations will be replaced by Online Terminal Assessments (similar to current semester) and these dates will be built into the Continual Assessment Schedule highlighted clearly, so that all students can clearly see the expectation.
    3. All repeat examinations will also be replaced by Terminal Assessments and will be placed on your original Moodle page in June by your lecturer.

Exams/Assessments:

  • The assignment tasks for many modules will be issued during April to facilitate a longer more staggered examination period.
  • Dates for completion/submission of assignments replacing the terminal examinations will be communicated by each school. The dates for completion and submissions will not be any later than the end of semester 2 examinations, 20th May 2020.
  • Award stage results will be prioritised in exam boards.
  • Programme Directors are working to ensure that submission dates for assignments on their programmes are staggered to avoid conflicting completion deadlines for students.
  • The impact on the learner experience from the change to an online learning environment and the replacement of terminal examinations with alternative assignments in the current semester will be taken into consideration in the marking and at the examination board discussions.
  • The College’s Academic Honesty and Integrity Policy will continue to apply to all assessments in the normal way.

Extensions:

  • Students need to be mindful that it may not be possible to grant an extension given the current QQI examination board dates. All student marks must be presented at exam boards for a student to progress/graduate. Therefore, if a student’s marks are not presented at an exam board due to an extension then they will not be able to progress/graduate.
  • Programme co-ordinators will advise individual students if an extension request is possible in light of exam board dates:
  • A rerun can be requested for any in class assessment(s) scheduled to take place on or after the 12th of March.
  • An extension can be applied for where a limited amount of extra time is required to complete an assessment.
  • Extensions cannot be granted for Terminal Alternative Assessments or for the 4th Year Software Project module.

Deferrals:

  • Should any student feel that they are not in a position to continue with their studies for any reason due to Covid-19, they can apply for a deferral.
  • Application for a deferral should be done online however no supporting documentation is required in these exceptional circumstances.
  • There will be no academic penalty applied to any student who decides to defer, and all work previously successfully completed by a student in the academic year 2019/2020 will be ‘banked’ and rolled forward.
  • In deciding to apply for a deferral, students should be mindful that while no academic penalty is applied a deferred student will have to wait for their missed modules to roll around again resulting in a delay of up to a year to their studies.
  • Any student who wishes to attempt their modules under COVID-19 arrangements, i.e.; alternative delivery, and subsequently believes they have been negatively impacted in terms of their marks or their overall experience, they will be allowed to apply for a retrospective deferral.

Repeats:

  • There will be no repeat penalty for alternative assessment.
  • Any student who is required to repeat a module from Semester 2/Spring 2020 will not have their award capped if they are in award stage.
  • Repeat sittings for modules failed in the Spring 2019/2020 semester assessments will not result in any academic penalty or additional repeat fees.
  • Students will be allowed to repeat the terminal assessment for the Spring semester 2019/2020 without penalty. Repeat sittings for modules failed in the Spring semester assessments will not result in any academic penalty or additional repeat fees. - These arrangements will not apply to students sitting repeat assessments for modules failed during the autumn semester (semester 1 2019/2020).
  • Student can also apply for an Examination Review as per existing college policies.