Teachers say poor internet access is a barrier for working remotely

30 Apr 2020

Image: © Milica/Stock.adobe.com

In areas such as Mayo, Wexford and Cavan, nearly half of teachers surveyed by Studyclix said that poor broadband has been an obstacle for remote teaching.

Today (30 April), Studyclix released the results of a survey of 1,500 second-level teachers, which suggested that unreliable internet access is a barrier to teaching for just over a third (35pc) of teachers.

Studyclix said that Ireland’s “patchy broadband infrastructure” is having a negative impact on remote teaching as schools remain closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

More than half (53pc) of teachers surveyed in Mayo, 50pc in Wexford and 48pc in Cavan said that poor internet connections were affecting their teaching work.

The survey gathered information from a small sample of Studyclix’s 29,000 registered second-level teachers. The online education resource platform also has 190,000 registered student users.

Student engagement

Nearly eight out of ten (78pc) respondents said that there is a lack of student engagement during the coronavirus pandemic, with many students “not responding to” or engaging with their teachers.

While some of this may be down to stress, 47pc of teachers surveyed said it may also be caused by insufficient access to a laptop, tablet or other device that aids their study from home. Additionally, around a third of teachers who took the survey said they lack “the technical know-how” to effectively carry out online teaching.

In terms of teaching tools, 41pc said that they were using Google Classroom, 41pc said Microsoft Teams and just 26pc said that they were using Zoom.

Last week, the Government allocated €10m to schools to be spent on measures to address the digital divide being experienced by students around the country, prioritising the purchase of laptops for Leaving Cert students who need access to technology.

Studyclix founder Luke Saunders said: “Schools have now been closed for almost six weeks and I think it’s vital we get these devices to exam-year students who need them as soon as possible to avoid them being disadvantaged for any longer.”

Saunders added that the results of the survey suggest a “pronounced digital divide” emerging, where certain students and teachers are put at a disadvantage. “I feel that students in remote rural areas and those in disadvantaged urban areas are being particularly left behind.”

More pressure on teachers

Most of the teachers surveyed (79pc) said they are working more hours than they did before the Covid-19 crisis, while 93pc said that they are finding online teaching more difficult than classroom teaching.

“I think there has been a lot of comment in the media about how some teachers are not pulling their weight when it comes to delivering remote lessons and sending their students work online,” Saunders said.

“My experience from talking to many second-level teachers in recent weeks is that they are finding the prep time in delivering remote lessons to be very time-consuming and stressful, particularly when many are trying to home school their own children.

“The consensus I am hearing is that they would much rather be back in the classroom with their students.”

In spite of challenges, 74pc of teachers in the survey said that the Department of Education made the right decision to postpone the Leaving Cert, and 51pc said that predicted grades would not be suitable for grading final-year students.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic