Hibernia College defends online teacher training


3 Nov 2003

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A Dublin college has defended itself from attacks from traditionalists in the teacher training sector who have questioned the eligibility of such a course being delivered over the web.

Hibernia College claimed it has been subjected to a “persistent and grossly unfair” campaign of “vilification by vested interests in the traditional teacher training sector” over its web-based teacher-training course.

The college provides a range of web-enabled Bachelors and Masters degree programmes in areas such as public administration, criminal justice and hospitality management as well as a new Graduate Diploma in Primary Education that is fully accredited by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council as well as the Department of Education and Science.

Hibernia College’s executive chairman Dr Sean Rowland said that vested interests in the traditional teacher training sector have publicly attacked the integrity of the courses on offer, particularly due to the computers and internet elements employed in deploying its courses.

“There are vested interests at work who simply cannot accept change and modernity in the manner in which teacher education is provided in Ireland. They fear competition by the private sector and are seeking to protect their own patch. We have stayed silent in the face of an incredibly vicious campaign. We have been publicly insulted and pilloried on a constant basis but it is now time to demand that the interests involved should desist from this activity.”

He continued: “All we seek is a level playing pitch. We will then be judged on our merits and on the high quality of what we are achieving.”

Dr. Rowland claimed that traditional teacher training colleges cannot process the quantity of suitably qualified primary teachers that the education sector requires. An estimated 10pc of teaching staff in the primary sector are unemployed. Dr Rowland said that the Hibernia course provides the same academic coursework, in-school inspections, probationary teaching practices and examinations as the traditional sector.

“For over ten years, students have been learning using computers and the internet, what people generally term ‘e-learning’. By blending together online content, live tutorials and face-to-face lectures which are based in Education Centres throughout the country, we created a high quality, accredited Graduate Diploma in Primary Education which uses e-learning as a channel,” said Dr. Rowland.

“The interests who are most vocal against this initiative seem unable to see past the ‘online’ component of the course. As if students would go online, read a few pages, and then start work in your local primary school? Is anyone seriously suggesting that this is the case? We certainly are not,” he emphasised.

“Our students are all already high achieving third level graduates in their own right and many of them already teach in primary schools. All suitable applicants are personally interviewed by an experienced panel of education leaders and academics. Our tutors are drawn from leading academics in Ireland, some of whom also teach in State colleges, ensuring high quality in both curriculum development and teaching.

“The content, quality, level of examination, inspection and scrutiny involved in obtaining this qualification are equally as high as other State-approved teacher training courses. Those who do not meet the required high standards, academically or practically, will fail to qualify.

“The online component is one of a number of channels of teaching and learning in the work that trainee teachers put in over a full two academic years with Hibernia. The hours of work they do actually exceed those demanded by the traditional teacher training colleges,” Dr Rowland concluded.

By John Kennedy