Be ‘smart and safe’


LEADING BY EXAMPLE Conor McNeilis, GMIT Students Union.

Conor’s call to embrace the positives of blended online learning

Áine Ryan

“THIS is a very scary time and we as a student union will still do our best to give you a special college experience.”
 The message is clear from Conor McNeilis, the vice president of GMIT Mayo Student Union.
“My primary message to students returning to college is to be smart and safe. We are trying to give students that same opportunity to meet new friends, join clubs, and also have a good night out, this will mean that it will be online but it’s still a great opportunity to get involved with your college,” McNeilis tells The Mayo News.
He says that coordinating this message with the college authorities has been a very constructive experience.
“We are all working hard to try to adapt to these new online formats. I have received great help from students, past students, lecturers and the student services in coming up with online ideas for students. We are currently working on ideas such as an online quizes, virtual talent shows and many more idea. Although this ‘new normal’ may not be ideal I encourage students to get involved. There is still great opportunities online and so much more we can do as a college community together.”
A native of Glencolumbcille, Co Donegal, and a graduate of Applied Social Care at the Mayo campus, McNeilis explains he is working full-time in this Student Union role this year.
Asked about the recent scenes at the Spanish Arch in Galway, he said: “I feel that students on our Mayo campus are being very cooperative and understanding during these times and I hope they can keep this cooperation going. However, in terms of the Spanish Arch, what happened on Monday night (September 29)  was wrong. A group of people gathered in Galway City and broke HSE guidelines, most likely they were students and possibly some of them are from GMIT.  They do not reflect the attitude of the students of GMIT.”

Joint statement
He referred to the fact that the president of GMIT Student Union Victor O’Loughlin released a joint statement with the college president Dr Orla Flynn ‘asking students to only come on campus as little as possible to help prevent the spread of the virus’.
“Before that, the institute released their Covid response plan which requires students and staff to wear masks on site and sanitise hands frequently on campus. There are markings on the floor and walls to help promote social distancing as well and people have been compliant of that from what I’ve seen,” he said.
McNeilis explained that all programmes would be taking place  through blended online learning. Blended learning is a type of education, which is online and pushes a more interactive style for students and lecturers. “This means that the student’s presence is needed for it to work. This type of education may be tough to get used to but it is still very effective and beneficial. I would like to stress to students to get involved in their lectures with blended learning as lecturers need the participation in order for the lectures to be more efficient and beneficial,” he continued.
He told The Mayo News that some students have returned to Castlebar, as many student nurses, for example, have work placements to complete and other students may have training programmes.
“Students who are back in Mayo have got involved in the new online presence and we encourage them to keep getting involved and try to get the most out of it,” he said.
He thanked students for being so cooperative and observed that  their main concerns and questions have been about when there will be a return to normality.  
“During these times I would advise students to give the online events a go as you might enjoy it more than you think and the more you get involved the more you will get out of it.  For now It is hard to say if the college will be open for in- person lectures in the near future but when the college does open for in person lectures we are working hard to ensure that it is safe for all students and staff.”