Almost 80% of English language students want to remain learning online due to Covid-19 – Progressive College Network

  • Only 21% of students seeking an urgent return to classrooms as importance of blended learning is emphasised
  • While Government pushes for language schools to return to classrooms without delay, Progressive College Network looks to prioritise blended learning to ensure health and safety of students and teachers

Almost four in five (78.5%) English language students would prefer to remain learning online, rather than return to classrooms. This is according to research from Progressive College Network, the representative body for a number of English language schools across Ireland, which has stressed that the safety of students and staff must be the primary concern as the sector seeks ways to continue teaching.

The research further found that 95% of English language instructors would similarly like to continue teaching using online methods. Over half (53.6%) believe they will struggle to understand their teacher if that person has to use a face mask, and 49% think social distancing in the classroom would have a negative effect on their learning.

Since 12 March, when schools and education providers were instructed to close at the outset of the pandemic, Progressive College Network and other English language schools have made the move online independent of any Government guidance. Despite the challenges of online learning, 78% of students say they have continued to develop their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills while studying online.

The survey also highlighted the everyday concerns of English language students living in Ireland, with 36% nervous of using public transport to get to their school and 48% worried due to living with someone at higher risk from Covid-19.

While the Department of Further and Higher Education has stressed that all language schools should look to return to classroom learning without delay, Progressive College Network has emphasised the importance of blended learning to prioritise the safety of teachers and students while continuing to deliver high-quality education. 

David Russell, Chair of the Progressive College Network, said: “Society is having to learn how to live with the Covid-19 virus, and that goes for the English language sector too. While we all want to return to classrooms, the emphasis for English language schools must be on blended learning, where online teaching is supplemented by face-to-face teaching wherever possible. This approach will help guarantee the safety of our students and teachers, who are understandably nervous about getting back into classrooms at this time.

“Despite some of the negativity around online learning in recent months, the research shows that our teachers and students have adapted well to the challenges it presents. We’re continuing to improve our online learning experience as much as possible and it’s great to see that the reaction to date from students has been positive.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has seen blended learning accepted as a necessary compromise for students attending third-level universities – and it’s clear that the English language sector shouldn’t be treated any differently in this regard.”

The research was based on survey responses received earlier this month from 565 English language students and 66 teachers across Progressive College Network’s member colleges.

The Progressive College Network was formed in 2015, to meet the demand for an alternate representative body for the private college community in Ireland. Currently it represents over 300 staff members and is responsible for teaching in excess of 3,500 international students annually.

All Progressive College Network institutions are ILEP (Interim List of Eligible Programmes) listed, are fully compliant with any and all regulations and operate to the very highest of standards. Progressive College Network has a bespoke Protection of Enrolled Learners insurance policy that protects students and staff within each of its institutions.