By Cian Molloy - 24 July, 2020
“We are hoping that the new format will increase participation,” says Fr Neil O’Donoghue, a lecturer in systematic theology.
The H.Dip. in Theological Studies at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth has been revamped to include online distance learning in a bid to make the course more accessible to students.
The decision by the pontifical university to move to a blended learning format – which combines traditional face-to-face lectures with online lectures and assignments – was taken last year, before the outbreak of the new coronavirus, but the new format makes all the more sense in the era of COVID-19.
Previously, students had to attend lectures at St Patrick’s College twice a week for the two-term duration of the course; now, they will only have to attend the college six times in total.
“We are hoping that the new format will increase participation,” says Fr Neil O’Donoghue, a lecturer in systematic theology, who is the H.Dip. course administrator.
“Previously, each cohort would comprise 15 to 20 students, but we hope we will get more than that. Previously, the requirement to be physically present in the college every Monday and Wednesday limited participation to those who were living within easy travelling distance of the college, but now you can be anywhere in the country and still access the online lectures.”
When the six weekend lectures are taking place at the college, they will be held on Fridays and Saturdays, with college accommodation rooms available at discounted rates for those who wish to avail of them. Should future COVID-19 restrictions make weekend residential courses impossible, there are contingency plans in place to offer these sessions virtually.
This course is designed primarily for secondary school teachers who wish to teach religious studies and, as such, it meets all the requirements of the Teaching Council. However, some of those who avail of the programme do so out of a desire to learn more about their faith, and some graduates of the H.Dip. course go on to complete the Master’s Programme in Theology at St Patrick’s College.