After a difficult year for the Leaving Certificate class of 2020, DCU’s Access Programme was delighted to welcome 320 new first year Access students to DCU this September. For the first time in its 22-year history, the Access Orientation Programme was delivered entirely online due to current Covid-19 restrictions.
The orientation is a critical support provided by DCU’s Access Programme to help incoming students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds to settle in to university life and succeed in their studies. Through this year’s virtual orientation, first year Access students met the DCU Access team, learned about the supports available to them and received practical advice and tips for starting college. The programme also focused on helping students to enjoy university life, with fun activities led by 22 Access Ambassadors to give students the chance to meet their new classmates.
The current Covid-19 pandemic will inevitably present challenges for students this year. In re-designing its orientation programme for this “new normal,” DCU’s Access Service was conscious of the need to support students who may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation due to considerably less face-to-face social interactions with other students, as well as those who face the challenge of studying in unsuitable home environments.
Speaking on the online Access Orientation, Access Support Officer, Camilla Kane, said:
“Organising the first ever online Access Orientation gave us the opportunity to start with a blank canvas and ensure we are still providing students with a positive first experience of DCU. Online engagement can be challenging and restrictive, however, we used this opportunity to bring the objective of our orientation event back to the basics, to ensure that every student now knows our faces, knows the supports we offer and knows that they belong. Students brought a fantastic energy and engagement on the day which really brought our event to life.”
First year Marketing Innovation and Technology student, Angela, commented on her experience of the online orientation:
“The Access Orientation was really helpful and put me at ease ahead of starting college at DCU. Before the orientation, I was quite nervous about what my first year at college would look like, especially with the current circumstances. However, after the orientation I feel super confident that the Access team will be here to support me, along with the rest of the Access students.”
Senior Access Officer, Colette Keogh, highlighted the success of the first online Access Orientation:
“The Access team has worked tirelessly over the past month to ensure we could deliver a successful online orientation to the incoming 320 first year Access students. The online orientation was a great success, with Access students participating fully in what was a very interactive orientation, with lots of questions asked and answered and fun was had.”
Within the group of 320 students who took part, 19 global countries were represented including Israel, Nigeria, Moldova and the USA. However, 45% of incoming first year Access students hold addresses in socio-economically disadvantaged communities in Dublin, with the remaining students coming from the length and breadth of Ireland.