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Blended Learning- Donegal

Travel in Ireland can be frustrating, difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Even in Dublin, a commute home from college can easily take well over an hour and it’s only worse if you’re commuting out of Dublin. The cost of travel is also another major detractor, between buses, trains or the cost of petrol, travelling in Ireland is expensive. Not everyone can afford the time or money to do this, most people would look for a way around having to travel in and out of college every week.

Here at Portobello Institute, our goal is to make our degrees as accessible as possible. We offer courses through our Distance Learning programme, online courses that can be studied at the student’s own pace. Online learning can seem to be daunting, before starting you might think that they’re on their own but with the support from tutors with quick responses, online learning can be the best way to balance studying and other aspects of life.

Roseanne Elison, local of Dunkineely, and Deborah Callaghab, a local of Letterkenny, talked about their experience under the Distance Learning approach to their degrees, Roseanne having studied the Level 7 and Deborah studying the SNA Level 6. Each student studied and completed their courses through the online Blended Learning approach to their qualifications, which provides students some in-class time but the majority of time being online learning

Roseanne said she found going back to college for the first time in years was challenging, especially with doing it online but it was very doable and worthwhile. Roseanne lives in Donegal, so being able to work while studying was important, and with the average drive to Dublin being over three hours, commuting every week would’ve been difficult.

However, Roseanne told of how great the course was for giving her the ability to balance time with her family and with work, though it did take longer than expected to compete the readings and finish assignments. The tutors were very quick with responding to any queries, giving her the support she needed, and aiding her with any issues that arose.

For Deborah, she told us about having graduated from college in 2013 with an honour’s degree, so the transition back into studying wasn’t that difficult for her. She found the coursework wasn’t too strenuous, especially with her tutors being so responsive and her classmates aiding one another. By having group-chats, students could share information, resources and provide different perspectives for assignments, making the work far more manageable.

The commute to Dublin wasn’t possible for her either as she was working part-time and taking care of her son, the option of possibly moving to Dublin for short-time accommodation wasn’t possible either with the cost of housing in the city. The online approach to Deborah’s course allowed her to work part-time and, on her days off, be able to study, all the while spending time with her family.

By doing her level 7, Roseanne is now prepared for changes that may occur in her industry, that being Montessori, in case the need for a Level 7 degree should arise and now has more opportunities in the industry too. She said she has already found having the qualification beneficial and is thinking that sometime in the future she may go on to do a Level 8 too.

Deborah is currently looking for employment as an SNA and has found the work experience she received as part of the course has been extremely useful, giving her a true grasp on what she will be expected in the industry.

Distance learning may be a new way of learning for many, but like Roseanne, you can do it too! Tutor support is there and having the ability to study at your own pace allows you the freedom to decide when and where you study. Both Roseanne and Deborah were able to study their degree without having to come into Dublin for classes yet were still able to keep in contact with tutors and classmates, receive material for reading and send in their assignments.


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