Access & International Foundation Programmes Launch Computer Science & Maths Student-led tutorials

15 Feb, 2021

Nevan Bermingham & Dr Fiona Faulkner (School of Hospitality Management & Tourism)

Following last December’s news that the Access & International Foundation ‘Peer Learning Programme’ Receives Funding To Move Online, this week lecturer Nevan Bermingham launched the first week of online peer-led tutorials (called Peer Assisted Learning sessions, or PALs for short) with 31 Computer Science students on the Access and International Foundation Programmes. With funding from the TU Dublin Foundation’s Student Assistance Fund, the PAL Leaders were equipped with stylus driven MS Surface Pro devices to enable them to run these twice-weekly immersive tutorials in the virtual space using MS Teams and other collaborative programs.

Six former Access and International Foundation Students have taken up PAL Leaders' role to help and support our current Access & International students with the complex concepts in computer science and provide them with a much-needed social network and virtual study space during the current Covid-19 lockdown. Included in the PAL Leader cohort this year is a visually impaired student who can use the Surface Pros' assistive nature to effectively run his own PAL session independently without the need for other supports, demonstrating how inclusive the PALs can be for all our students with the right technology.

The importance of having the right technology to run these sessions on-line is reflected from feedback from the PAL Leaders themselves:

“The Surface Pro is a life-saver for the PAL sessions… using the stylus allows me to quickly sketch any problems students are having on-screen and have an interactive discussion about working through the problems. Without these devices the PAL sessions would suffer, especially during the remote learning.” - Sean (PAL Leader)

“The Surface Pro stylus device is an amazing and very supportive device, in terms of doing demonstrations and explanations in a virtual environment, which is an essential element for Peer Tutorial sessions to succeed” - Quang Anh (PAL Leader)

The current year students were asked how they found the first week of PAL sessions, and most comments were on how the PAL initiative was giving them a unique space during the lockdown. Here is a sample of the voice of the student:

“The PAL session helped me to meet, chat and see the faces of my classmates for the first time.”

“I get to meet and work with new people and understand coding together.”

“The PAL session helped me engage in the class more, which helped me get a better understanding of concepts.”

“The PAL session was good because I now have hope to pass this module.”

A similar pilot initiative will also be launching this week for the Maths students on the Access & International Programmes. Nevan Bermingham has partnered with maths lecturer Dr Fiona Faulkner to launch a new Maths version of these PALs with four current-year Advanced and Intermediate Maths students taking on the role of Peer Tutor to the Foundation Maths students.

Like computer science, maths is seen as a ‘traditionally difficult’ subject, so these weekly PAL sessions can help retention and provide a unique interactive space for students to ask questions and practice maths problems. Fiona will be guiding the Maths PAL Leaders as the subject-matter expert, and Nevan will be providing training and support for building their leadership skills. During the remote delivery, it is hoped that they will also provide a safe social space for students to meet and interact during the lockdown.