The 1st Maths Support in Covid Times Workshop of the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network (IMLSN) took place online via Zoom on June 24th 2020 at 10:30 am.  The theme of the two-hour workshop was

Sharing Experience and Ideas for Mathematics and Statistics Support during the Pandemic.

Thirty-six participants from 17 institutions attended this workshop.

The aim of the event was to provide an opportunity for members to share their experiences in dealing with Maths and Statistics support during the pandemic and to identify ways in which members may benefit from an IMLSN community–wide approach.

The workshop had three parts.

  • Part 1: Mini-talks from 13 different institutions on the island of Ireland including 5 universities, 7 Institutes of Technology and one Technological University describing their experience with online maths support during the lockdown.
  • Part 2: Discussions in five breakout rooms with groups of size 6-7 with guiding questions.
  • Part 3: A representative from each breakout room fed back a summary of their discussions to the group as a whole.

The series of mini-talks revealed that most Irish institutions were in the position to offer some sort of online support after the closure of universities in March 2020. Overall attendance was poor in comparison to ‘normal’ times, however feedback from students was very positive and several institutions reported that a high percentage of online visitors came more than once. The main challenges were technical and connection issues as well as students’ difficulties and reluctance to engage and to communicate their problems and approaches. Most institutions plan to set up or continue their online support and to look into opportunities to provide face-to-face support under current circumstances.

Challenges and opportunities of these changes were then discussed in the breakout rooms. Seeing that the number of repeat visitors were high, some groups discussed new ways to encourage students to use online maths support. Other discussion topics were practical issues like booking systems, tablets for tutors and how to plan for face-to-face support considering the current uncertainty.

Technical resources and challenges were also discussed in the Zoom Chat.

A feedback survey showed that all participants greatly appreciated the opportunity to catch up and share ideas and experiences. A vast majority indicated that they would be very much interested in a follow-up workshop in late August or early September, so we are planning to organise this and look forward to hearing what people are actually going to do next semester.