The two closest Institutes of Technology to Laois, attended by hundreds of Laois students, have been awarded over €800,000 between them to buy laptops for loan to students this Covid-19 affected academic year.
The laptops will be loaned to students during the academic year in order to facilitate their academic work at home.
Athlone IT has been awarded €272,480 of the funding to operate a means-tested laptop loan scheme.
IT Carlow has welcomed €529,694 in a grant by Minister Simon Harris for student laptops to assist online learning.
An application process aimed at assisting disadvantaged students will be opened to registered students who meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme mid-September.
The president of Institute of Technology Carlow, Dr. Patricia Mulcahy, has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD of €529,694 - the highest allocation to any institute of technology - to assist with online learning for students of the Institute.
The fund, announced by the Minister, will allow for the purchase of some 17,000 laptops across the sector and is part of an overall funding of €15million for student devices earmarked by the Minister. For Institute of Technology Carlow, it allows for the procurement of some 700 laptops and other equipment for students as the college embraces hybrid learning in the new academic year.
Dr. Mulcahy commented, “The pandemic has resulted in a changed college experience. The new academic year will see a move to hybrid learning at IT Carlow with students combining in-class and online learning for which they will need to access laptops and other equipment. This funding will allow for more equal access to education”.
The initiative is a laptop loan scheme with a means tested application process. In accordance with HEA Guidelines, priority will be given to registered students with no access to laptops and other equipment from targeted under-represented groups as outlined in the National Access Plan; specifically, students disadvantaged by socio-economic barriers, mature students, lone parents, those with disabilities and ethnic minorities.
Students will be provided with information on the laptop loan scheme, and the application process, shortly after they register for the academic year in late September.
Commenting on the funding, Minister Harris said, “This funding will work to ensure disadvantaged students will have access to the technology they need to complete their education. However, we must also recognise that many students and their families have fallen on hard times as a result of COVID-19. We must ensure they do not fall behind in their studies and ensure they can access this support fund also. We still have significant work to do to address the digital divide in Ireland but this will go some of the way to doing that.”
The grant funding for the devices will be provided to higher education institutions through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and to education and training boards through SOLAS. The bulk order of laptops was organised by HEAnet, which provides internet connectivity and ICT services to education bodies throughout Ireland.