First year students will have the option to take part in the Peer Mentoring programme remotely this year. Certain Orientation Week activities will be offered virtually to students who cannot attend University College Dublin (UCD) campus due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Furthermore, Peer Mentors will complete their training remotely for the first time. Virtual tours, online welcomes, and Brightspace training modules will see major changes to the provision of training to Peer Mentors ahead of the Autumn Trimester.

Due to the delay of the release of Leaving Certificate results this year, first years in UCD will start college on September 28, one week later than returning students, who will begin classes on September 21. The implications of this are that Peer Mentors’ lectures and classes will clash with Orientation Week, which traditionally takes place one week in advance of the beginning of the teaching term.

In a statement to the College Tribune, a spokesperson for UCD Student Advisers addressed the issue of Peer Mentors’ lectures clashing with Orientation Week, saying – “This year due to Orientation Week being the same week as the start of term, each Peer Mentor will get to book a time slot that suits them (ie does not clash with any learning sessions) and their mentees during that week for a campus tour … [h]ow exactly that will be managed is being worked on right now by the central UCD orientation team”.

Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peer Mentor training will be provided online for the first time. Although Peer Mentors have not yet been informed of what specific training they will have to do remotely, UCD Student Advisers have announced that they are “in the process of creating a new Brightspace module with all of the materials for training”.

The spokesperson explained that the move to online training will enable Peer Mentors to use forums where they can “chat with each other and share learnings”. In order to accommodate students unable to travel to UCD’s campus due to coronavirus restrictions, “[t]here will be virtual tours and online welcomes for peer mentors and mentees who cannot attend on campus”.

Joseph Boyle, a Stage 3 Law with Politics student who has taken part in the Peer Mentor programme as both a mentor and mentee, shared his concerns about the transition of the programme to online delivery to the College Tribune.

“The thing that makes the peer mentor program so effective is that students are forced to interact with each other in person… [w]ith it being online, there might be a drop in people who tune in and people [might be] less likely to engage properly with the activities as compared to in a normal year. This would render the program less effective.”

“As for the online training, it probably won’t be as effective as it will inevitably not be as interactive than as in person. Mentors might find it difficult to properly pay attention behind a screen versus in person. Normally, if we had an issue, we could walk into the coordinators office without an appointment … [c]ommunicating these issues to the coordinators might be more difficult”, he concluded.

Nessa Collins – Assistant News Editor