Information Age puts Distance Learning in Reach

The Clare Champion, Friday, October 24th, 1997

Distance Learning can be provided at a minimal start-up list from an Ennis base to all areas of the county as a result of the county capital becoming Ireland’s Information Age Town.

This scenario emerges from a submission being presented by County Clare Vocational Education Committee to Ennis Task Force, the body that achieved Information Age Town status. Pivotal to the concept is the committee’s Adult Education Centre at Clonroad, Ennis. Links from there for distance learning already exist to Miltown Malbay and Killaloe through the availability of ISDN lines, the enabling telecommunications technology. Further links, the VEC submission argues, can be established at minimal cost to Shannon, Kilkee, Kilrush, Ennistymon, Scariff and Kildysart.

The October meeting of the committee on Thursday put final touches to the submission which initially congratulates all concerned on providing Ennis with the wonderful opportunity of becoming an example for the rest of Ireland. “Our contribution to those who manage the project is made in the spirit of co-operation which this challenge demands”, states the submission, going on to point out that the proposals it frames are made as a consequence of being a statutory committee charged with the responsibility of providing adult and community education opportunity throughout the county.

Since Clare is unique in the fact that Ennis is its only major town, the submission goes on to argue that the town’s success can be easily shared throughout the county by the VEC proposal. Such sharing in the shape of offering adult classes to many rural areas at present is impossible for three reasons; costs, remoteness and a sparse population.

The submission perceives many benefits from the proposals. For instance, education programmes can be provided from the Ennis base to all people in the county. Distance Learning and Further Education courses from University of Limerick and from UCG can be beamed through Ennis. Other advantages are that this concept can be a pilot initiative for the rest of Ireland, and start-up costs entail minimal spending due to the existing Ennis base.

Dealing with Ennis specifically, the submission contends that the adult population of the town and surrounds should be catered for by the Adult & Community Education Centre, since it has a fully equipped computer room and needs just one further room to meet anticipated demand. The advantage of this centre is its availability through each day, whereas schools are generally occupied until mid-afternoons.

Another plus is that the Ennis Centre is recognised for the provision of the European Computer Driving Licence, an international standard of competence for Irish computer users. The VEC can in fact provide courses to equip all people with this competence and qualification. In the realm of training for teachers, the centre is ideally poised to provide them with courses in computer skills, a raining that the submission describes as a vital necessity. Bringing Ennis Community College into the scene, the submission points out that since its establishment in 1938 it has offered a wide range of Adult Education courses each year. Now it has its first Telemarketing day class group, the only such class in Clare. There is a specialised computer room, and by Christmas a language laboratory will be in place. Concludes the submission - “Because of the long tradition of this college in the Adult Education, Secretarial and Computer Skills area, it will supplement the work of the committee’s Adult & Community Education Centre in offering evening courses to the adult community. One further equipped computer room will be required. At present, 310 adults attend a variety of classes on four evenings weekly”.

The committee chairman, Mr. Bobby Burke, and the chief executive officer, Mr. Jim Lyons, are seeking a meeting with Ennis Task Force to further explore these proposals.

Back to Press Clippings