Introductory Course Virtually Goes Global

AUSTIN COLFER heads up the organisation of the Introductory Part 1 course. With the move to online, all classes moved from location-specific to location-independent. The only limit is the size of the class. People from all over the Island – Ennis, Dublin, Belfast, you name it – can be in the same virtual room, each having the same experience.

Registrations for the online Introductory Course kicked off modestly but grew strongly after an on line marketing push which resulted in a total enrolment in excess of 460 students. At the time of writing we are operating a waiting list system as additional enrolments trickle in. Initially we had planned to run 13 classes nationwide but this has grown to 19 classes as the enrolments surged. This surge in numbers challenged our administration systems in the first week but with Sandra O’Neil overseeing all the processes involved we made it through the first (and the most challenging) week. Tutors are drawn from around the country and we have some additional tutors waiting in the wings should the need arise.


Contact was made with the school in London who started their on line offering a few weeks prior to us here in Ireland. Mrs. Lambie generously shared their experience of going online and their newly prepared tutor notes, supporting slides and student handouts. The biggest difference from the classroom setting is that the online sessions run for a maximum of 75 minutes each and therefore it is not possible to present the same volume of material as when we were in a classroom setting. Nevertheless the experience from the first week is that the students are engaged and have appreciated the material that has been offered.


The feedback from the tutors so far is that the on line Zoom classes are working better than initially expected. There are of course challenges and limitations but creative ways are being found around them and there is a growing expectation of a solid term to come. In the first week approximately 60% of the enrolled students turned up in. Because we are online, geography is not an issue and we have had students turning up in class from the UK, Lithuania, Spain, France, Germany and the USA. A sizeable minority of those turning up are students who were previously in class in the SPES who are taking the opportunity to gently reconnect online. See below for some feedback received from week 1:

I was thrilled to be starting over Philosophy classes. I've been captured by it since I started a few years ago.

I really enjoyed John’s class, it was very informative and well-paced. Meditations were lovely.

Thanks so much for your time and patience to get everyone back in touch with freeing our minds of habitual wanderings.

Absolutely loved it. It was mind opening experience and can’t wait for another class.