Two-year online course aimed at aspiring teachers
People who want to be second-level teachers are now able to study for their qualification online.
A new flexible training course for what is popularly known as the HDip enables students to do most of their work from home.
It is the first time that what is now called the post-graduate diploma in education (PGDE) has been delivered in this way.
On top of a basic degree, a PGDE is needed to take up a teaching position in a secondary school.
The private Hibernia College in Dublin has started the online course in anticipation of what it predicts will be a growing demand for teachers.
The fee for the two-year course, which is expected to enrol about 150 students this autumn, will be €8,950 and qualifies for tax relief.
The college already offers an online primary teacher training course, producing about 600 graduates annually.
Hibernia's PGDE students will attend college for only 14 days over the two years and the rest of the programme will be delivered in online classes for an hour twice a week and through lectures and material downloaded on a computer.
Up to now, the PGDE has only been offered in the four National University of Ireland colleges -- UCD, UCC, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth -- which have a combined 830 places, as well as Trinity College which has 135 places.
All of them have experienced a rise in applications in recent years as unemployed graduates explore career options.
It is estimated that about 1,500 of those who applied to the four NUI colleges this year won't receive an offer, and there were more than five applications for each place at Trinity.
Hibernia expanded into the second-level sector because it believed that more teachers will be needed for two main reasons.
Rising birth rates since the late 1990s means about 25,000 extra enrolments in second-level education over the next five to seven years, requiring up to 20 new schools and extensions to others.
Planned cuts in public service pensions is also expected to result in a rise in the number of teacher retirements in the coming months, as teachers try to beat the February 2012 deadline for the changes.
On the down side, budgetary constraints may lead to reductions in teacher allocations.
Hibernia will give priority to students with degrees in maths, the sciences or Irish -- subjects for which schools are having difficulty in recruiting qualified teachers.
Students with degrees in English, modern languages, geography and civic, social and political education (CSPE) are also welcome.
However, restrictions will apply this year to students with a degree in accounting, business or economics because there is a surplus of these available.