What have we learned from our experiences of teaching and learning in the Autumn term 2020 online and on-campus?
What positives can we take forward and share from these experiences in the immediate future and in the post-COVID University?
These were the questions that brought together a group of around 80 staff and students from across the University who took part in an event organised by the Learning and Teaching Forum in collaboration with PDLT to share experiences of teaching and learning under COVID in Autumn term 2020. Taking place on December 2nd 2020, the session was divided up into three 30 minute panels of staff and students loosely organised by themes of student engagement, teaching practice and planning for teaching under COVID as follows:
Panel 1: Planning for teaching under COVID
- Steve King, Jill Webb, Tom Cantrell (Faculties of Sciences, Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities): Reflections of Associate Deans in dealing with Covid19: working with departments in our Faculties, and at institutional level.
- Sally Quinn (Psychology): Structure, communication and transition; a whole cohort approach for years 1 and 2 in the pivot to online learning.
- Richard Waites (Biology): Working with students to develop Covid teaching plans – The student engagement experience in Biology.
Panel 2: Student engagement
- Heather Buchanan (Education): TESOL Cafe – MA cohort community building.
- Daniel Hobbi (Education): Student experiences of online engagement and inclusion: Let’s flip the conversation.
- Sue Russell (Learning Enhancement), Jessica Hargreaves (Maths), Lucy Crawshaw and Max Howell (PAL leaders): Experiences of Peer-Assisted Learning in Maths.
Panel 3: Teaching practice
- Thomas Ron (Politics): Experiences of teaching synchronous seminars
- Aishwarya Vidyasagaran (Health Sciences): The Infection and Disease module 20-21: Teaching Practices in the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Sue Porter (Management): Taking a face-to-face module online
Recorded contributions / supporting materials
- Lexie Fields (Year 1 UG Biology): Experiences using the VLE as a first year student during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Nicola Sinclair with Gabriel Vyvyan, a third year student (History of Art): Student and teacher experiences of using google doc and padlet asynchronous activities in place of, and in preparation for live discussion seminars in the History of Art for final year students.
- Penny Spikins (Archaeology): Developing opportunities/strategies for accessibility and inclusion
- David Gent (ASO): The importance of Community for Engagement in Learning
- Phil Martin (IPC): Using Xerte to enhance asynchronous learning
The following web pages bring together recordings and resources from the session including records of the discussions and the views of participants, some of which are also captured below:
As part of the sign-up process, around 50 participants provided responses to the two key questions for discussion. Collectively, these responses reveal much about the positive ways in which staff and students have approached the challenges and constraints of learning and teaching during the Pandemic, echoing the thoughts of various FORUM members in a reflective article in the most recent edition of FORUM magazine:
While this period will always be remembered as highly challenging it has also brought with it many valuable lessons and, indeed, reasons to remain positive. Educators everywhere have risen to the challenge, and the rapid refinement of practices has been both explosive and extremely impressive.
Some key themes were as follows:
- Reflections on the similarities and differences between on-campus and online T&L and the blend between them
- We can be creative, agile and responsive – Rapid upskilling in online approaches
- The importance of community and clear communication: Contact; communication; engagement
- Well-being and mental health are essential considerations
- Tactics for engagement online – structure; clarity; organisation.
- That it takes a long time to do this well and this needs to be acknowledged and resourced
Positives to take forward
- Online approaches, flexibility, breaking out of geographical limitations, blended/flipped approaches
- We know how to do this now!
- Online alternatives to lectures leaving more space for engagement and communication
- The importance of feelings, support and the emotions involved in learning – more structured approaches to student involvement and feedback.
- Better accessibility and inclusive approaches
These themes are highlighted throughout the presentations and resources in, for example, Sally Quinn’s focus on the actions taken to increase and improve structure, communication and transition support in Psychology; Richard Waites’s reflections on efforts to maintain close communication with students and acknowledge the importance of affect in developing learning communities; and the experiences of Aishwarya Vidyasagaran (Health Sciences), Sue Porter (Management) and Nicola Sinclair (History of Art), along with their students, in maximising structure and flexibility to support learning – amongst many many others. There is much to be proud of, and much to learn and share. The conversation will continue next term.