10 October 2020

First weeks of distance learning

When I write this, we have just gone through the first two weeks of term. It feels like the first two years! You always get into the swing of things so fast. But this was a year like no other, so how did it go this time? I think we're OK! But not everything is ideal, of course. 

It looks like both staff and students have got used to the new format now. Things are rolling along! And as I said before; it's not as if the traditional way of teaching has no disadvantages, so even if blended learning has some, it doesn't make it worse than what we had before. I have had sessions in which I asked students for input but them not managing to get their microphone working. I have had students being booted out of sessions by poor signal strength. I have had signal issues myself shortly before a session, and only being saved in the nick of time by things improving! And there always are the blips of people just being flawed. I forgot to record a live session. A colleague accidentally placed an announcement on my module website while they meant it for their own. That sort of stuff.

Some students struggle with the absence of seeing people in person. And with not being able to just sit in a group and discuss assignments. (Unless they shout at each other from 2 meters apart). And such things! But we've also heard of them loving the recorded lectures, and just watching them when it's convenient, with a fresh coffee in their hand, and being able to hit 'pause' if something distracting happens, or if they want to look something up, or something. Or play them at higher or lower speed, depending on demand. I like that! 

I also think we're getting better at using the platform! Mind you, we have to do all our undergraduate teaching on a platform we were only given access to in August. Or was it even September? So you can't blame us for still discovering things about it. And what works with the students and what doesn't. So I think we made it work somehow. And some of this will probably never go back to what it was before! But I think this country needs to improve its digital infrastructure. It's where the future lies! I think the traditional lecture is dead. And I think that's OK. When we are allowed to see the students again, we can have them still watch the lectures on their screen, and then just work with the material when we see them in a lecture room! I think that's a win. But it does mean all students need good internet. And not just students! 

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