In week eight of the short courses spring term the country was hurled into lockdown and all classroom teaching was formally suspended.
News of these much-needed safety measures was welcomed by the Short Course team; but with two more weeks of teaching to go and a new term around the corner, the pressure was on.
Having seen the situation unfold in the weeks prior, we’d already started planning for remote learning; but it was safe to say the global pandemic had thrown us in at the deep end.
Now that safety had been addressed, our first concern was completing the spring term so that current students could finish the courses they had been working so hard for.
Led by Bill Richardson, our team catch-up meetings were upped to twice a week, to talk through issues arising and ensure our students got the quality teaching that they deserve.
All students were notified that the final two lessons of spring term would be taught remotely and were provided with clear instructions for using the online learning tools, Moodle and Microsoft Teams. Course Coordinators worked closely with our tutors to offer training and technical support for running online classes.
Next we had to consider our approach to the summer term, due to start in a matter of weeks. We had to make a choice – postpone teaching or embrace the challenge. Encouraged by positive feedback from the spring term and a desire to fulfil our commitment to students, we decided to make it work.
Our marketing creative required a total overhaul to focus on remote learning. We communicated our new offering via emails, blogs and the City website. This was not without its complications. Our online message to students coincided with a University-wide content freeze of the City website, delaying our plans. We pushed term back by one week to give us more time to prepare.
Grappling with issues of student IT logins, joining instructions and training for online platforms, there was a lot of work to be done. Forward thinking from the Short Courses Administration team meant that students were contacted to talk through any technical difficulties before the start of term. Computing courses presented their own set of challenges of software setup and configuration. Our Computing Coordinator offered step-by step guidance and live email and phone support.
The first week of term went smoothly – largely due to the dedication and hard work from the team. We had 474 students confirmed on over 50 short courses. A welcomed consequence of these unexpected events was collaboration within the team – and beyond it. From Course Coordinators leaning on one-another to navigate through set up and planning; to Research & Enterprise’s Stefan Rankov, who particularly went out of his way to offer training support on Microsoft Teams.
Now into our fourth week of the summer term, we are undergoing a careful evaluation process, requesting feedback from students and tutors to identify any problems and adapt our approach accordingly. We have some tweaks to make but so far, our response has been overwhelmingly positive from tutors and students alike.
“I had a great time learning C with you. Specific thanks for putting together the virtual class, I found this super helpful and think I actually preferred the format.”
Benjamin Wade, C++ student
“The short courses team expeditiously responded to my training needs and were able to provide close guidance and support on adapting my classes to enable online seminars, chats, calls, screensharing, and file sharing, so that I could seamlessly move into virtual teaching.”
Nasreen Chaudhury, Law tutor
None of this would have been possible without our tutors’ admirable approach to change, their enthusiasm to teach and their wiliness to get to grips with online learning techniques. Even more wonderful is the willingness from tutors to share their best practice techniques and teaching experiences with one another.
Thank you to all of our staff and tutors for making our move to online teaching such a success.
How has your experience been of learning online with us? We’d love to hear, write your comments in the section below.