Updated: May 26
So, here we are. The three of us - Jo, TJ and Beth - are about to launch our website to the world. To think that just a couple of months ago we were lecturing nearly 300 students in our biggest lecture theatre, meeting our project students as they finished off their dissertations, walking from building to building to meet our colleagues and our students... Life has changed. A lot. And we have learned. A lot. Within days of lockdown we were setting up virtual classrooms using Blackboard Collaborate, supporting our students and colleagues over the phone, using Skype, using Microsoft Teams, using Zoom. For us, we were lucky that our courses had virtually taught out, and certainly the practical elements had been completed. For other courses still teaching, particularly those courses with practical elements and professional body requirements to meet, this has been really hard. For students on placement, for staff with children, for students with children, for everybody who is human, this has been really hard. But can we take some positives from this horrendous situation? Yes, absolutely. In some scenarios, we have had more contact and engagement with our colleagues and students using remote methods than face-to-face. We have learned to use new tools, to explore new pedagogies, to rethink our assessments and what they mean. Talk about constructive alignment... this has been deconstructive and reconstructive alignment. Take that, Biggs and Tang. We have been overwhelmed by the generous, collaborative and immediate response by the HE sector. We've been humbled and honoured by the number of people who have come to our webinars and shared openly their expertise, opinions, concerns and questions. And we have all become stronger together, and in a way the fragility and honesty of lecturers having to say "Help me, I'm not sure how to do this" has taught us to walk in our students' shoes. And now... what? What can we expect from 2020-21? Does a new era of better pedagogy await us... we're thinking of flipped classroom, active learning, remote team-based learning, the greater need for us academics to involve our students as co-teachers and peer mentors... What about a new dawn for re-thinking assessments? Is this goodbye to the paper-based exam? And as for personal tutoring, inductions, transitions, bridging the gap for our new first years... there will be lots more learning for all of us. We hope that we can continue to work together as a community, to empower each other and to shape emerging policy and practice together for the benefit of our students and our colleagues.