August 19th, 2020
In this week’s Recovery blog Professor Sarah Speight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience introduces the principles that will guide the delivery of teaching in the academic year 2020-21.
As we approach September, I am conscious that this is not the start of the academic year that any of us were expecting. Our returning and new students have experienced significant disruption to their studies and their lives, and our preparations for 2020-21 reflect our expectations of further disruption ahead.
I know that you individually, and colleagues across all areas of the university, are continuing to do everything possible to proactively ready us for the start of session. From prepping our modules to opening our libraries, from planning our labs to designing our assessments, we are endeavouring to put the health, safety and well-being of our students and our colleagues first. We are all committed to offering high-quality education.
In June and July 2020, we ran a survey to understand the experiences of our students during the pandemic and their priorities for the autumn. Over 5,300 students responded. They told us that their motivation and mental health had suffered. They told us that they wanted good health and safety measures to support a return to face-to-face teaching alongside their online learning.
To support this, I have worked with senior academic and professional service colleagues to develop a set of principles to guide our teaching. These principles inclide documents many of you will have already read, or contributed to: for example, the Faculty teaching delivery plans, the guidance for timetabling and personal tutoring, and the health and safety guidance. The principles also link to the Return to Operations (HR) Guide.
The Guiding Principles for Teaching in 2020-21 are founded on the need to provide high quality education for our students in a safe environment.
While teaching will comprise a blend of digital and in-person delivery, it is expected that staff will normally deliver their scheduled teaching on-campus regardless of the mode of delivery (in-person or digital), unless space or building occupancy limitations, access to essential technologies, or time of day make this impractical.
Our promise to our students is that we will provide as much in-person teaching as we safely can. This includes seminars, small group academic tutorials, laboratory classes, clinical skills, practice and workshop sessions. Comprehensive health and safety measures will be in place for all in-person teaching, and we will shorten classes to enable safe entry and exit from rooms and buildings.
In 2020-21, our lectures will be delivered via digital technologies. We are using the new term ‘lecture engagement’ to distinguish between pre-prepared lecture resources and activities (which students can access when convenient) and the related interactive online sessions that will be scheduled.
The development of these digital resources and activities is supported through the Faculty Resource Hubs. These will help you to design good quality digital learning materials such as short content videos, quizzes, problems, worked answer videos, model answers, transcripts, and links to resources. Your students can then access these to build on their learning.
Our blended approach to teaching, and the support of student learning, must have accessibility and inclusivity at its heart. Where there are multiple seminar groups for a module, one or more of these will be scheduled as online to facilitate engagement for students unable to attend in-person teaching, and to provide an option for staff unable to return to campus.
To support self-directed learning and on-campus engagement with digital teaching such as a computing practicals or online seminars, we hope to develop a system to alert students to the spaces available to them. More detail on this will be provided in the coming weeks.
The Guiding Principles for Teaching in 2020-21 also include some requirements for our students. For example, students will be expected to comply with all health and safety guidance, backed up by their commitment to the University of Nottingham Community Pledge.
They will need to wear face coverings when in indoor areas and in teaching sessions unless advised by staff that the activity being undertaken is exempt, or where they are personally exempt due to individual circumstances. Sunflower lanyards will be available to enable students (and staff) to indicate this.
In March 2020, our focus was upon emergency completion of planned teaching and assessment. Our current focus is upon adapting our campus and our practice for an extended period of COVID-affected working. We are increasingly familiar with health and safety measures in shops and other businesses, for example the one-way systems, social distancing markers and hand sanitising stations. These, and other measures, will be features of our campus environment too.
While some staff have remained working on campus since March, and others have recently returned to re-open libraries and prepare for early course starts, I know that many of you are keen to access your offices and our teaching spaces. I understand that you want to familiarise yourselves with the new layouts and health and safety procedures in the buildings you will be working in. The plan is for you to be able to return to campus before the arrival of most of our students from September 21.
Finally, I know there will be circumstances where some staff, particularly those who are in vulnerable categories, may be unable to return to campus. There may also be ad-hoc situations that occur due to localised outbreaks and lockdowns. The Return to Operations (HR) Guide has been expanded to provide guidance specific to teaching.
I will finish by thanking you for your sustained effort and sheer hard work since March. I know our challenges continue, but I hope we can all draw some positives from the remarkable ways in which we have pulled together, moved our teaching online, graduated our students, and progressed our preparations for 2020-21. I hope you are able to take some leave before the start of term.
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