Since March, the Faculty’s education team have been working in rapid response mode without much in the way of respite. This started with the immediate need to transfer face-to-face teaching to online delivery with the first lockdown. I remember the last face-to-face staff student liaison committee where it was apparent for the first time that we were facing a global pandemic, and the world and all our lives were about to change forever. There was a sense then that we had to take a deep breath and prepare ourselves for a perfect storm. There was also a strong sense that staff and students needed to work together like never before to keep the show on the road.
The immediate response of the PG and UG programme leads and module leads was overwhelming, allowing us to keep all our programmes going for the rest of the academic year. At the same time, the teams had to prepare delivery of their programmes for the next academic year. Our students were forgiving (for the most part) about the quality of the online resources for last semester, but we knew that new students and continuing students would not be so forgiving for the new academic year- rightly so given that the fees remain the same. Over the summer the programme teams have worked incredibly hard to prepare teaching materials for the new academic year. We have been well supported by CHEP (Centre for Higher Education Practice) and the Digital Learning Team. Many of our news ways of teaching will stay with us, I suspect, long after COVID-19 has receded.
We are drawing to the end of the first term of the new academic year. It has been exhausting and stressful for the teaching staff and the SAA teams. However, there is much to be cheerful about. The feedback from students has been largely positive. The students I have spoken to, are happy with the blended learning approach and pleased to have resumed or started their university studies. We have not had to deal with the scale of COVID infections faced by universities in the north. Our clinical placements started on time at the end of June. Our final year students are about to take their final examinations in January. Running such a complex set of exams has been a huge challenge for our Exams and Assessments team lead by Bruce McManus, Director of Undergraduate Assessments and Susanne Sellwood- Beinhoff.
The stress students normally experience in the build up to Finals has been amplified by COVID-19. I would urge personal academic tutors to touch base with their tutees at this very difficult time.
I hope that staff and students alike have a well-deserved break over the Christmas period.