There can be no doubt that Covid-19 will continue to disrupt the way that universities deliver learning, teaching and assessment for the foreseeable future. And while online learning in higher education is not new, the scale at which it is currently being delivered is unparalleled. With many traditional models of online learning operating in a realm where knowledge (and the consumption thereof) is the primary focus, the 'new normal' will potentially see universities having to look to technology to navigate the unchartered waters of managing the well-being and development of students from afar. Even if the idea of transitioning classroom content online doesn't faze seasoned practitioners, providing a means for students to capture and reflect on the deeply personal, social and experiential aspects of learning raises unprecedented challenges for even the most experienced educators. And for those learners who have never engaged in online learning and did not have the intention to do so, the prospect can raise doubt and anxiety.
PLOTTING A NEW COURSE
Working as closely as we do with professionals in higher education - academics and faculty, educational developers, learning designers and technologists - it’s fair to say that the move to keep the learning happening, make materials and activities available and provide some semblance of ‘business as usual’ has been phenomenal. The quality, commitment and heart shown by those in the higher education community have never been better displayed. But equally, we’ve heard how aware educators across the globe are of the gaps and not-wholly-satisfactory workarounds necessitated by the rapid shift to everyone learning from a distance. There’s a sense that as we move towards new teaching periods this is an opportunity to take stock, acknowledge what has worked well and use the experience to plot a new course to improve the teaching and learning experience for all involved. So where to now that the initial stages of reacting to the immediate crisis have passed? Below, we've outlined three key ideas and strategies for addressing the 'new normal' – these ideas will form the key discussion points in our much-anticipated webinar series.
All of the workbook resources you see outlined in the videos below will be made available for free, ready to use straight out-of-box, or for you to adapt and customise to your specific needs. Simply register your interest so we can get in touch.
IDEA 1: PROMOTING CONNECTION
Ensuring students have a voice and aren't just passive recipients of content.
One of the most disruptive aspects of living through this pandemic is undoubtedly the sense of disconnectedness people feel. Throw university study into the mix and it's clear that the need for ensuring that learners gain and maintain a sense of personal connectedness is paramount.
An effective orientation or induction process can support students as they settle in and can immediately help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with this transition. Our sample Welcome Week Workbook – the subject of the first webinar in our upcoming series - includes places for information on topics such as academic skills and induction, health and well-being, and networking. The opportunities for personalisation and the ability to not only provide information or content, but to capture responses, thoughts and questions - which can then be reviewed and responded to - makes it much more than a handbook. And for ‘classroom’ contexts, prompting students to reflect on the impact of an activity, how it connects to other experiences, and how it may inform the journey ahead, allows them to go beyond simply recording disparate activities. Below, you'll find a sneak preview of the workbook, which will form the basis of discussion for the first webinar.
IDEA 2: PROVIDING CONTINUITY
Ensuring that remote meetings and tutorials are as effective and no less personal than f2f meetings to help students establish their sense of identity.
Mentoring and personal tutoring programs have traditionally been designed to provide students with a personal connection, as discussed above, but also to provide touchpoints at different stages of their overarching learning journey. Many educators within the PebblePad community already make use of custom templates and workbooks to help everyone plan and prepare for their time together and thus maximise meeting opportunities by ensuring students and tutors or mentors are on the same page. The workbook then becomes a living – and enduring – record of the interactions, plans, actions and outcomes during the learning journey. Our second webinar will focus on an example of how this can be put into practice. Again, we've provided a sneak preview below.
IDEA 3: SUPPORTING INDEPENDENCE & RESILIENCE
Allowing students to take ownership of their learning and track their development and growing sense of professional identity.
Independent study, research and project work engender professional and personal skills, problem-solving and critical thinking ability. They are also the types of learning activity that ostensibly require very little alteration to their form before the move to online learning. The problem is that effective independent working often relies on a solid foundation of self-confidence and assurance that there is a sound understanding of the task about to be undertaken. Our third webinar in the series features the use of workbooks to support research projects (but can be adapted to any independent task). In the webinar, we'll be discussing how this approach scaffolds the entire process from proposal, planning and preparation – with opportunities for milestone submissions and feedback - through to regular reflection and final showcase of the product. Again, you'll find a sneak preview below.
JOINING THE WEBINARS
The webinars are open to all and free to attend. Just follow any one of the 'register your interest' links on this page to find out more information about the broadcast times. Even if you don't think you'll be able to make the live events, register anyway so we can send you a link to the recordings. From all of the team here at PebblePad, stay safe, and we look forward to welcoming you to these much-anticipated webinars.