Comment: Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor: Digital Transformation

In this edition of SEB, Neil Morris, the newly appointed Interim DVC: Digital Transformation, reflects on the hybrid delivery model for student education.

In June this year, we established a set of Education Delivery Principles for 2020/21 that set out a vision of a: ‘Student-centred active learning approach to deliver a high-quality research-based education in a hybrid mode, as part of a supportive, enriching and community-focused experience.’

To support delivery of this vision, we invested in additional digital education capabilities in time for the 20/21 academic session, to work alongside our existing extensive digital education ecosystem.

We also provided extensive support, guidance and training for staff delivering a student-centred active learning approach, through an online course, programme and module templates, case studies and guidance materials (all available here).

Inclusive, flexible and authentic

The University’s hybrid delivery approach offers a number of potential advantages for student education, including inclusivity, access, flexibility and personalisation.

The increased use of Minerva to provide students with learning materials in multiple formats supports access, flexibility and inclusivity, and the student-centred active learning approach supports interactivity, personalisation and inclusivity.

The process of module redesign for hybrid delivery has also led us to create online resources in line with newly introduced legislation around accessibility and inclusivity, and has resulted in changes in assessment practices that should lead to more inclusive, flexible and authentic assessments.

New learning

As we proceed through this Autumn term, we are starting to hear about the positive impacts of our hybrid delivery model on students’ learning and their holistic experience.

In particular, the experiences of using our virtual classrooms for synchronous, interactive, learning are proving effective, and are popular with students.

Some common themes have emerged around the benefits for student participation in large group online virtual classroom settings, with staff observing that students have been more ready to post questions and share examples using meeting chat than they would be in a large face-to-face session.

Also, staff have noted that students have found it easier to attend online tutorial meetings than traditional campus-based meetings – anecdotal evidence suggests attendance at academic personal tutorial meetings is higher this year than in previous years.

Testaments

We are also hearing about innovations in student education approaches that have arisen as a result of the hybrid delivery model – right across the university, colleagues have created student-centred, active learning activities to engage and motivate students.

We will be publishing a range of case studies to illustrate the impacts of hybrid delivery shortly, and we will be surveying teaching staff about their experiences.

Currently, anecdotal feedback from students is positive.

Some examples which demonstrate colleagues’ strong commitment to student learning, community and support include:

The sessions are incredibly helpful to be productive and they offer a real sense of social connection with others in the university while we are all dispersed due to Covid.

Also:

The transfer to online learning has been rather smooth for this module. The mix of live and pre-recorded material/sessions seems to have worked well

And:

Thank you so much for being such an amazing teacher, and for your support today it was really reassuring.

We will be surveying all students about their experiences of the hybrid delivery model in November, and will report the findings as quickly as possible.

Partnership

Of course, we recognise the challenges with hybrid delivery, particularly in relation to technological issues, digital poverty and the sense of belonging, community and the holistic nature of a university education.

Many colleagues are actively working to address these challenges, and we will continue to learn and improve the experience for students studying in this way.

The continued development of opportunities for discussion, interaction, collaboration and sharing through innovative, creative and co-created use of our digital technologies enables social learning communities to be established and nurtured.

There is a strong partnership culture within all members of the University community that has been demonstrably reinforced by this situation, and initiatives that we are introducing will have clear and long-lasting benefits.

READ: Newly appointed Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Digital Transformation, Professor Neil Morris, shares the University’s vision for the future of the University in relation to the use of digital technologies