Structure, communication and transition; a whole cohort approach for years 1 and 2 in the pivot to online learning

Learning and Teaching Forum Lunchtime Workshop Programme – Workshop 12, 24 May 2021

Dr Sally Quinn – Department of Psychology, University of York

Report from workshop chair, Ian Gray, Department of Computer Science

Recording of session available here

In this workshop we discussed the varying approaches that our departments have taken in the pivot to online learning. We discussed what worked, what didn’t, and how we feel that we will take these experiences forward into subsequent years.

Sally highlighted the approach taken by the Psychology Department. In their planning it was felt that due to their reduced University experience, stage 1 and 2 students might find the transition to online learning particularly difficult. Accordingly, Psychology decided to focus strongly on structuring the delivery of the year to make self-organisation easier.

Psychology students study five modules throughout the year, so the decision was taken to assign each of these modules to a particular day of the week. The evening before that day, lectures would be released along with a task or problem to consider. At 4pm every day, a Q&A session with the lecturer was scheduled in which the students could discuss the assignment. The entire cohort was in this live Q&A session, and whilst it was sometimes busy, in general it was possible for the one staff member to handle queries.

This rigid structure was reinforced through regulated communication. VLE sites were unified to look the same, and weekly emails were sent out explaining what they did that week and what is coming in the next. Many of these aspects were praised by students, however it does lead to concerns that students may now expect this level of structure going forward, and so particular care will have to be taken in supporting these students as they move into later stages.

Participants discussed this approach, and reflected on how it compared to their own experiences. Sally also led a number of other discussions on the ways in which our own teaching can be carried back into face-to-face teaching.

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