University Guide to teaching styles this September
Universities, as independent institutions have complete governance over how they structure their courses and which platforms they use to deliver sessions. However, with the global pandemic changing the way society operates, universities must take decisions as to how they will operate in the 2020/2021 academic year. While there is scope for flexibility and adaptation, it is abundantly clear that universities cannot conduct their delivery in the traditional way.
The first major UK university to announce its plans for September was the University of Manchester. On 11th May they announced that for semester one all large lectures would be delivered online, and that face-to-face on campus teaching would be limited to small groups within seminars, tutorials and labs. Following this, University of Cambridge announced that throughout the 2020/2021 academic year all lectures would take place online, as it is likely that social distancing rules will continue to be implemented throughout the coming year.
Universities taking a blended learning approach
Across the UK, universities are now developing new learning models to suit the current public health climate, with many opting for a blended or hybrid approach, whereby universities will offer a combination of online and face-to-face learning. University of Sheffield has announced that initially face-to-face learning will only be conducted in small cohorts, in accordance with government guidelines and social distancing rules. However, it emphasises its flexible approach, that the blend between online and face-to-face learning will change in accordance with the national situation. Likewise, University of Bristol reassures students of its capacity to increase each learning component, when necessary, to adapt to the social climate. Northumbria University made a significant investment in online technology, in order to offer students a flexible online learning platform, including a combination of real-time, any-time, and interactive sessions.
While many students may feel like online learning is new to them, digital learning is entrenched within the Higher Education system - many universities have existing digital infrastructures to support students online. Coventry University reminds students of its successful engagement with various digital platforms before the global pandemic, and that despite the changing circumstances, their online platforms will continue to support students within a flexible learning environment. Similarly, The University of Liverpoolis highly renowned for the quality of its online post-graduate courses, and reiterates to students that this expertise will be utilised within the plans for the 2020/2021 academic year. While the University of Liverpool will offer some face-to-face teaching in smaller groups, it is planning to alter timetables to reduce the density of students on campus at any time. Both Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool plan to provide students with washable facemasks to ensure the safety of students when on campus, and within their city.
Adaptations of the blended approach
While many UK universities opt for a blended approach to learning, this has varied meanings and implications for different institutions. announced that while it intends to provide some teaching Ulster Universityon campus in September, this will be prioritised for practice-based learning. The University is confident that students will be supported in their learning through its strong online infrastructure. University of York announced that where possible it will delay practical sessions, such as labs, to later in the academic year when social distancing may not be so strict. University of Glasgowhas provided students with the option of a dual start date, beginning if necessary, in January 2021. However, if students wish to utilise this they must apply before August 31st. Similarly, many universities are expanding their online presence, such as the University of Newcastle and the University of Edinburgh, to offer those unable to return to campus the option of a full online education, until it is safe and feasible for them to return. The University of Edinburgh wishes to ensure that no student is disadvantaged in their education during the pandemic. Furthermore, Manchester Metropolitan University have announced an adaptation to its programme structure; while previously, students would mix between cohorts and across modules, students will now take one module at a time. This will ensure that students stay within one single study group to minimise contact. The University of Birminghamplans to open its facilities in phases. Phase one will begin on 1st June with the initial and gradual opening of campus, and phase two will include the return to teaching in September, whereby there will be a blended approach.
Other UK universities who have announced a blended approach in September, between online and face-to-face teaching, include:
1. The University of Leeds
2. Nottingham Trent University
3. King’s College London
4. University College London
5. Newcastle University
6. Liverpool John Moores University
7. Queen Mary University of London
8. Swansea University
9. University of Sussex
10. Imperial College London
11. University of Plymouth
12. University of East Anglia
13. University of South Wales
14. University of Kent
15. University of Strathclyde Glasgow
16. University of Warwick
17. University of Bath
Commitment to face-to-face teaching
Birmingham City University has announced that the ‘vast majority’ of its teaching will be face-to-face and on campus. It will be managing all its buildings differently, so that social distancing measures can be adhered to. The University will reduce its teaching to smaller cohorts, and where necessary, will provide additional resources virtually. Similarly, the University of Oxford aims to return to on campus teaching with ‘as full a cohort as possible’ in the new term. It has committed to high quality face-to-face teaching that may be supplemented with online resources. Queens University Belfast is dedicated to giving students a meaningful campus experience in September,
and is adapting facilities to incorporate the necessary social distancing measures. Although students may be supported through some online resources, Queens University Belfast will offer as much face-to-face learning as possible.
Universities yet to announce their plans for 2020/2021 to students
The University of Nottingham is monitoring the current situation and is set to announce official course start dates no later than Friday 12th June. Similarly, Cardiff University has announced that large lectures will be transferred into a virtual format. It is set to contact students by mid-August to outline plans for the new academic year and address possible changes to the curriculum. De Montfort University delayed its start date to 5th October, but is continuing to review government restrictions, and consider the implications of social distancing on face-to-face teaching. De Montfort University will update students when they are able to. The University of Southampton has announced that the balance between online and face-to-face learning will evolve in accordance with the national situation. Presently, they are uncertain exactly what this balance will be and will clarify plans to students by the end of June.
The University of Hertfordshire plans to return in September but is looking to implement innovative changes such as one-way walking routes and physical distancing measures – these plans will be confirmed over the coming weeks by the Vice Chancellor. University of the Arts London has altered term dates to 19th October but as the future for the 2020/2021 academic year remains uncertain, they will contact students when plans are firmly in place.
Durham University initially announced complex plans for September but has reversed its decision. For now, they continue to closely monitor the situation and will confirm its plans to students over the coming weeks. The University of Exeter is considering the blended model of learning, to allow flexibility for students, however this approach will depend on government guidelines in September.
UWE Bristol continues to welcome applicants. However, the complexities of the global pandemic leave it unable to say when the university will be re-opening. Similarly, Loughborough plans to welcome a new cohort of students in September, that will soon be contacted regarding the plans for the next academic year.
Other Universities yet to announce their official plans to students:
2. Leeds Beckett
4. City University of London
5. Anglia Ruskin University
Clearly, universities are responding to the changing global situation. The pandemic has forced traditional institutions to adapt and change, embracing digital technologies to provide new and innovative ways of teaching. While many universities are opting for a blended approach, in the new academic year, online learning will be an integral part of higher education.