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Student & staff expectations for COVID-19 university experience

Dr Gareth Healey, Senior lecturer, Swansea University Medical School

Dr Gareth Healey, Senior lecturer @SwanseaUni Medical School and his team have been working hard to prepare their own department and courses to deliver an uncompromised university experience for incoming and returning students.

August is a nail-biting time of year for those students anxiously awaiting their exam results and confirmed university places. And this year is no exception, albeit the circumstances are slightly different. 

Once places have been confirmed, excited students and anxious parents will be turning their thoughts to what they can expect for the new academic year. 

Whilst this A-Level results day will be unlike any other in some ways, the nervous anticipation and excitement that surrounds this day for students, their families and their teachers remains the same. As is the case at the beginning of every academic year, students will have to prepare to make the transition to university life and meet the new expectations of their chosen degree subject. 

Incoming and returning students can expect a blended learning experience that combines essential in-person practical skills teaching and engaging online, multimedia content. A huge benefit of this approach is that it allows us to offer greater flexibility for our students, many universities will be extending in-person teaching hours to help facilitate social distancing in labs/tutorials which could prove invaluable for mature students and those with external commitments. Meanwhile, with online teaching students will have the option to revisit recorded content to help prepare for examinations/assessments and will also have access to 1:1 online sessions with tutors for additional support, at a time that suits them. 

Universities and academic institutions across the country have spent the past few months preparing their campuses and crafting alternative solutions to ensure that they can continue providing uncompromised, quality teaching during COVID-19 times. For me and my colleagues, this has been an exciting opportunity to create and revise existing content to ensure it is both engaging and challenging for students, and has long-term potential. For example, outside of teaching we have been utilising GoTo Webinar to expand our university business network and now we are looking at ways that we can bring this technology into the classroom and utilise features such as live polling and attendance tracking. 

 While some might be apprehensive about starting or continuing their education in this way, the blended learning approach offers an exciting opportunity, for staff and students alike, to re-define the university experience. We can engage and challenge each other in new ways, making the most of what today’s collaborative technology has to offer.

Dr Gareth Healey, Senior lecturer, Swansea University Medical School

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