Pandemic Pedagogy 2.0: A summary

As we bring our series of blog posts following up on the Pandemic Pedagogy initiative to a close, we thought it would be useful to summarise the interesting contributions that we’ve received. Looking back through them, we thought that they fell into three broad categories. First, there were several posts that addressed the issue of accessibility and building a sense of community among the student (and staff) body:

Second, several contributors reflected in a broader sense on the staff and student experience of teaching and learning during the pandemic:

Finally, we had three posts that explored innovative approaches to teaching and learning, from fieldtrips to assessment via the role of paper (remember that?) in the digital classroom:

To these we can add the posts that were published last year as part of the original Pandemic Pedagogy initiative, which you can find by looking back through the blog.

We hope that you have found these posts to be useful in thinking about your own teaching and learning experiences during the pandemic.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this series of blog posts. We hope that you have found them useful. If you would like to contribute another short blog post or podcast/video that addresses how the pandemic has changed or affected history teaching and learning in higher education then please email Dr Sarah Holland (sarah.holland@nottingham.ac.uk), History UK’s Education Officer. We’d also love to hear your views on the Pandemic Pedagogy initiative and on these blog posts via our Twitter account.

Pandemic Pedagogy 2.0: Lucinda Matthews-Jones – The Paper-Based Digital Classroom

The second blog post following on from our Pandemic Pedagogy initiative is by Lucinda Matthews-Jones, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. She teaches nineteenth-century gender and urban history modules. Her dynamic and innovative teaching approaches were recognised in 2018 when she awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Individual Teaching Award. Beyond the classroom, she researches ideas of home and urban domesticities in the British Settlement Movement, 1880-1920. Lucinda tweets @luciejones83.


I am a paper-based lecturer and teacher. Before COVID-19, you would have found me moving around my university building with large rolls of paper and a tote bag filled with coloured pens, glue sticks, post notes, and scissors. For me, asking students to work on paper in groups or as individuals enabled them to break down and cement their ideas through a visual format. It helped me to see what they had picked up and to expand these points in classroom discussions.

But how could I replicate this in the digital classroom? There has been a tendency to think that this needs to be done through digital tools. But if the non-digital class can be based on mixed media then why not the digital, too? Why must the digital classroom be paperless? It felt like digital fatigue had hit both me and the students in the second half of the semester in Autumn 2020. Discussions with personal tutees and other students had made me increasingly aware that recorded lectures were taking a lot of time and energy both to produce and consume. As History UK’s Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook observed ‘screen-time and remote interaction have a cumulative effect; the result is mentally and physically draining’.

My first-year students had a ‘how to respond to your feedback’ seminar coming up for their academic skills module and I wanted to think more creatively about how to get them to engage with the department’s writing guide. I decided that breaking it down and asking students to create a zine relating to the section that they had been assigned would help them to process the complex information written down in the guide and get them to think about how to communicate this in a creative manner. Students were sent class instructions through our VLE (see below).

Here is a picture of one zine and the page from LJMU’s History Guide it refers to.

Here is a picture of one zine and the page from LJMU’s History Guide it refers to.

Students reported that the exercise encouraged them to read the material differently by emphasising the need to break it down and to think about how to display the guide’s information. They enjoyed the idea that the exercise was for a wider audience and not just them reading through the guide on their own. At the end of the session, contributions were sent to me and put into a PDF.

Handwriting and hand drawing can improve people’s ability to remember. Hetty Roessingh, for instance, has noted that handwriting notes and sketching has enhanced her students ‘understanding and remembering’ by encouraging them to make ‘personal connection’ through ‘creative thought’.  Roessingh continues that ‘hand-written notes matter and endure over time.’ Asking students to do paper-based creative exercise also changes the embodied experiences of digital learning. It encourages the eyes to look down and focus on the task, minimising screen time during a seminar.

The picture above shows a mind map illustrating one approach taken by students.

The picture above shows a mind map illustrating one approach taken by students.

This session was intended to be light-hearted and a bit different from previous weeks. What I found was that I really enjoyed it. The conversations were dynamic and interesting as I moved around the breakout rooms. I felt more like me as a lecturer, having neither the know-how nor confidence around some digital technologies that others have used to transition their teaching online. Paper based activities will now be the focus of my teaching in semester 2.

What paper-based activities have you been using in your teaching? I would love to hear!

Class instructions

To help you prepare for the next assessment we will be digging into the LJMU Writing Guide. Together we will create a zine of top tips from this based on your feedback and what surprises you from the guide and feel your peers would benefit from.

Before class: 

  • Please make sure you have downloaded: LJMU_Writing_History_v1.pdf
  • Have some paper and any coloured pens to hand. You can also bring newspaper, magazines, glue, and scissors if you want to do something more multimedia. But you do not have too. You can do this exercise on a class.

In class: 

  • You will be spilt into groups and given a section
  • Be able to take an image of your hand out and email to  Lucie for her to collate.
  • Be prepared to summarise and explain your zine page.

Want to know more about Zines? Read here: How to Make a Zine: Guide to Making Your Own Zine During Quarantine – Thrillist (Links to an external site.).


If you would like to contribute a short blog post or podcast/video that addresses how the pandemic has changed or affected history teaching and learning in Higher Education then please email Dr Sarah Holland (sarah.holland@nottingham.ac.uk), History UK’s Education Officer.

Pandemic Pedagogy 2.0: Amy Louise Blaney – Recreating Informal Spaces in Virtual Learning Environments

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to affect the ways in which history is taught and assessed at universities. Following on from our Pandemic Pedagogy Handbook, History UK has commissioned a series of blog posts exploring how staff, students and institutions have responded to this continually evolving situation and the pedagogical challenges it has presented.

The first post in this series is by Amy Louise Blaney, a PhD student at Keele University. Her thesis examines the afterlife of the Arthurian legend in the long eighteenth-century and its intersection with national identity formation. Amy is also a part-time lecturer in English at Staffordshire University, as well as a co-editor for Keele’s Under Construction postgraduate journal.


Covid-19 required rapid adaptations of teaching pedagogy and practice and it has been heartening to see HE teachers and lecturers engaging in innovative, accessible, and original teaching in these challenging environments.

Recreating informal and social spaces has, however, proved more difficult. As a student, I have missed the informal conversations that take place with both my peers and my lecturers – the chance encounters over coffee, or the chats that occur before and after lectures and seminars. And as a tutor, I’ve found re-creating such spaces online particularly challenging.

My first online teaching session felt sorely lacking in informality. Launching straight in seemed to leave students cold despite my attempts to create a cheery atmosphere. Getting them to talk to each other – let alone me – felt like trying to cross a digital wilderness, bereft of the friendly gestures that help in situ teaching sessions to get off the ground. We got there eventually, but I came out of it feeling that there was something lacking.

I mentioned this in passing to my mum – a Quality Improvement Officer for the NHS – and she suggested taking 5/10 minutes to ‘warm up’ my crowd. Warm-up activities had worked well with the adult learners on her training courses and, she said, had helped increase engagement.

Given that anything is better than talking into a void, I decided to give it a go and re-arranged my next session to allow for 10 minutes ‘warm-up’. Deciding that even if I couldn’t get students to engage, I could attempt to raise a smile, I raided the archive of internet memes and decided to ask how they felt on a scale of 1 – Obi-Wan.

Scale of 1 to Obi Wan

I’ll be honest, when I got to the relevant slide and asked the question, I was expecting radio silence. Instead, I got a chorus of chat messages with students responding with a number, then replying in chat or via voice if I asked them for a little more detail about how they were feeling. It wasn’t in any way related to the course content, but it woke everyone (myself included) up, got them mentally into the room, and got them talking to both me and to each other.

Since then, my group have told each other how we feel on a scale of cat, made a Mentimeter word cloud about Shakespeare, and played ‘guess the seventeenth-century poet’ together. Students would start chatting as soon as they logged in, asking each other how they were, and responding when I asked them how they’d found the reading and preparation. Sessions were more engaged and livelier. It felt like being in a classroom.

Our activities were only indirectly related to the course content but creating space for such informal conversations is, I feel, vital to learning. As well as providing a sense of comradery and shared experience, conversations that take place within informal learning spaces can inspire new directions in thinking and research and allow for the sharing of ideas and worries in a safe and collegiate space. And if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need those connections more than ever.


If you would like to contribute a short blog post or podcast/video that addresses how the pandemic has changed or affected history teaching and learning in Higher Education then please email Dr Sarah Holland (sarah.holland@nottingham.ac.uk), History UK’s Education Officer.