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: Tim Reinke-Williams – Delivering undergraduate teaching during the pandemic – some reflections

In the next Pandemic Pedagogy 2.0 post, Tim Reinke-Williams, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Northampton, talks us through how staff and students have coped with teaching and learning through the various lockdowns we have all experienced. We’re sure that his insights will resonate with colleagues at other institutions, so please do share your views in response to Tim’s post on Twitter or even write a post for this blog.


This blog focuses on how the undergraduate History programme has been delivered at the University of Northampton since March 2020. For the most part History staff and students have adapted well, but there have been challenges and we’re continuing to adapt to a changing situation.

Prior to the third lockdown in January 2021 most content was delivered online via weekly sessions in virtual classrooms. Attendance was good, but getting students to move beyond posting brief comments in chat boxes was challenging (notably at level 4), and there were concerns about whether students were staying in the virtual classroom throughout the session, or simply “logging on then buggering off” (a phrase I glibly included in an email, which a colleague decided to abbreviate to LOBO). We have evidence of this: one colleague stayed behind in the virtual classroom until only one student was left, then asked the person “present” if they wanted to chat – the lack of a response suggested they had been gone for some time!

Before Christmas the university insisted that we offered two hours per week of onsite teaching, which we were able to do through core modules at levels 4-5. First-year attendance was good, but staff noted that interactions between students were not as close as in previous years, suggesting that learning mostly online has made it difficult for new students to form friendships and interact in person. Attendance at level 5 sessions was lower than at level 4, but second-year students valued having onsite sessions.

The main challenges were at level 6 where there were no existing core sessions for students to attend each week. We usually run dissertation workshops at level 6 (four across the year) so some of the onsite delivery came through those, but we had to set up a rota to deliver the other sessions, and in general third years were reluctant to come on to campus, so attendance was poor.

The other challenge with onsite sessions was that we were expected to use hi-flex to enable those who did not want (or were unable) to come to campus to participate. Leaving aside that staff had to learn how to use the tech, the overall experience was unsatisfactory, with neither onsite or distance learners getting as much out of the sessions as they would have done had everyone been onsite or learning remotely.  Overall the team were pleased when everything moved online in January 2020. Blended sessions were difficult to deliver, and attendance declined as the term progressed.

To conclude by focusing on the students: most have accepted the ‘new normal’ and many have told us that we are doing a good job in difficult circumstances. Some have been frustrated by the inability to chat immediately after classes, so we’re staying in the virtual classrooms after formal teaching concludes and offering weekly drop-ins, but attendance at both have been patchy and despite many being digital natives, it’s clear that undergraduates still want real life interaction with lecturers.


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: David Gehring – Less is More and No Student Left Behind

In another of our posts following up on Pandemic Pedagogy, David Gehring of the Department of History at the University of Nottingham shares David Gehringhis thoughts on experiences of teaching during the pandemic. Feel free to share your own insights via our Twitter account or even by writing a blog post yourself!

This post is based on a presentation at the East Midlands Centre for History Learning and Teaching workshop that took place on 11 January 2021 and will be published on the EMC website as well (https://eastmidlandscentreforhistorylearningandteaching.education/).

 


Think back to those halcyon days when we regularly taught in a classroom. We, along with our students, were all within the same four walls, within the same physical environment. Then again, the playing field was never even for our students because their backgrounds and levels of cultural and social capital vary based on a range of factors well outside of our control as individual instructors. Despite the challenges posed by the uneven playing field, we, inside that classroom, could see if a student looked uneasy, uncomfortable, or confused; we, inside that classroom, could adjust the discussion, accommodate to student needs, and lift up those who needed the assistance.

Think now (February 2021). In an online teaching environment (Teams, Zoom, etc.), the playing field is even more uneven due to variations among our students’ IT hardware and internet connections, their levels of confidence when navigating the internet, and their study space while away from university campuses. How, therefore, can we create a welcoming community and learning environment for all when the challenges just got harder for those who need our support the most? At my university, Microsoft Teams has been the principal platform for online teaching, and, in many respects, it has matured remarkably since we all learned of its existence back in March 2020. When used alongside another virtual learning environment with which students are already familiar (e.g., Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas), Teams can be a real complement. Newer features and functions include breakout rooms, file storage, notebooks, blurred backgrounds, and collaborative tools. In time, Microsoft will add more bells and whistles. These tools can genuinely enrich the student experience, and embed knowledge and understanding in fun and fresh ways. What’s not to love?

But.

Our own abilities as instructors vary significantly. Some of us aren’t very confident with these new bells and whistles; even if we are, the frequent updating of the software means that we’re not all running the same version of Teams, and, as a result, we may not all have access to the newest features. How can we expect our students – non-traditional, disadvantaged, middle-class, or well-heeled – to keep up with these changes when the world around them is in such flux, when, quite rightly, their priorities may lie in family care? Even if they’re savvy enough to know how to navigate breakout rooms, collaborate via the notebook, or use Talis Aspire, that doesn’t mean that their IT hardware or internet bandwidth can take it. (Never mind the limitations of my own network at home.)

So, what can we do? Less is more, with, ideally, no student left behind. No PowerPoints. No screen sharing. No breakout rooms. No whiteboards. No bells. No whistles. Just the equivalent of a seminar room with me and them, cameras on. It’s basic; it’s straightforward; but, in avoiding the complications and potential stress levels that come with the newest and latest, we can lessen the chances of losing students along the way. The move online has already put many students at a disadvantage, and I’d like to avoid exacerbating that disparity. Keeping things low-tech, à la March 2020, can make the seminar feel a little old school when our other colleagues are using the breakout rooms and collaborative tools that we don’t. Should all of us go ‘less is more’? No, I think not. Rather, variety in pedagogical style has always been part of higher education, and our students should continue to be exposed to different styles of teaching, to different modes of learning. Variety, after all, is the spice of life. Long may it remain.

 


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 – your chance to contribute

History UK is looking to build on the Pandemic Pedagogy project by exploring the continuing impact of Covid-19 on teaching history in higher education. We are inviting short blog posts (300-500 words long) and/or podcasts/videos (c. 3-5 minutes long) that address how the pandemic has change or affected subject specific teaching practice in History and cognate disciplines.
Such contributions could include but is not limited to:
  • learning and teaching environments: the socially distanced classroom, online, hybrid and hy-flex
  • diversity and inclusivity
  • technology and software or high tech versus low tech
  • assessment methods
  • activities beyond the classroom (e.g. field trips)
  • student engagement
  • health and wellbeing – staff and students
  • student communities
  • collaborative learning
  • the ways in which students have perceived, understood, and responded to the changes and challenges
If you would like to contribute to the next phase of pandemic pedagogy, please email Dr Sarah Holland (sarah.holland@nottingham.ac.uk), History UK’s Education Officer.
We are hoping to begin to release the blog posts/podcasts/videos from mid-January 2021.

History UK student video competition – What’s it like to be a history student in this new digital world?

The move to online and blended learning has had a big impact on university staff and students alike. At the same time, COVID-19 and related restrictions have highlighted the important role the arts and humanities can have in times of crisis.

History UK invites video submissions from current undergraduates and taught postgraduate students that offer creative and imaginative insights into what it’s like to be a history student in this new digital world. You might reflect on the different ways you or other students have navigated the shift to online or blended learning, or you might want to explore the ways the pandemic and related restrictions have made you think differently about history and the relevance of your degree. Submissions can be made individually or as a team.

The entries will be used by History UK as part of its mission to support historians in higher education in the UK. Through its Pandemic Pedagogy project, History UK has gathered a lot of feedback from staff and provided them with guidance on online learning. We’re now keen to gather some student perspectives to complement these resources.

 

Deadline: Wednesday 28 October, 5pm.

 

Eligibility: undergraduate (i.e. BA) and taught postgraduate students (i.e. MA/MSc) of History currently registered at UK higher education providers.

 

Prizes:

1st: £250

2nd: £100

3rd: £50

 

Submission requirements: 

Submissions should be made by emailing historyuk2020@gmail.com by 5pm on Wednesday 28 October with a link to a downloadable version of your video file (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, MS OneDrive, WeTransfer).

  • The video should be in a YouTube acceptable format (.MOV .MPEG4, .MP4, .AVI).
  • It should be a maximum of 120 seconds long (excluding credits).
  • You must include credits citing all the materials used.
  • Music, sound effects, and stock footage should have a Creative Commons license attached (from CC-BY-NC-SA up to Public Domain) and be cited in the credits.
  • Audio quotes can be used but comply with the concept of fair dealingand fair use. This typically means editing down to the length of time needed to make the point clear (typically less than 20 seconds).
  • You must get written permission from all people in the video.
  • Along with your video submission, please provide your name(s), your course(s) of study, institution, and the contact details of a tutor who will be able to verify your identity.
  • Entrants will retain ownership over their entries. By submitting an entry, entrants grant History UK a non-exclusive, royalty-free, right and licence to display, publish, transmit, copy, edit, and use the entry in any media, to promote History UK or for educational purposes.

Download a pdf of this call here.