This week we decided on the direction of travel St George’s will be taking for the start of the next academic year for education. Our aim is that these plans can be responsive to any changes in national guidelines for Covid-19, so we have chosen a path that can adapt to any future tightening of restrictions. In brief:
- We expect that all cohorts will start on the usual schedule.
- Importantly, the majority of teaching will be online until at least the end of December, including lectures, small group teaching, seminars and personal tutor meetings.
- For clinical programmes, we envisage students will be going out on placements (dependent on safety assurances and provider willingness to take students), but these will necessarily be adapted to a clinical environment and practices altered by the response to Covid-19.
- Only essential, hands-on, skills-based teaching and assessment will take place on-site (e.g. laboratory practicals, clinical skills, simulation, dissecting room teaching and OSCEs), contingent on safety measures being in place. Social distancing will be maintained, but where close contact is needed (e.g. clinical examination) PPE will be provided.
Ensuring a safe environment onsite next term will be a priority. Several teams across the University are working on the logistics and more information on the return to site will follow as plans unfold. Maintaining social distancing for hands-on teaching will mean running multiple sessions for fewer students. In the Education Continuity Group, we are working intensively to organise timetabling that consolidates sessions, to avoid multiple visits onsite for short periods. We are also looking at how we can allow access to key facilities such as computers, printing and study space while taking into consideration all the safety guidelines. The situation for student research projects is contingent on research operations planning and we will keep you updated with progress on this.
Across programmes, a major project is underway to transform education in readiness for next term’s online learning. This builds on the “emergency” move online over the past two months, the speed and scope of which has been impressive. Programmes teams will be supported in this work and guided by a common framework being developed collaboratively by the Centre for Innovation and Development in Education and the Centre for Technology in Education. Online teaching redesign within this framework will start in earnest at the beginning of June and will involve multiple academic and professional services teams.
Evaluation by staff of what has worked well and less well so far is guiding the project, enriched by student perspectives expressed in SOLTS module feedback, Unitu comments and ad hoc course surveys. Most have been positive (even that teaching has been better online); some indicate what hasn’t worked well for them; and many students see the move online as an opportunity for a fresh approach to teaching and learning. We are inviting expressions of interest from students who would like to work alongside staff as Student Curriculum Advisors for the online curriculum project.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the academic and professional services teams from across the University who have worked so hard, with creativity and drive, to move teaching and assessment online and ensure that all our students can graduate and progress. This work is an excellent foundation for the major task ahead, as we work together on arrangements for next term.
Professor Jane Saffell
Deputy Principal (Education)