In this peculiar time that students at Worcester and across the country are slowly becoming accustomed to, blended learning has become the latest approach to delivering high quality teaching whilst maintaining good health for students and staff alike.
My experiences of online lectures began back in March when I was doing the 3rd year of my undergraduate degree. During this time, all my lectures were online because of lockdown- this was when students and lectures truly started to embrace ‘Blackboard Collaborate’ (this is a web-conferencing tool built for live-multimedia interaction) as a means of learning, communication and maintaining a sensation of community.
Since September 2020, the University has used a blended learning approach to learning, with some of the lectures on each course being presented in person, whilst other lectures on the course are delivered online. As I am now taking my PGCE with QTS, I am able to compare the online learning experience I had in the previous academic year with the experience I have now through blended learning.
I believe that blended learning is an excellent approach to learning in a time where there are many challenges that can make education much harder than usual. Yes, online learning allows people to maintain safety and reassurance for themselves and others, but what I found during lockdown was that only having online lectures meant that the overall University experience was complicated because we were unable to see each other in person. Humans are social beings and whilst you are able to chat via online platforms, social interaction can at points feel awkward as your are unable to fully read body language and bounce ideas off each other.
However, as students and lecturers have become more efficient with Blackboard Collab over the past few months, online lectures have become far more engaging as we have come to grips with all the different features that enable us to truly connect. Face to face interaction remains important as it allows us develop relationships and feel part of the University community. With lockdown, many of us have experienced loneliness, even with online learning, so blended learning allows there to be a proficient balance between physical distancing measures and mental wellbeing.
Back in March, I had developed relationships with people over my three years as an undergraduate, beginning my PGCE in September meant that I needed to build new connections – I could not of done this effectively if my lectures had solely been online and I am thankful that the University has created an emphasis on blended learning as the way forward. Good work, Worcester!
Stay safe all!
This post was published on 3rd November 2020 Any references to self-isolation, travel or meeting others was accurate at the time of writing but the guidance may have changed since. Please always refer to the latest Government advice.