Teaching Stories

Designing an online course that is more about questions than answers

Guest blog from Professor Bridget Anderson and Emma Newcombe

This time in 2019 we at Migration Mobilities Bristol (MMB), one of Bristol’s Specialist Research Institutes, were busy planning a programme of international visits and visitors, events, films and taking a more active role in the MSc in Migration and Mobility Studies. Then came COVID-19. Overnight, international travel was stopped and spending frozen so we had to rethink all our efforts to support our internal community, showcase our wide ranging research expertise and build new collaborations and partnerships.

One way we have done this is to think about how research and teaching connect up and try to use the move towards digital provision of teaching and outreach to our advantage. To this end, we are very excited to say we have launched a free online course on Future Learn – ‘Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship’ that will be part of the Bristol Futures portfolio. We are also opening registration for ‘The MMB Online Academy 2021’ which will run May to July next year.

Everyone is talking about migration

You hear about it in the media all the time, from news and documentaries to dramas and soaps. People talk about it in pubs and in taxis. There is no shortage of opinion, assertations and information about the subject too. And inevitably there are a lot of assumptions about migration too. For example, when we think of migration why is it that we tend to focus on the movement of people from low to high income countries, particularly Europe and North America? Why aren’t young British people working as au pairs in Australia not imagined as ‘migrants’?

We think it is interesting to step back and look at the many different definitions and understandings of ‘migrant’, and the kinds of questions and methods that characterise different disciplines’ engagement with the field. We are particularly pleased to showcase some of the fantastic research on migration and mobility that takes place at the University of Bristol, linking to research in the Schools of Anthropology, English, Film Studies, Law, Philosophy, Social Policy and Sociology.

Thinking or rethinking assumptions

‘Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship’ is aimed at a broad audience and we welcome everyone to think about giving it a go. After all it is free! You might be a scholar with many years of experience working in the social sciences, or a teacher or a student who is completely new to this area – either way we think it offers an entry point to thinking or rethinking the assumptions that we all bring to conversations about any subject deemed a ‘social problem’.

The course aims, not to tell people what to think, but to give them tools to critically examine their own ideas and to be able to engage in respectful debate with others. In fact, this was something we hadn’t anticipated being possible during the taster course. But putting the course on the FutureLearn platform has meant that participants can add comments and ideas to the discussion threads throughout. We encourage them to do this to really engage with the content. This gives them the chance to talk to other learners from all over the world and learn from each other.

It is short, approximately six hours, but we hope that some will be encouraged to follow up on the references and projects to take a deeper dive into migration and mobilities at Bristol.

For those interested in more…

The MMB Online Academy 2021 will be synchronous and online, giving participants access to a range of senior scholars and cutting edge scholarship on topics as diverse as migration and COVID-19, race, racism and migration, and mobility and the socio-digital, as well as foundational knowledge on asylum, labour migration, trafficking and family migration.

At MMB we believe that learning about migration is not only learning about people who move but also about better understanding the societies in which we live. We hope that both these courses convey something of our commitment and passion for this subject, and the brilliant work that is being done at Bristol.

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