Understanding our new normal

An introduction to the new academic year from BILT Director, Sarah Davies.

As some of our programmes start teaching, and the rest prepare to start in a couple of weeks, we find ourselves still navigating a complex and changeable environment, seeking to balance risk alongside a more ‘normal’ experience of working, studying and socialising as best we can.

In that context, it’ll be no surprise that understanding the experience of digital and blended learning remains a priority for BILT this year. The keynote session at our Connected Conference brought together two really interesting speakers on building communities in a digital age, and was a great run through the key issues in blending digital and on-campus education and student experience. The recordings from the conference are now live, so if you missed that session I’d recommend having a look at this blog post or the recording of the session.

A particular area of blended teaching we’re going to be looking at this year is the use of hybrid approaches to teaching: teaching students on-campus and online in the same session. The university has equipped a limited number of rooms to support hybrid teaching, but it remains challenging to engage remote and in-room students simultaneously: initial guidance and some suggested approaches are available on the Digital Education Office site. BILT will be running practice-sharing events on hybrid teaching over the coming weeks: do please get in touch if you have any experience you would like to discuss.

Book onto BILT’s Hybrid Teaching guidance event here.

From 13th – 17th September IT Services are offering staff the chance to try out new equipment available for hybrid teaching, as follows:

Chemistry Lecture Theatre 2 – three drop in sessions at 11:00 to 12:00 on Tuesday 14 , Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September. IT Services staff will be on hand to explain how to use the new equipment.

The following lecture theatres will also be available from 9:00 until 17:00 from Monday 13 September until Friday 17 September. Please note, IT staff will not be present in these rooms to assist.

  • Chemistry – LT2 (apart from 11:00-12:00 Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday)
  • Physics – Frank
  • BioMed – C42
  • 43WR – G.01
  • Ada Lovelace – SM1

If you have any queries please contact the IT Service desk.

I was struck last year by how different the lived experience of studying can be for different students, depending on all sorts of factors including their home and study environment and what else they have going on in their lives. Working with students to understand where issues are emerging and engaging them in helping to design solutions is therefore a key part of our approach:

  • We’ve recently said goodbye to one excellent group of BILT student fellows – you can read some of their reflections on our blog – and are looking forward to recruiting this year’s fellows.
  • We have just funded a new round of Educational Development Projects with a strong ‘students as partners’ flavour – more on those soon.
  • The Digital Education Office have been working with student digital champions over the last year and through the summer to help develop a better student digital learning experience and are showcasing this work on a new student-facing blog.

A major achievement for our student fellows last year, and indeed for many of our students across the institution, both the subject reviewers and the paper authors, was the publication of the second edition of our student research journal. Do have a look at it if you haven’t already. We look forward to building on this work to support the development of students as researchers within and outside the curriculum over the next academic year.

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