Teaching and Learning in the new academic year: 2021-22
A message from Professor Kathy Armour, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) – 21 July 2021.
This week, in England, we have reached Step 4 of the national roadmap out of Coronavirus legal restrictions. The UK Government has published its updated guidance for higher education settings and so we are pleased to share our current plans for in-person, on-campus teaching and accompanying online support for the 2021-22 academic year.
We are very aware that the pandemic circumstances remain highly changeable in England and around the world. In setting out our expectations for teaching and learning conditions in September they are, of course, subject to national guidance and the potential for a range of restrictions to be re-imposed. We are also very conscious of the variable circumstances facing our international students and the ongoing challenges of travel restrictions, so we are planning to be adaptable and flexible.
In developing these plans, we have taken into account a range of different Covid-related scenarios and the lessons learnt from the last year. This means we are confident we will be able to deliver education successfully whether, for example, all restrictions are lifted for the whole academic year, some restrictions are imposed by government at certain points in the year, or staff and students are required to self-isolate at short notice. In summary, we have planned to be ready for (almost) anything!
What you can expect
1. Lectures will typically go ahead in person, in the normal way unless the government requires us to introduce Covid-related restrictions that make this impossible. These interactive lectures will reinforce and extend the core lecture content that will still be available in advance online, so your lecturer can focus on explanation, clarification, examples and interactive learning. These sessions will be recorded (where appropriate) so they are available to you even if, for example, you are self-isolating or unable to travel. For international students who may face travel restrictions for extended periods of time, we are also preparing to make live remote access available to many of the large group lectures.
2. Small group teaching such as seminars, labs and skills sessions will go ahead in-person in the usual way unless we are required to introduce Covid-related restrictions. If we do need to restrict access at any point in the year, we will invoke the 1m+ socially distanced schedule that we operated in this academic year, run additional online sessions for those students who are unable to be here in person, and/or run hybrid sessions with ‘roomies and zoomies’ accessing the session simultaneously in person and online.
3. As noted in point 1, all core lecture content will be pre-recorded and made available online as preparation for the in-person lectures. This year, our students reported they found the availability of preparatory content online to be very helpful in supporting their learning. This is particularly the case for students with a disability, caring responsibilities, or English as a second language. This also means that students can continue to access core teaching content even if they are required to self-isolate or are unable to travel, or if staff are required to isolate.
4. Every student has a Personal Academic Tutor and in addition to the opportunity to meet with your tutor individually, you will have regular academic support with our Online Group Tutorials. Based on our experience of running online group tutorials this year, students reported that the online format was convenient and accessible, and the group format helped them to connect with their peers.
5. Assessments will take a range of formats including many different types of examination and coursework (your tutors will explain). Based on our success in delivering inclusive online assessments this year, we will be retaining online assessments where they are appropriate to the specific requirements and learning outcomes of a programme. We can also invoke online assessments for all programmes if the government imposes Covid-related restrictions.
6. Note: there are programmes with specific practical and professional requirements where on-campus in-person teaching and assessments will be required at some point in order to graduate/progress. Your School will advise if this applies to you.
Staying Covid Safe
7. You can also expect that we will continue to prioritise your safety and wellbeing and that will include measures to mitigate any risks. For example, face coverings may still be required or encouraged in some settings, some one-way systems for moving around campus may still be in place, and we can expect that regular Covid-testing will be a feature of University life for some time to come.
8. The national vaccination programme in the UK is the best defence against disruptive restrictions and offers good protection against serious illness arising from Coronavirus. We would strongly recommend that everyone takes up the offer of free vaccinations and, wherever possible, you should be “double-jabbed” before you return to the University in September. You can book a vaccination appointment through the NHS here. International Students currently in the UK can access the vaccination programme now, and for international students arriving in the UK who are not fully vaccinated already, you will be eligible for a full vaccination or appropriate second dose when you arrive.
9. For our international students we will continue to provide specific updates and advice on travel and quarantine requirements throughout the summer. We have previously announced that for international students travelling to the UK from a red list country, the University will reimburse the costs of hotel quarantine arrangements and we are developing our plans to provide further support for self-isolation on arrival and an extended and flexible welcome period.
10. And finally, we will continue to update all students throughout the summer months about our plans to welcome you back in September – so please keep checking your email. We understand that the transition we are now making out of lockdown will be a strange time, so be assured support is always available:
We look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible back to our beautiful campus, which has felt far too empty this year.
On behalf of all of us at UoB - have a good summer, take good care, and we’ll see you in September.