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Delivering education in 20/21

Staff from across the university are pulling together to ensure that we're ready to welcome students again in September, whatever the restrictions in place.

This is a lot of work, but it's of vital importance to Brunel's future – students are unlikely to enrol without confidence in our provision: our ability to deliver their education and protect their wellbeing.

Updates this week:

  • Reference guides for inclusive online teaching and advice on embedding wellbeing into the curriculum have been produced for academic staff and will be shared via the educational delivery Teams site

  • Training sessions have been scheduled for three days from 30 June to 2 July by the Digital Education Team to help staff develop their use of digital tools and techniques. More information will follow soon

Educational delivery in 20/21

In May, Senate agreed our overarching plans for next year, and we have since developed a Framework and Guide to Getting Started, which Departments are considering as they make their detailed plans.

Dual Delivery

Dual delivery means providing  parallel learning experiences for students on campus and online, giving staff flexibility in how to deliver teaching, and students flexibility in how they access their learning.

For the next academic year, the reality is that some students will learn exclusively online (because they cannot or choose not to travel to campus); a few students may do everything on campus – we have some subjects where there are no alternatives to physical face-to-face delivery; but the majority of students will do most things online and some things on campus. 

Whilst we want to do as much on campus as possible, the reality of social distancing requirements means that we will have to be selective. We have already agreed that lectures will be online, preserving campus space for those activities that add the most value to the students’ experience. We would expect these would be released weekly to support staff and students.

To illustrate how dual delivery could work, it may be helpful to think about seminars. For example, departments could alternate seminar groups, so that one week a group is online and the next they are on campus. Alternatively, we could run synchronous sessions where on-campus students and online students are together in the same seminar 

Other options include:

  • Peer-support groups, drop-ins and online social events to give students the chance to reflect on their learning with fellow students
  • 1-2-1 support through online academic and pastoral support meetings with tutors
  • Some practical and lab-based work delivered in Summer 2021 to minimise disruption

Departments are working together to build a picture of how modules can be delivered in June and July in order to inform timetabling and to communicate to our students.

Where programmes require an earlier start or more practical study, we will be consulting closely with programme leaders to best deliver learning and take advice from the relevant professional bodies. This could include front-loading programmes with theoretical work in the earlier terms, considering summer schools for practical work or looking at different ways to deliver this element of teaching effectively while restrictions are in place.

While the dual-delivery approach will undoubtedly require us all to adapt and to work in different ways, we are working with departments on a programme-by-programme basis to make sure it is manageable. Very importantly we all need to recognise that we will have to stop doing some things for a while in order to deliver the programme.

January start dates

Overseas students on four of our larger undergraduate programmes, will be able to join a compressed first year in January, working through the summer to progress to Year 2 in September as normal. These programmes will be delivered by Brunel Pathway College.

Departments have created additional January starts for Home, EU and overseas postgraduate students on some programmes, and we have surveyed applicants to other programmes on whether they would prefer their programme to move to a January start. This has now been completed and a handfu of programmes now have a January start only.

Return-to-learning support

With many of our new students having a longer-than-expected gap in learning as a result of lockdown, we are helping them fill this gap and prepare for study with us through our GetUReady and Postgrad Gateway programmes. Departments are working on subject-specific return-to-learning programmes at the start of the new academic year.

Keeping safe on campus

Our Campus Task & Finish Group is developing detailed plans to ensure that staff and students who are on campus are able to live and work safely until the situation eases. This will include reducing room capacities, using rotas and new routing arrangements, for example.


Supporting academic staff

This is a lot of work and to succeed it will mean prioritising over other areas of work. We have consulted with academic Heads of Department to help staff understand what is required and what can be done to support them. We will ensure that this work is captured in the work allocation model.

Digital tools

Staff have already become familiar with a whole range of digital tools in a very short space of time, but this is a new way of working and it will take some time to adapt fully. A list of the tools available to staff can be found in the Framework and Guide to Getting Started while further information can be seen here

Further support and advice is available from the Digital Education Team at ltt@brunel.ac.uk and training sessions will be held for all academic and support staff at the end of June.

It is also true that students will need to be confident that their studies won’t suffer because their equipment or space isn’t suitable, and that is something being discussed in the Task & Finish Group concerned with delivery of teaching in 2020/21.

How are we informing students?

2020 Changes website

We have created a set of new web pages outlining our approach to educational delivery and protecting the wellbeing of current and new students here

Our explainer video

A short, animated video explaining the key changes to our offer from September 2020 has been placed on our ste and sent out to current students. We are currenty producing a further video with more specific information about preparing for dual delivery.

Enquiries

Enquiry form have been placed on the external site so that students can register for updates on 2020 changes, register their interest in a programme with a new, additional January start date and regiter to defer their September place to January.

Communications

We are sending out information via social media channels and direct emails, with links to the website and our enquiry forms. These are being sent to current students, enquirers, applicants and offer-holders.