'Beyond the crisis’: accepting and adapting to the virtual academic skills workshop
This lightning talk examined the journey taken to re-create and co-construct the Academic Skills Workshop Programme on offer at Leeds Beckett University, an interactive and inclusive online classroom adapted due to the impact of Covid-19. A 'learning on the go' and 'trial and error' approach involving continuous evaluation was adopted for the creation of the programme, which was informed by staff and student feedback. The approach helped move this new and varied programme beyond the crisis point of Covid-19 towards a more robust online presence for future purpose. Key considerations helping to shape the programme included creating a sense of community and belonging online, co-creating a curriculum that addressed student feedback and needs, and responding to student wellbeing as well as academic skills development. This resulted in the redevelopment of an entire workshop programme, offered to students via BB Collaborate. Sixteen workshops were rewritten as one-hour interactive webinars; asynchronous materials and resources were provided for 24/7 availability; and a central sign-up service was offered via the institute's MyHub interface. Already established principles in online learning were taken into account during the development process (Anderson, 2008; Nguyen, 2015).
These adaptations saw a twofold increase of student participation during 2020-2021 (1107 students, 53%) compared to 2018-2019 (410 students, 20%) or 2019-2020 (562 students, 27%). Learnings and successes from this project ranged from being adaptable, available, and offering different formats for learning where webinars were a feature, to seeing online as normal. Challenges that continue to be pondered are the value of F2F classrooms vs online, creating more 'on-demand' learning resources, blog posts, podcasts, and study modules available 24/7 for self-directed learning.
The presentation hoped to share our experience as a team, but also to offer an opportunity to hear about broader thoughts and experiences relating to academic skills webinar delivery at HE institutions since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Anderson, T. (2008) The theory and practice of online learning. Edmonton: AU Press.
Belluigi, D. et al. (2020) [Online]. ‘Needs must?’ Critical reflections on the implications of the Covid 10 ‘pivot online’ for equity in higher education. Digital Culture and Education. Available from: https://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/reflections-on-covid19/needs-must [Accessed 28 Sep 2022].
Casey, D. (2020) Emergency pivot to online academic learning support: crisis or opportunity? All Ireland Journal of Higher Education 12 (3), pp. 1-3.
Nguyen, T. (2015) – The effectiveness of online learning: beyond no significant differences and future horizons. MERLOT Online Journal of Learning and Teaching 11 (2), pp.309-319.
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