A change for the better?
Kate McCrae, a BEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering student, shares how from her perspective, hybrid teaching has improved her University experience.
In a year like no other, with the whole University community experiencing the growing pains of adapting to the hybrid teaching model, it’s important to acknowledge each individual student has unique needs.
While some take to hybrid teaching with ease, others find the transition difficult. Yet another group sees unexpected benefits in the new model.
Kate McCrae, a second year BEng Electrical & Electronic Engineering student, is studying on campus and can compare and contrast life in the School of Engineering before lockdown with the hybrid teaching experience. As a disabled student, Kate explains how from her perspective, hybrid teaching may represent a change for the better.
“I think I have somewhat of a different experience, although I think a lot of people would be able to relate – I’m a disabled student. I mainly have problems with mobility, chronic pain and fatigue. Hybrid learning has been a really, really good experience for me. Most subjects seem organised and although there have been teething problems, there’s always communication about what’s gone wrong.
“What has been amazing is that I can now learn from home in a way that is formatted for online learning. If I can’t attend a seminar in person, it doesn’t mean I’m isolated from the rest of my class. There are ways for me to interact with my peers digitally – using software like Microsoft Teams to do group tasks. I couldn’t attend a lot of tutorials last year and had to prioritise my classes but I don’t need to do that anymore. I can do it all from bed if I really need to. Some of my friends in vulnerable groups can still shield but learn and interact with their classes. From talks with them, this progression to digital learning has been fantastic.
“Our online learning resources are formatted in a way intended for remote learning. It’s easier to understand compared to watching a lecture recording. Last year there were problems with recording software not working and people being unfamiliar with digital teaching but this year it has pushed a higher quality of online resources. There are captions and although they’re not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction for accessibility. There are days where I can’t think straight and the captions help me to keep learning and keep going despite that – something I couldn’t do with the way lectures were recorded last year.
“When I do attend in person, the buildings are well labelled and clean. There are a lot of good resources sent from the School of Engineering describing what to expect, the rules and video tours of how the buildings will be laid out. There are useful maps online that mean I can now avoid stairs and locate lifts more easily. As a disabled student I have exemption from the one-way system but I stick to it whenever I can. People wear masks until they sit down and are socially distanced within the lecture theatres where we can then take off our masks. There are also cleaning supplies for us to use in our socially distanced seats, so it’s easy to keep things clean.
“Another good thing is that I think our lecturers actually have more time to answer our questions now. It seems that people feel a lot more comfortable asking questions in a virtual chat. It leads to some good discussion and clarification in places where I didn’t know I needed it. Having seminars can be more productive than lectures – lecturers are not just reading from slides, there’s a lot more engagement from all sides.
“I can do things in my own time. I’ve learned how to manage my time effectively through the online resources. I have more flexibility in my schedule now, which is invaluable with my disability. I no longer have to walk to campus and back home daily, I only have to do it twice a week and I can attend remotely if I need to! I can learn in the way I want and need to, and a lot of other people I’ve talked to agree. They definitely miss talking to their peers and the other great aspects of in-person teaching but remote resources are very, very useful.
“There are some things I wish could be improved. Further work on captioning needs to be done as the auto-captioning software used often mistakes words. A place where we could see everything in our timetable – hybrid seminars, group work, deadlines etc. – would also be good. It can be confusing to switch between the various channels and email correspondence.
“I can’t speak for those in halls as I’m in Domus accommodation. I also have many privileges that others do not like a stable internet connection, a safe, warm, private and quiet study space, and my own computer equipment. I can see that without them, hybrid learning can be very hard, if not next to impossible
“Although hybrid learning can be very difficult, and it’s new to us all, it’s pushed accessibility in the University in the right direction. It would be really good if it carried on and we could still interact from home. There are ways where this has changed learning for the better and I hope it will have a lasting effect for teaching in the future.”