The New SPS Learning Experience

Find out more about our new approach to blended learning and the wider student experience this Autumn

When lockdown hit in March, we had to react quickly and move your learning online. This Autumn we will enter a new era, with the majority of your learning taking place in the virtual world.

This autumn we will enter a new era of blended learning, with lectures again taking place in the virtual world but they will be coupled to face to face on campus practical and workshops/problem classes.  We also wish to ensure that our students get the opportunity to socialise and mix with their wider cohort.

Therefore throughout this summer the SPS team – including academics, admin team and technicians – have been working hard to ensure that this new blended learning approach is exciting, engaging while being of the high standard you expect and deserve.

Labs: ensuring you get the employability and hands-on skills you need to excel

A key element for every degree in SPS was to develop a plan for laboratory work that both meets the stringent accreditation requirements of your Professional bodies but meets the health and safety guidelines issued by the UK government. This has taken a lot of hours of work from academic staff and our fantastic technical team!

Things will run differently by necessity, but you will have regular access to the labs and you will gain the skills you need for your professional careers. We will need to run with smaller numbers of students in the labs and the rotas will be a little different to previous years, with some modified experiments, but they will run and they will provide the education that you, and our accrediting bodies across all subjects, expect.

The changes are all based around one thing – safety. The new plans are safe for you, for your demonstrators, and for the staff supporting you, and have been approved by the relevant academics, our technicians and Dr Jim Bloor, the University’s “Biological and Scientific Safety Advisor”.

Routine: creating structure in a time of uncertainty 

The new laboratory schedule will also allow us to produce a more regular and controlled timetable for you all (as well as a better distribution of assessments throughout each stage), so you’re not overworked, but still receive the same great level of education. This will involve a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching to replace the traditional lectures that we cannot run due to social distancing rules for your safety.

I can assure you that online classes, our new ‘e-Lectures’, which we are very excited about, will not simply be in the form of staff talking at you for hours on end. We are adopting a three step process to deliver the content that was previously presented in lecture theatres:

  1. Pre-lecture: You will have assigned work to carry out prior to your e-lecture. This will be given to you in advance and you will have timetabled slots each day to allow you time to carry out this self-study.
  1. E-Lecture: Our new e-lectures have been specially designed with online delivery in mind using the latest educational research on the best method for delivering ‘remote learning’. No more “death by PowerPoint” or long monologues from academics. They will be interactive and the content will be delivered in bite-size chunks with participatory activities throughout the e-lecture to maintain your attention and provide you with the opportunity for more structured learning.
  2. Post-lecture: After the e-lecture you will have the chance to confirm your understanding of the concepts presented in the e-lecture through supporting materials that will support your ‘self- learning’ and encourage you to discuss the content and learning outcomes in groups.

We will be delivering these e-lectures using Microsoft teams. You can download the app now so you’re ready to go. In order to ensure you can use Microsoft Teams efficiently we will be offering a short training workshop before the new term, which will also be available on our Moodle student guide pages.

We will support all of our e-lecture courses with group workshops which we plan to be held on campus face to face in smaller groups. More details of these will be presented over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more information!

Engagement: Continuing to build our community

Finally, we hope it has come across clearly since the initial lockdown back in March that we care about you all as part of our SPS family and that we want you to feel comfortable to ask any questions that you may have about the current situation.

With this in mind, the DoUGS will be running regular drop in sessions over the rest of the summer so that you can ask any questions that you might have about your studies now, during the next year or simply in the future. Keep an eye on your emails and our social media channels for more information – we’re on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

We will also be looking at running Welcome Back events in the first term for returning students as well as the usual events for our new students.

We know that it has been a while since you’ve been on campus or interacted with the SPS family so we are planning to deliver these face-to-face where possible. This will involve you booking slots for each event – again we will share more information about how this will work as soon as possible.

We are looking forward to welcoming our students – returning and new – to SPS in the Autumn. Stay safe over the summer and if you have any questions, please get in touch:

Directors of Undergraduate Studies – for educational/ course-related questions or enquiries about the new term:

Chemistry: Dr Ewan Clarke

Forensic Science: Dr Chris Shepherd

Physics/ ASSA: Dr Silvia Ramos

SPS Student support team – for any pastoral support concerns:

Leave a Reply