Page 3 - RVC4Life - May 2020
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COVID-19 related changes to teaching, learning and assessment at the RVC - how the lockdown has impacted education, and the magnificent response from students and staff
Professor Adrian Boswood, Vice Principal for Learning, Teaching and Assessment
No-one could have predicted the extent to which all our lives would change in
such a short period. When thousands have lost their lives and many others’ livelihoods are threatened, it almost seems inappropriate to dwell on the challenges that the RVC has faced maintaining continuity in teaching and learning, but it may be of interest to you to know how, and how quickly, we have had to adapt.
In the two-weeks running up to the announcement of full “lockdown” on the 23rd of March it was increasingly evident that our teaching, learning and assessment practices were going to need to change. Many of our previously “normal” activities were inconsistent with social distancing and, although important, were not “essential”. We had therefore already begun to plan for modifications to our teaching before lockdown was imposed. After the imposition of lockdown, it was clear that all teaching, learning and assessment was going to have to be delivered remotely, or not delivered at all.
Fortunately, the start of lockdown fell near to the end of a term, just prior to the Easter break. This meant teaching and learning activities across our campuses were already beginning to wind down and gave us a few weeks in which to plan for “remote” delivery of teaching when the new term began, as it now has done.
There are well established methods for
remote delivery of teaching, learning and assessment. It is widely practised by organisations like the Open University and the University of London Worldwide; and has been for decades. This meant that we were not going to have to invent a whole new method of teaching – but we were going to have to adapt from one established mode of delivery to another.
For many members of staff this meant entering previously uncharted territory and being forced outside one’s comfort zone.
There are an important series of questions that need to be addressed before offering teaching in a modified format. They go roughly as follows:
• What are you intending the learners to achieve through the teaching?
• Can this be achieved by a remote method of delivery, and if so, how?
• What is the most appropriate style of remote teaching that will help the outcomes be achieved?
• What opportunities will learners have to interact with teaching staff and through what medium can this be achieved?
For some types of teaching, remote delivery is very straightforward. The conventional “lecture” can be either pre-recorded or run as a live “webinar”. Students can access a lecture and then ask questions, either using an online discussion board or by attending a “live” Q & A session run via media such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Other methods of teaching are more complicated to adapt while retaining their intended outcomes. This includes directed learning (DL) and clinical
scenarios.TheformatofDLsisintended to encourage group interaction and involves staff acting as moderators – being available to answer queries when required. This can be replicated in an online environment, but it is more challenging to do so.
There are additional challenges for an organisation as international as the RVC – our students are in different time-zones distributed around the world. This means that “live” teaching sessions or Q&A may be at times convenient for some, but inconvenient for others. Sessions must therefore be available “synchronously” and “asynchronously” to be accessed at a time convenient to our learners – wherever they are.
Some teaching simply cannot be replicated remotely. The most obvious examples of this are in the Veterinary and Veterinary Nursing programmes where experiential learning in a clinical environment is an essential component that cannot be virtually mimicked in a meaningful way.
We have had to suspend all our clinical

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