Face-to-face learning may have temporarily been put on hold at colleges across the UK but that doesn’t mean that teaching has stopped.
Across Etc. we have been exploring innovative new ways to reach our students. And for those more practical subjects that involves being a bit more unconventional with our thinking.
“It’s meant a lot of changes,” said Stockton Riverside College’s musical theatre lecturer and creative director, Sara Durkin. “But we are already finding that our students are rising to the challenge.”
This week would have seen casting auditions at the college for their big summer show, Legally Blonde. But instead of letting all that preparation go to waste, students have been creating “self tape” auditions and sending them in remotely.
Sara said: “This is increasingly what would happen in industry and so it makes sense for our students to develop these skills.”
What’s more, with theatres having closed their doors, students have been able to make the most of specialist masterclasses posted online by some of the West End’s top performers.
Capturing evidence of their work through videos and pictures is rapidly becoming the norm for students. At Redcar and Cleveland College, programme area lead for sport, public services and the service industries, Kelly Coupland, said the work they are seeing is outstanding.
She said: “Both students and staff are being forced to think outside of the box and they aren’t letting us down.”
For subjects like beauty and hairdressing the answers to remote learning aren’t always obvious, particularly taking into account social distancing, but Kelly said it seems immediate family are rapidly becoming the focus of these learners’ attention.
Dormanstown mum-of-three and hair and media makeup student Karen, 36, has been practising the likes of body art and tanning on her daughters, while husband Lee got to model some makeup techniques and contouring.
She said: “The tutors at the College have been amazing, encouraging us to do what we can. At the moment it is about keeping our techniques fresh. In our house my college work has become more of an activity for all the family. My daughters are asking, what do we need to do today? And they are enjoying being involved.”
For Redcar’s course leader for digital and IT, Sam Beel, it’s proven a time for her students to flex their technological know-how. Delivering and sharing presentations online, she said some learners are actually showing more confidence than ever.
She said: “Because they are at home in their own surroundings it’s like they are that bit more comfortable.”
As a teacher and staff governor, she said, it has been heartening to see the students so openly engage. She added: “It has really shown that they want to learn.”
That’s certainly the case for film production students at Stockton Riverside College who should have been out on location, shooting scenes for their final projects this week.
Student Conrad, 18, said: “It does feel quite surreal working from home but you have to keep in the mind-set that you are still in college and you’ve still got work to do.”
While shooting has been put on hold, he said there are new assignments and, of course, a whole new set of challenges to overcome.
Lecturer Kelly Fairhurst said: “All former plans have had to be set aside but that doesn’t mean that learning stops.”
In fact, lessons for students, and teachers alike, now automatically incorporate key skills such as adapting to change, overcoming challenges and finding a new approach.
Thankfully Kelly said: “We are all in it together and that makes the difference.”