Togetherness: The central tenet of an effective institutional online pivot

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Jeremy Singer Gwyn Bellamy Roderick Brown Heather Cleland Woods Nicolas Labrosse Hans Senn Marco Vezza


This case study explores a collective response to the challenges of learning and teaching within the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The College comprises seven diverse schools, each of which has a rich and heterogeneous pedagogical culture. As soon as national lockdown commenced, we identified an immediate priority to devise and implement a flexible approach to learning and teaching for the incoming academic year, largely a ‘move to online’ as characterized by Crawford et al. (2020). Flexibility was an inherent requirement of our approach because of the uncertainties we faced: would students be able to attend any events on campus? would students be in a common time zone? would learners and teachers have high-quality internet connectivity? This narrative report describes our institutional strategy over nine months, from the formation of an interdisciplinary flexible learning committee, through the various stages of planning, to the successful delivery of a semester of remote teaching. We explore various factors that contributed to this positive outcome. Activities to support our institutional pivot include: (1) identifying local champions for remote learning and teaching; (2) developing exemplar specifications for model courses; (3) trialling early adoption of new technology platforms; (4) mediating central messaging to each teaching unit; (5) sharing good practice within and between teaching units; (6) developing remote labs; (7) incorporating student experience in a dynamic feedback loop; and (8) supporting student wellbeing. The common theme running through these activities is the sense of a “campus collective” (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020). While none of the individual aspects is novel, their synthesis has resulted in a successful online pivot for a broad academic community of more than 5000 learners and teachers.

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