From here to there… reflections on a semester of the #bathblend – Part 2

Posted in: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Opinion, Teaching

Author: Steve Cayzer -

This is the second part of a blog by Dr Steve Cayzer. You can read part 1 here

In Person Time should be Social, Authentic and Simple

It’s fair to say that in person time was the area of teaching requiring most thought. The University had already thought through the Health and Safety environment. Students were in small groups, but at 2m distancing; with good ventilation, and the use of face coverings, the risk levels were low.

Physically distanced, socially connected. The students are holding ‘voting paddles’ to show their choice as the output of a 4S activity.

Over the semester I did meet a few issues and challenges:

How to keep focus

Energy levels are quite hard to maintain over a four-hour session (with a lunchbreak). Having many disparate activities meant students were being asked to ‘gear themselves up’ many times over the day. Over the semester, I moved to a model where the four hours contains at most two activities and for the second semester, most weeks are dedicated to a single topic.

How to involve the remote students

It turned out to be really hard to provide a seamless experience for remote students. I did not even try to implement hybrid teams (though some educators have), but I did try to allow remote students to ‘join’ the room through video link. Even this was problematic, the remote students can see what is going on in the room but don’t feel involved.

I have now started to run parallel sessions for in person and remote students, with a dedicated (and properly briefed) facilitator for the online students. This has the additional advantage of creating a ‘team teaching’ environment.

“All the lectures get involved with all the modules, very holistic”.

It also allows some modifications to be made to the online version of the class exercise. For example, instead of an in person ‘pitch’ that relies on body language, an online team might create an impactful poster or image.

Technical and Physical Issues

I had many problems with the audio-visual equipment, starting with the ancient PCs that were unable to handle Zoom. Our IT department replaced the PCs in double quick time, but in retrospect I could have caught this earlier. I had issues with the range on the microphones, and background noise.

I needed to think through the use of flip-charts or pens in a Covid safe environment. I also needed to figure out a way to divide the cohort into sensible groups (in our risk management plan, students are expected to take a particular seat for the whole day).

Students using a flip-chart in a socially distanced class.
Steve Cayzer’s blog will be continued here in the very near future. Sign up to receive notifications so you don’t miss Part 3. 

Posted in: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Opinion, Teaching

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