In the beginning...
The teaching at Bath is undoubtedly outstanding. As I’m sure you will be aware teaching has had to take place in various, different ways and new approaches have had to be considered this year due to the ongoing rules and regulations concerning COVID-19.
However, I do not feel that the quality of my learning and teaching experience at Bath had been reduced as a result of this. From the very start of the academic year, Bath decided that all lectures would take place online. This decision was made so that lecturers would be able to put all of their time and effort into preparing top quality online teaching material for the whole academic year instead of preparing half of the material online and half in-person in the hope that lectures would be able to resume as normal after Christmas.
I personally have received online teaching in a variety of different ways at Bath. This has included live teaching through platforms, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, alongside pre-recorded lessons which are uploaded to a site called Panopto. I have enjoyed having a variety of teaching methods. The live lessons are great as it is very similar to being in a lecture hall, in that you can see the lecturer and their screen/what they are writing.
The pre-recorded lectures provide flexibility as to when you watch them and they allow to you alter the speed and pause as you need to throughout the lecture. You can also re-watch them as many times as you need. As they have been uploaded, you can go back and watch them several weeks later if you wish to jog your memory on a topic that you had previously covered and would like a refresher.
Due to the changing situation of COVID-19, teaching has looked a little bit different in semester two, compared to semester one.
In semester one, students were allocated an ‘In-Person Teaching day’ this meant that all of your in-person classes and tutorials were scheduled into one day. So students who didn’t live on campus only had to come up once a week, reducing the number of people on campus at any one time, helping to ensure social distancing. What your ‘In-Person Teaching day’ consisted of varied, depending on your subject. As a Mathematics and Physics student, my in-person teaching included laboratory work, meetings with my Personal Tutor and Maths and Physics tutorials. You may be wondering what do these activities actually entail and how were they conducted in a COVID safe way? Well…
Lab work is similar to practicals at A-level. You are given a lab manual, this contains all of the practicals that you are to complete and how to go about completing them, along with the relevant safety information for each. Each week you are timetabled to complete a different experiment. So, when you arrive for your lab session you go to the lab location of that experiment and complete it, using your lab manual. You then do a write up for the experiment, explaining what you did, how you did it and an analysis of your results.
In order for lab activities to be COVID safe, social distancing was maintained throughout the lab and face masks had to be worn at all times. You worked individually, this didn’t mean that there was no one to ask for help though, don’t panic! There were demonstrators and technicians available at all times who were happy to help. It simply meant that instead of working with a lab partner you completed all of the tasks on your own. All in all, I think the main restriction COVID-19 had on laboratory work was that this year we worked individually instead of with a partner which honestly is not too bad. A downside to it though is that you don’t have anyone else to blame if the results aren’t quite what you were expecting!
Meetings with my Personal Tutor
These are an opportunity for you to voice any concerns or ask any questions that you may have. Your Personal Tutor, like all members of staff at Bath, will be happy to help and advise you on issues of every kind, whether they are academically related or not.
Again, to ensure the COVID regulations were met, social distancing was maintained throughout and facemasks were worn. Again, I don’t feel that these restrictions limited me in any way. They just provided us with the tutorial group name of ‘The Masked Physicists.”
Maths and Physics tutorials
Tutorials are led by lecturers or PHD students. During these, we can ask questions on the previous week’s lecture content and then we go over our problem sheets. Problem sheets are basically like homework questions which we do to make sure that we understand the material. We submit these to our Tutors and they mark them, giving us feedback. Our marks are not recorded, so they really are just an opportunity to ensure you understand the material before moving on.
Social distancing was maintained throughout these and facemask were worn at all times. Again, I don’t feel that these restrictions limited me in any way as I was still able to ask questions and I simply handed in my homework by uploading it online.
In light of the government’s announcements, all in-person teaching had to stop for Semester two. This meant that I could no longer attend in-person labs or in-person tutorials. This hasn’t had a huge impact on me as my tutorials take place over zoom and I find them just as effective as you can still ask questions, whether it be through the chat function or by simply unmuting your mic.
We still are able to complete our labs because the dedicated technicians and demonstrators at Bath have recorded them doing all of the experiments. So, when it is our lab slot we simply go online and watch the video of the experiment taking place, noting down our results. I have rather enjoyed this as you get to see the experiment taking place and you can pause and rewind if you need to get a closer look.
Have I missed out as a result of online teaching?
Overall, I feel that the media has portrayed online learning in a negative light. However, I personally feel that my experience at Bath could not have been better considering the circumstances. I get high-quality teaching without leaving my house, can complete laboratory work despite not being allowed in a lab. There is help and support 24/7 whether it be through e-mailing lectures, Microsoft Teams or through Zoom.