You are here:-, News, partnership blog-Student perspectives and strategies for moving forward with Online Learning and Teaching at Westminster

Student perspectives and strategies for moving forward with Online Learning and Teaching at Westminster

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented with many challenges for students and staff working in Higher Education. Whilst some of the challenges may be unique to our position in the institution, there are some concerns that we all share – at the University of Westminster, we care about each other’s wellbeing and continuously strive to form supportive learning communities. Over the summer, many members of staff are going to be challenging themselves further to engage with new technologies and ways of working to equip themselves for more periods of remote teaching.

It is well recognised that student-staff partnerships can give rise to new knowledge and transform the learning experience for all those involved. Working in partnership can also enable us to embrace the complexities associated with adapting our learning and teaching approaches to not just cope with the ‘new normal’ but to thrive.

During the month of June, Jennifer and Moonisah embarked on a conversation with Student Partnership Ambassadors of the Students as Co-Creators programme. Our conversation was set around four questions, presented in each video and audio recording below. Some of our ambassadors were unable to join us online but have sent in their thoughts to be included here.

Question 1. How can we help foster a sense of belonging for students at Westminster next year? 

Nishat Tasnim, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (1st year):

  • Have weekly prize draws for students who submit a post on social media sites and tags University of Westminster.
  • Encourage students to stay in contact with their senior student mentors.
  • Have a podcast where students can join to listen live or listen to it at their own time online. Student leaders or lectures can be guest speakers and they could discuss current events in general or events specific to the university.

Chelsea Nkansah, Politics and International relations undergraduate student (2nd year):

  • We could help foster a sense of belonging at Westminster through the constant emails of advice on university life and information of the modules from lecturers to ensure that the students do not feel a disconnect between themselves and Westminster.

Layla Dervisevic, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (3rd year):

  • To produce pieces of work together- it is still possible to make PowerPoint presentations/ posters etc. from a remote distance and this gives a sense of team contribution, even from afar.
  • More regular contact from the university/student-led societies and course leaders via email or another medium to reassure students and update them (maybe for societies create some competitions/challenges e.g. sports club to keep up to date with members so students feel part of their teams and groups and can still meet people).
  • For contact from course leaders and university to focus on health aspect of students as well as academic, to provide suggestions for staying healthy in this time.
  • Online volunteering can be done as part of societies or courses themselves, I felt like I had contributed something when I was volunteering with the uni and externally and you make really valuable connections and friendships for life this way, it can be done with university groups, some organisations include: United Nations online volunteering, European Union Aid Volunteers, Translators Without Borders, Do Something and Greenpeace. I know a lot of students were interested in environment and could speak several languages so this could be a way to connect people.
  • The university could arrange an online platform for courses which would have had days out, for example in Biomed we had one day to see the Gordon Museum, whilst it may not be possible in person still in a large group maybe the course leaders could find a way that the curators could make a virtual tour/talk for students.
  • Virtual study groups

Question 2. What are your ideas about how personal tutors and tutees can connect next year?

Nishat Tasnim, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (1st year):

  • Asking students to submit a weekly or monthly reflection, about how they are coping with university, to their personal tutors.
  • Encourage students to ask their personal tutors questions even if they think the questions are silly, so the student can feel comfortable with speaking to their tutors regularly.
  • Have occasional face-to-face meetings (or zoom call) even for 10 minutes so the tutors can get to know their tutees better.

Chelsea Nkansah, Politics and International relations undergraduate student (2nd year):

  • Personal tutors and tutees can connect through weekly or monthly zoom meeting to ensure unity in a personal tutor group.
  • Personal tutors and tutees can connect through daily messages of motivation such as motivational videos and quotes.

Layla Dervisevic, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (3rd year):

  • Have regular set dates for catch up with one another to take pressure off each party on who reaches out first to ask questions etc.,
  • Set actionable goals for each session so there is some continuity between meetings and accountability, students don’t ‘drift’,
  • Use easier communication platforms such as Slack/Whatsapp or group skype call so if student has just one question there is no pressure of one on one call/email.

Question 3. What sorts of activities do you find engaging in an online learning environment?

Nishat Tasnim, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (1st year):

  • Quizzes
  • Set out questions to students and have the lecturers reveal the answers at the following lecture. Students who get the most questions right can get a shout out during class.
  • Ask students to summarise what they have learnt in the lecture to other students.
  • Have a system that allows students to vote if they understand the content so far or not, that way the lecturers would know if they are moving too fast or too slow.

Chelsea Nkansah, Politics and International relations undergraduate student (2nd year):

  • The activities I found engaging in an online learning environment were team-building activities because everyone was involved and I did not feel excluded.

Layla Dervisevic, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (3rd year):

  • Activities with clear use in professional world and key skills related to subject – many students find it engaging and motivating that the degree has real world application and there will be a job and many opportunities for them after the pandemic.
  • Maybe to set online courses for students to complete as part of the course with recognition/accreditation from external institutions so they can continue to boost employability with CPD. I know in Life Sciences and in Biomed we had a few modules linked to professional development such as IT skills and communication between colleagues, this is universal between courses and has application for every job- maybe we can’t learn this in the university anymore but there are some amazing courses that provide these skills for free with accreditation.
  • Varied learning opportunities even apps like Kerboodle as there are many different learning styles and some prefer regular informal quizzes to keep knowledge fresh.

Question 4: How can we encourage students to participate in online learning spaces?

Nishat Tasnim, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (1st year):

  • Set the classes at a time when most students are likely to be available.
  • Have a reward system for students that have attended most of their online classes (if not all).
  • Have personal tutors contact students who are not attending their online classes.
  • Have a time slot at the end of a lecture for students to ask questions directly to their lecturers.

Chelsea Nkansah, Politics and International relations undergraduate student (2nd year):

  • Ensure the online platform is inclusive, because some students may feel isolated if they cannot connect with their peers.

Layla Dervisevic, Biomedical Sciences undergraduate student (3rd year):

  • Some students may not like this idea, but I noticed many more attendees in lecture rooms when part of our assessment grade depended on attendance, maybe alternative would be learning resources that can be ticked off when complete? It could be useful also to have a flexible log in time to access assessments and learning material/ recordings as many students have family life/irregular work schedules so can access day and night.
  • The opportunity to book tutorial sessions- sometimes students miss work or struggle with specific material/calculations with life sciences or discussion boards with a few students in humanities- the opportunity to go over this with lecturers, working through questions together etc. has always been helpful during college years so I didn’t feel left behind especially during years 1 and 2 where you build the foundations.
  • The possibility for students to send in work for feedback as larger assignments are being written- especially working from home it becomes harder in some cases to know what is required in the writing and can be worrying for students.

I am grateful to our student ambassadors for their valuable time, comments and ideas. I also thank Dr Jennifer Fraser for organising these sessions and providing more opportunities for student partnerships to flourish at Westminster.

The Students as Co-Creators programme has opened a special call for funded Students as Co-Creators projects in the Curriculum Development Collaboration stream.  These projects allow staff to propose an area of their modules and/or courses that they wish to develop in partnership with students as we all move to online learning.  We hope that this will enable more meaningful conversation and research between staff and students about different aspects of online learning.

There are funds for research consumables and costs (up to £300 per project) as well as £100 bursaries for each student participant (up to five per project). We will operate a rolling deadline from 13th July 2020 to 11th December 2020 (as funds permit). To apply, submit an application form and budget proposal to studentpartnership@westminster.ac.uk. Please visit the Westminster Co-Creators Principles when making an application.

Any questions about the contents of this blog post can be sent to studentpartnership@westminster.ac.uk or to Dr Moonisah Usman at usmanm@westminster.ac.uk.

By | 2020-07-21T11:37:25+00:00 July 20th, 2020|Categories: Announcements, News, partnership blog|0 Comments

Leave A Comment