What are the benefits of returning to face to face teaching?

I read the following news article while reflecting upon my own experience and those I have observed over the last 2 years about returning to campus teaching/learning at the University. It was joyous to see that everyone I met was smiling and really pleased to see not just people we already know but new staff and students, this was particularly noticeable when we just returned to in-person teaching/learning.

University students looking forward to full campus experience (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-58665031)

In the above article one of the students who was interviewed said, “I feel, face-to-face… you’ll have more communication with your lecturers, a bigger friend group with your course-mates, not just your flatmates – it’s all good.”

During the lockdown period, we all had to adjust and change our working and teaching and learning methods. We were connected online but for many people including myself, it was a new and strange experience communicating through a screen. It felt odd not seeing people and only hearing them through a computer and not being with them.

I had contemplated this over the period I had been teaching online last year and why we felt at times disconnected. Yes, in some ways it became easier to communicate with people a long way away, through the internet like never before, the world felt smaller somehow. We were drawn to their homes and had a glimpse of their environment like never before.  I have never spoken to so many students on a one-to-one basis in the way I would not have done previously, in some ways I felt closer to them than ever before.

The SEJ process has been invaluable in managing myself and supporting students during these times, and I am grateful that the pandemic did not affect the majority of those I knew personally. The SEJ process kept me focussed on what students needs were rather than focusing on my worries and concerns. It helped me to take a different approach in teaching and how to deliver from a place of inclusion and empowerment. 

Yet I am aware there were a good proportion of students for whom these were a difficult and challenging two years.  For those students who had to share their family PC with their siblings, those who were expected to look after their younger family members because they were at home. For those who had a bad internet connection or who had no separate study space. For those and so many others online learning has not been easy or an enjoyable experience…

I was really looking forward to BEING and sharing the experience of studying together with the students since the return to campus like never before. In the BBC article above a Vice Chancellor was quoted as saying “There’s a real buzz on campus – it’s fantastic.” “Students are so pleased. They want a normal University year ahead of them.”

I wish everyone a joyous and relaxing summer break and look forward to seeing you all back on campus for a truly happy joyful university experience.

Dr M Howard-Kishi

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