For many of you, whether you are a new student or returning, University life is going to be a bit different to what you may have imagined or experience before. Covid 19 has had a big impact on how we all live and go about our day to day business.
I am sure you will have read communications coming from the University about the new Blended approach to learning from September for the first half session. I wanted to take some time to help you understand what this really means for you and signpost you to some information that might make the transition to the “new normal” a bit easier for you.
So, what is Blended learning? Quite simply it is a mix of on campus and online teaching and learning. All in-person teaching and learning activities will be in smaller groups and any practical labs or clinical teaching will be subject to physical distancing. All lecture materials will also be delivered online so no one will miss out on any information. Dr Steven Tucker has created this Vlog which I think explains it really well! (or you can check out the FAQs which are updated regularly).
Do I need to be on campus for the start of term? Of course we would love to see you here and some of you already are; but if you can’t make it to Aberdeen don’t worry - you can study online until December 2020. You might choose to start your course online and then travel to Aberdeen (or vice versa); that is completely fine – the beauty of blended learning is the flexibility it gives you as a student. The University do ask you to complete the intention to study form so they know whether to expect you or not.
Will I miss out on interacting with my classmates? There will be lots of opportunities for you to do this, whether it is through Collaborate rooms and tutorials, MS TEAMs, attending an online event, interaction with your S4S mentor or getting involved in one of AUSA’s clubs and societies. Of course if you are on campus you will still be able to interact with people in some of the beautiful open spaces on campus or our indoor social spaces which will be adapted in line with physical distancing guidance.
What about support services? The full range of support services will be available to you throughout the year either online or in person and, to make things easier on your arrival many of them are located in Elphinstone Hall for the first few weeks. This includes Infohub, accommodation, IT, MyCurriculum and Registry. You will be able to pop in Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm to get support from any of the team.
Some of you may have concerns about what support is available if you have a disability. There is lots of information on our Disability Services to help you.
Adapting to this new way of learning and studying will be challenging for us all. I really recommend you take time to explore the StudyWell advice and our learning systems and virtual learning environments (MyAberdeen, MyMBChB, MyDS and MyPA) in the Orientation Programme.
Talking about Orientation If you haven’t already done so please take time to complete the Orientation (there are specific strands depending on what sort of student you are). For new UG students this is a non-credit bearing course, for everyone else (and yes I do mean returning students) I highly recommend you take the time to work through the information, refresh your memory and learn about what has changed on campus and perhaps learn something that you may not already know.
Your school will also be running programme specific orientation sessions, including about what blended learning will look like for them and you can find out more about that and school specific information through New Students and Returning Students
Services such as Student Support, Counselling, Student Learning Service and Careers and Employability Services continue to offer a virtual service. Details of how to get in touch with them can be found on the student website. Our Pastoral and Guidance Support systems for all students (including personal tutoring for most undergraduates and Regents for MBChB) will again continue. You will be contacted about this - please do engage with it!
What about exams? This year the winter exams will be a bit different – instead of the traditional exam format you will have alternative forms of online assessment at various points between now and December.
Why not get involved! I would encourage you to take on some opportunities during these times. Whether it is representing your schools as a class rep, or even running to be a school convener to help and improve your entire school! There is always opportunity to get involved. Visit the AUSA website find out more and what elections are coming up.
I hope this blog has provided a useful guide to key information. The situation continues to evolve so it is important to look out for regular updates. You can also keep an eye on my Facebook page or visit the university website for more detailed information on the blended learning and remote learning FAQs. which are updated regularly. I will also share regular updates and information on my own Facebook page.
My final words would be not to worry. Come to campus when you can, rest assured that the University is working hard to aid the return to campus - your safety is the University’s primary concern. If you can’t be on campus from the start of your term you will still receive the same high quality teaching and learning experience online – just join us when you can. Stay safe and remember you can contact me or one of my fellow Sabbatical officers about any aspect of your student experience.