Many people planning to start university this September will be worrying about what it will be like. We’re sure you’ll be concerned about whether the travel restrictions will be lifted and whether you will be able to move in.
We can’t predict the future, but we can share with you our approach to the lockdown this time. Should anything like this happen again, you can expect us to continue to put students first, to consider your physical wellbeing and your mental health, and to be creative and thoughtful in how we enable you to continue your studies.
In March, we planned our move into online learning early, using technologies that were already in use every day, and so were familiar to students. We work mostly in small class sizes, having discussions and conversations to develop knowledge and skills. This environment is really special in person, but we can replicate that sense of community online. A video call is not quite the same as being in a room together, and it requires different skills to take part and get the most out of it, but by working closely with students and listening to their views, it is working well. A few groups are larger, and these might work through a lecturer talking and questions being handled in a chat box. Lecturers have done some incredibly innovative things to continue teaching practical work: our trainee teachers have been working with schools setting online work for pupils; sports therapy students have been holding online therapy sessions; and the acting students are rehearsing a full play from their homes which will be live streamed for their end of year project.
What’s important is that at Marjon, we work with students to make these things happen and to improve them until they work well for everyone. In a larger university, where classes might be several hundred people, it’s very hard to hold conversations either in person or online. But at Marjon, no matter whether we are in one room or on a video call together, we can share ideas and get creative together to make things work. We have made sure students have the technology needed, and the connectivity, loaning out laptops and wireless dongles and running online one-to-one training to make sure people are ready to participate. Our Personal Development Tutors continue to check in with students and ensure they are managing their online work, are feeling connected and are coping with the huge changes.
We quickly made a decision that because almost all students who lived on campus travelled home, we wouldn’t charge them rent for the period they were off campus. We let them know this very early on, as soon as it became evident that returning to campus was unlikely, to give them reassurance in their finances. We always keep campus open and secure for those students who need to stay on campus all year round: we have done the same this time and would do the same in the future.
Finally, we know many people may be considering university at this moment due to being concerned about future work. If your planned work is looking unstable for the foreseeable future, studying could be a really productive thing to do. Working towards a qualification, and gaining digital skills which will enable you to thrive in any future work environment is a helpful use of your time. You might also be concerned about covering expenses whilst you are at university, and if you’re worried about getting part-time work to support you, you might be interested in applying to be a Student Ambassador. Student Ambassadors are continuing to work during this lockdown period, doing virtual campus tours from home, mentoring young people from local schools, and talking to applicants. We are helping them with the digital skills and technology needed, which will be vital skills in the future workforce.
Social life has undoubtedly taken a hit during lockdown, and Marjon is no different in that. But our students have been incredible in maintaining connections while they are apart, running virtual awards evenings, setting each other challenges online, and even running conferences.
Because we can’t predict what life will be like in September, we are planning multiple scenarios. Whatever happens, we are getting ready for you to enjoy an exciting student experience with us. We are certain that the most important thing is to be creative in our thinking, to be ready for whatever may come, and to look after our students and help them to belong and to thrive at Marjon, wherever they are.