The Change Makers lockdown learning experience (so far)

Explore this series of posts to find out how we have transformed our Change Makers modules to make them pandemic-proof.

How it all began

Back in April 2020 we were given the nod that all our Change Makers modules for the 2020-2021 academic year would be delivered online. And we were pretty rapidly asked for proposals and plans to indicate how we would achieve this – and what’s more, how we would achieve this with ‘dynamite’.

My first instinct was that this would require a complete re-imagining of our delivery strategy – I desperately didn’t want to try to bend our existing modules to fit this new world – but at the same time, we couldn’t write brand new modules. We needed to deliver on existing learning outcomes and assessments. But this still meant tearing up the rule book and thinking in new ways about what we wanted to achieve.

Change Makers modules are very much about engaging with the real world, in the here and now of the classroom. This means interacting with each other, looking out the window, bringing lived experience into the classroom to be shared and working in very practical and (often) physical ways. We are hoping to develop skills of engagement such as communication, negotiation, team working, collaboration, peer learning, peer support, empathy, compassion. All skills that we have, to this date, worked on in a face to face setting. Imagining all the future and real world scenarios where these skills would be employed in a face to face setting.

So in many ways, it seemed that our core values and mission would be undermined by this move to online.

Until I realised that the real world, right now and for the immediate future, is and will be online for our students. And where we have previously been preparing our students to use these skills in face to face settings, we now needed to prepare the students to employ them online.

There was a lot of discussion in the air about how to make online learning accessible and easier for students – but actually, for us, we needed to make online learning as real, tricky and messy as communicating in the online world is. Students would only develop the skills to communicate online, work with colleagues in different countries and maybe even time zones, bond and support each other online if we exposed them to those difficulties. And put our hundred per cent effort into supporting the students themselves to negotiate those situations. This is where we, as a team, and a programme could really add value to the online experience.

So. We opened a brand new notebook. Fired up a brand new pen. And started from scratch.

How could we deliver our modules online in a way that supported the students at every step, but exposed them to the challenges of working online? How could we deliver on the learning outcomes dreamt up in easier times and empower the students to make their own sense of being geographically and physically separated (and perhaps isolated)? How could we have loud, chaotic discussions with hundreds of students actively participating on Zoom?

And our aspirations aside, would the students even turn on their cameras? Would they attend the classes? Would they meet us halfway?

Well, we’re past the mid-point of our academic year of working together and we’ve learned so much. There have been some really difficult times, and some really exciting successes. The below series of blog posts explore some of our design choices, activities and key learning points (so far):

The Virtual Classroom – come on a tour of our virtual classroom

Inclusivity and Hospitality – how are we welcoming students to our virtual classroom and addressing inclusivity online

The Rolling 24 Hour Class – how have we adapted the concept of the class to engage students in every time zone

The Check In – using a weekly reflective question to enhance learning, monitor attendance and engagement and target welfare checking

Change Makers (More Than A) Handbook – creating a handbook that is accessible and encourages students to read more about their learning

Does Working Online Have Any Advantages? – what have students been telling us about the benefits of working online

Breaking Down the Barriers to Online Engagement – what challenges have emerged and how have we tackled them so far

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *