What happens now?

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

So the Guardian is reporting that nine in ten university students in England have had at least one Covid jab. This does have implications for in-person teaching at universities across England.

Far from being irresponsible Covid spreaders, the vast majority of students at English universities have been vaccinated at least once and would request a test if they had symptoms, according to a survey.

This is a different scenario to last autumn when there wasn’t a vaccine and students were being accused of being super spreaders.

With more of the student population vaccinated then this should result in lower infection rates. We still need to consider those who may still be at risk from Covid despite being vaccinated as I found out recently it can still be quite nasty.

We know that there has been something of a backlash against online learning as a result of the experiences during the pandemic. We know that what was an emergency response, was in no way what would be described as online learning. How could staff deliver effective and engaging online learning, with no time for preparation, lack of skills and knowledge and remember they were also living through the pandemic.

Moving forward with demand from students and staff to have more in-person teaching, I don’t really want to say, going back to what they had, but we know how much students and staff missed in-person teaching. There is a pent up demand to return to in-person teaching. In some of the research we have been doing at Jisc, the students were very clear that when they said they missed in-person teaching that it wasn’t just the in-person learning experience it was also all the resulting interactions that happen before, during and after such in-person sessions.

This doesn’t mean that universities should stop doing stuff online, more that they need to think about what their students are saying, what their students are wanting, as well as working out the best way to deliver that, whether that be in-person or online.

Our discussions with students also showed that some things worked better online, they levelled things up between staff and students and were less intimidating than the face to face equivalents.

One thing we do need to recognise though, is that the pandemic is far from over. Infection rates which rose dramatically recently have started to drop, but winter is coming, and this means that it could rise again, combine with the other challenges that winter brings. Also new variants can reduce the efficacy of the vaccines, as well as the fact that the efficacy of the vaccine declines over time. Boosters are been given for a reason.

We may not go into another lockdown situation, but are universities prepared to pivot again to online delivery and teaching?

Hopefully we will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we do need to be prepared, as that light may be further away than we think it is.

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