The past two weeks have been a very challenging time for everyone associated with Middlesbrough College. These difficult times have presented us with the need to deliver and monitor a robust curriculum offer for our students to access whilst also supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of staff and students alike. Though it has been for the right reasons, having our freedom of movement and social interactions significantly limited has been a very difficult reality to come to terms with.
As we work hard to maintain a healthy and productive environment at home, we must also do our bit to support our students to maintain the same environments at home. A lot of us have really found this transition to working from home a challenge so therefore we have to be mindful that our students will be having the same issues. If we can work closely with our students consistently and regularly, this can help make engagement with their remote studies a lot easier to achieve.
The social aspect of college life is a huge part of our student’s experience. Making friends and developing meaningful relationships is crucial. The structure and routines their courses offer allows them to manage their time effectively and organise their daily activities. When working from home, this becomes a lot harder to achieve.
Routines, as we have all come to realise, are a vital part of making sure we can be as effective at home as we are at work. Our students are no different.
In Progression Studies, we work with students with varying needs and barriers to learning. We feel it has been absolutely imperative to their progress that we maintain regular and consistent contact and offer our support where needed. More importantly, asking how they are feeling and how they are coping with having to keep their distance from their wider family and friends has made the biggest difference. Being able to have regular and meaningful contact with their tutor has allowed them to structure their workload and agree short and achievable milestones. This has been the case with students completing work for their main programme as well as their English & Maths courses.
We have devised a way of working whereby our students are assigned a designated tutor as a distance learning mentor. This mentor will check in with our students when they would be timetabled to be attending college to make sure they know what work it is they should be doing whilst also checking in on them to make sure they are happy or give them the opportunity to talk about the current situation. It helps develop that connection to the college, it makes it perfectly clear that we’re there to support them and encourages daily engagement in their work.
The important thing is to be consistent, it will help our students, whilst studying at home, to maintain a routine and when they know they can expect a phone call around a particular time. This has then ensured most of our learners have work ready to send over via email and/or Canvas which has then had a massive impact on our student completing Maths & English work and has allowed them to receive regular feedback. We do make use of the array of virtual tools available through the college’s eLearning platforms but this is more than checking our students are working and achieving, it’s also about making sure our students are safe and healthy.
At the end of each day the students designated distance learning mentor will insert a short summative comment in an excel spreadsheet which is live and shared with appropriate staff in our SharePoint (an example has been attached to this article). This not only shows what our students are completing each day, it activity logs our interaction with our students and identifies where students have been uncontactable. This information is shared with our attendance office and beyond if it is considered necessary. In summary, we have found that regular and consistent contact with our students has been a huge contributing factor in our students engaging in their maths and English work whilst on their distance learning provision. More importantly, we know they are safe and well.