Developing a module reflecting on COVID-19 and society

This example describes the design of an interdisciplinary module for second and third-year students in response to the social changes brought about by the pandemic. The module is accessible to students in Politics and International studies, Sociology and Social Policy and the School of Law.

The online education approach adopted

We have produced an interdisciplinary module that showcases research being conducted into the social, political and regulatory elements of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a particular focus on the themes of (1) inequalities underlying the pandemic, (2) the responses of governments, communities and institutions, and (3) the world after the pandemic. By bringing together students from across the social sciences to work together in discussion forums, we hope they will begin to engage in peer-to-peer learning bringing their own disciplinary perspective to bear on the issues above and learning from other students’ knowledge and expertise. 360 students are registered on the module that is being presented in semesters 1 and 2. We have been able to draw upon expertise across the Faculty to give our students a sense of the wide-ranging ways in which social science can help us understand the challenges faced by the pandemic. The online format has allowed us to involve colleagues doing cutting-edge research on the pandemic, who may otherwise have been hard to incorporate into teaching due to research commitments.

The positive impact on students’ educational experience

I am already pleased to see how effective large-group Blackboard Collaborate question and answer sessions are. My sense is that they allow some students who would otherwise feel nervous contributing to take part via chat. I am hoping that, as module convenor, I am able to set the tone of a conversation with the students about these topics even though large numbers of students are taking the module. In putting this module together, it has become evident how effective online tools are for facilitating collaboration between staff. I’m very hopeful that discussion forums will facilitate interaction across the students taking the module and foster peer-to-peer learning.

The impact on my teaching practice

Collaborating with a broader array of staff and using so many new online tools has made me a more innovative educator – more confident than trying something new. For instance, the assessment for this module is a recorded policy presentation. I would not have had the confidence to set the students an assessment that involves recording a video before all of this began.

By Thomas Campbell, School of Sociology and Social Policy


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