Thought for the week – 4 November

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This week Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, reflects on online education, after teaching her first few classes of the semester.

I taught my first class this week – part of a new Masters course. The class was divided into in person one day followed by an online session the following morning for those who currently can’t be on campus. Part of me was dreading the online experience but I found myself teaching in the same vein – engaging the students with the text in front of them and making it as interactive as possible. I even learnt how to do a powerpoint beforehand – yes I’ve only been teaching for 24 years!

Online education has been around for a long time but I always saw it as an exception rather than the norm. And maybe it’s time for me to rethink this for myself as much as for the students. The academic world can seem difficult just now even gloomy for some of us – little face to face interaction with colleagues, no  travel, webinars replacing the joys of conferences and uncertainty about the whole trajectory of university life. Yet despite this, we shouldn’t lose sight of the purpose of higher education, what we are all trying to do as best we can – to inspire the young and to inspire better futures. Learning is never wasted and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, higher education can be their salvation.

It may take time for many of us to adjust, to maximise the potential and whole experience of online education. But if we can carry on supporting the students as well as each other, even with the odd glitch here and there, I think all of us will learn to appreciate with patience and good humour that teaching and learning in whatever form, always bring new hope.

Photography: Douglas Robertson