Although Stratford-upon-Avon College has had to temporarily shut its doors during the COVID-19 crisis, it has wasted no time in ensuring that learning is still taking place across all subjects.
With work being set online, virtual software allowing classes to interact with their lecturers and receive feedback, and entire classes able to see and hear each other on a computer screen, remote learning is proving a highly successful substitute for conventional on-campus teaching.
The College’s Musical Theatre and Dance students are just some of the learners benefiting from the wonders of modern technology. Dance lecturer Phil Watson-Smith, for example, is using virtual software to deliver online ballet classes, leading a ballet barre session via video call to his class who joined in from home.
Impressed with the students’ readiness to adapt to this new regime of remote learning, Phil explained, “The students used their imagination and improvisation skills, using chairs, banisters and worktops as barres and honed their routines from their bedrooms, kitchens, garages and conservatories!”
Musical Theatre lecturer Alex Dengate is also using virtual software to teach group singing lessons. The students have been able to perform to each other, receiving an audience and feedback on the work they present: the software enables the entire session to be recorded for the students to access and review later, and a live feedback function allows students and lecturers to give each other feedback throughout their performances.
Like Phil, Alex is pleased with the positive outcomes of this new teaching method. He commented: “Over the next few weeks, the students will be logging onto online lessons to learn new performance material and to hone and refine their singing skills in readiness for their end-of-year internal-progression auditions for entry to the second year of their course.”
Meanwhile the College’s Catering department has risen to the challenge and taken steps to adapt what would normally be a very practical qualification involving students working daily in the College’s industry-standard kitchens. The team have been uploading presentations and knowledge tests, and have been asking the students to provide photographic evidence of dishes they have made at home.
According to Head of Hospitality and Catering Shelley McGonigle, the students are coping well with the unprecedented challenges posed by this unique situation. Along with her colleagues in the department – “I am lucky that the team is so committed. They really understand the challenges students are facing in these uncertain times” – she is managing the demanding and time-consuming task of giving the students structure to their day and a communication lifeline to the College and the outside world.
Shelley summed up the reaction to the remote learning experience: “I think students and staff have embraced this positively. Everyone is really trying to ensure that the students still succeed and achieve.”