Building an Oasis of Calm in a Sea of Chaos: Supporting Students During Covid-19 Disruption
The 2020-21 academic year was a year like no other. Many students beginning university in 2020 found themselves moving away from the support of their friends and family and starting their degree under challenging circumstances. This paper discusses the approaches taken to support >200 students from across the University of East Anglia’s Science Foundation Year courses with their transition to university study. Never before have whole cohorts of students at UK Higher Education Institutions had to engage with their studies in a wholly virtual space, without being able to leave their homes, see their peers or meet lecturers face-to-face. Never before have we, as lecturers, had to counsel and support so many students attempting to engage whilst grieving, to learn whilst recovering and to progress whilst mentally struggling. By reimagining our role, listening to the students and being responsive to student feedback, we found that we were able to provide a calm, constant in an otherwise uncertain and chaotic world. The COVID pandemic forced us to make changes but an unexpected result of this was that we built a collaborative learning community with our students and started hearing them in ways we were not experiencing when teaching primarily face-to-face.