The Boar News recently conducted a social media investigation into the University of Warwick’s ‘blended learning’ approach, following claims that pre-recorded lectures from the last academic year are being reused.
The social media investigation yielded significant results, with 56% of respondents stating that this year, they had watched a pre-recorded lecture that was recorded and published last academic year.
I would reuse my own lectures, but it still feels like a kick in the teeth
– Warwick Student
Furthermore, The Boar News interviewed students who claimed their module convenors were reusing lectures. These students claimed that Psychology, Politics and International Studies (PAIS), Chemistry and Engineering were all reusing lectures.
When interviewed, one student said: “I’m fed up with being behind a screen.” Another reflected on what they deemed a “terrible degree experience,” adding, “I feel like we deserve an up-to-date education.”
However, some students feel that this is a more effective use of time for lecturers. One anonymous student agreed: “It would be a waste of time if the staff didn’t reuse lectures.” Another agreed that it saved time, but reflected upon its impact on their degree: “I would reuse my own lectures, but it still feels like a kick in the teeth.”
People are starting to get very demoralised behind a screen
– Warwick Student
Last week, after an Economics lecture in the Oculus building, several Economics students were quick to reflect on how this is affecting them, and how they perceive the quality of teaching. One student said: “My degree specifically needs updating every year, simply because a lot of the content is about current affairs. I cannot believe that I am paying £9000 a for lecturers to reuse material.”
He added: “Warwick needs to come up with a viable plan for the future. People are starting to get very demoralised behind a screen.”
When contacted for a comment, the University of Warwick said: “Pre-recorded lectures may be used to supplement the overall learning experience alongside a focus and emphasis on personal tutorials, face-to-face seminars, practical workshops, and employability opportunities, as part of an overall campus experience that enables our students to engage directly with teaching staff.
“All module leaders review their material each year, and departments will carefully scrutinise their learning materials and feedback from students each year to ensure that their curriculum is up-to-date, and meets both external quality standards and the needs of our students.
Our blended learning approach ensures the most appropriate tools are used to ensure the best outcome and learning opportunity for our students.”
In response to the University of approach to blended learning, a letter has been sent to Stuart Croft and signed by 15 academic societies, including the Warwick Politics Society, Warwick Engineering Society, and Warwick Finance Society.
The letter is asking for the University to set out a path to in-person teaching, so there’s transparency
– Joel Cooper
The letter, organised by second-year student Joel Cooper, has asked Warwick to explore “avenues that can facilitate a learning experience closer to in-person lectures for the short term.” The letter suggests methods including the live-streaming of lectures into lecture theatres, to “provide students with the option of the regularity of a scheduled lecture time and the space to interact with fellow students”.
The letter stated: “To diminish the role of the in-person lecture experience to only an academic nature would be narrow-minded, and it is important to recognise that in such a diverse university, these spaces are crucial to allowing new students to settle and meet coursemates.
“The scars of the pandemic will impact students for many years to come, thus it is essential that we work cooperatively to do all we can to ensure every student has the best possible chance of success.”
The letter also asked that the University provide “lecture recordings on platforms such as Echo360, even once we have shifted to full in-person teaching.”
In an interview with Joel on the issue of pre-recorded lectures, he said: “It clearly means that the content they are using isn’t being updated, but to some degrees, this is less dramatic.”
“From an economics student’s perspective, I do feel like students are being cheated of the whole experience. We do want to trust the departments at Warwick to make the right decision. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue, and we understand that even though government restrictions have been lifted, this doesn’t mean we are out of the pandemic. We don’t want to be forcing staff to go into environments they aren’t comfortable with.”
When asked what the society representatives hoped to achieve from writing and signing the letter, Joel emphasised his wish for greater “transparency” in the University’s approach to the future of blended learning.
He said: “That’s why the letter is asking for the University to set out a path to in-person learning, so there’s transparency.”
When asked about how the University would respond, Joel said: “I want the societies and the SSLCs to take on a more active role.”
Since the interview, the University of Warwick have responded to some of the society presidents, who each individually sent a copy of the letter to the Vice-Chancellor.
We will take into account the forecasted Covid situation and the views of staff and students
– Dr Chris Twine
Dr. Chris Twine, the Academic Registrar, responded: “We are really grateful for the views of you and your respective student societies, and recognise the difficulties faced by our student community over the course of the pandemic, and understand the need for reassurance going forward.
“We appreciate the need for clarity on Term 2, and are already actively considering how we deliver our learning. We will take into account the forecasted Covid situation, and the views of staff and students.
“We are pleased you have noticed that there are elements of the blended learning offer developed over the last 18 months that should stay as an integral part of a Warwick education going forward, particularly to ensure our education is truly inclusive.”