With the next academic year creeping around the corner, we've put together some tips to help academic and teaching staff adjust to the 'new normal' when they return to campus.
You may have thought of many of these already but hope some will serve as useful reminders when the whirlwind of a new academic year unfolds!
Plan Your Return routine
Reverting to solely home-based working over the past year and half inherently brought new challenges to many people and I'm not just talking about technology!
The same can be said for the return to your office, lecture theatres, and classrooms. It may come as second nature to many but it may also need some adjustment, too.
Ease yourself in, where possible, working a few days a week on campus or only going in for contact hours while you get used to the old-new environment.
Plan out your weekly and daily schedules to establish an on-campus routine and that adjustment will come a lot quicker than you may have thought.
Make the Most of Your Colleagues
For many of you it's probably been a while since you met up in person, right? And Zoom doesn't quite replace that face-to-face setting.
One of the benefits of working at a university is the exposure to a wide variety of staff from all different walks of life. For those that have missed the 'human touch' schedule catch-ups with colleagues and join internal social events or schedule some yourself.
Furthermore, in-person interaction can spark innovation and motivation. The value of internal workshops to create new ideas and discover new insights cannot be underestimated.
Strength in numbers may be a cliched number but it still rings true. Carpe diem.
Check-in with your Students
When speaking to our academic partners over the past 12 months, one common denominator has been how they've missed having direct interaction with their students.
And vice versa, many students will no doubt be looking forward to going to/back to university in September.
But as questions around value-for-money surfaced during the previous academic year, there's growing pressure on universities to provide value for their students or face drop-outs and tuition fee refunds - Secretary for Education, Gavin Williamson, has hinted he may call for tuition fee refunds if universities fail to provide adequate returns to face-to-face tuition.
Amongst this growing pressure to 'deliver' is an increase in mental health admissions among university-level students - the Covid-19 pandemic catalysing this.
So while for many students this transition will be welcome, for some it could also be quite daunting. Remind students of the support services available on and off campus and of your availability to have check-ins/catch-ups if they do find themselves to be struggling.
Where possible look at attendance and VLE data that may highlight a decline in student engagement. This could be a sign of more underlying problems than just idleness.
Technology - Learning from Lockdown
The pandemic expedited the transition towards more digital learning within the education industry. Reverting to online lectures, tutorials, and assessments became commonplace as did an increased use and dependency of all features within VLEs.
Digital technology may as well have its own office but remember it's not there to replace your teaching - it's there to complement it. So before you revert back to face-to-face, hard copy content, and printed assignments think about how technology can support your teaching and your students in their learning environment.
Furthermore, given this expedition and adoption of technology there will be an expectancy from students for university staff to be tech-savvy, for technology to be used to enhance their learning experience.
Technology is here to stay; befriend it and your teaching and students will all benefit.