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Future learning – blended and flexible

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University Senate approves a future shift to flexible and blended learning, combining the best aspects of in-person and online learning.

Over the past few months, we have listened to hundreds of student views on blended learning across our University to understand what works and what doesn’t in enhancing your studies.

Many of you enjoy the flexibility offered by online learning, but you have also missed in-person interactions, a sense of community and our unique ‘Manchesterness’. That’s why the future of teaching and learning at our University will look very different to the online provision you experienced over the last year, when in person delivery was not possible for the vast majority of our courses due to pandemic restrictions. We want to get all our students back on campus as soon as it’s safely possible, but also give you greater choice over the time, pace and place of your studies in the future.

The proposal that was approved by the Senate focusses on blended learning as our default model of teaching. This means there will be a balance of synchronous activities, which take place on-campus at a specific scheduled moment in time, and asynchronous activities, where students are free to choose a time before a certain deadline that suits them. For example, you’ll access explanatory material via video when it suits your schedule, while in-person sessions on campus will be used for labs, seminar discussions or in-depth Q&As.

Your feedback also showed that you value clear guidance and signposting to help you organise your study week and ensure your workload is manageable throughout the semester. That’s why clear study maps and timetables that include suggested slots for online ‘on-demand’ activities (e.g. time to watch videos, read material and access formative quizzes) are part of the proposals.

Accessibility was another incredibly important topic that came up in your feedback and it’s an area we want to improve on to ensure all teaching materials are inclusive and accessible. We have highlighted that accessibility should be embedded into course design from the start, supported by clear guidance and additional resources that teaching staff can access.

The proposals set our direction of travel and in the coming months the Flexible Learning Programme will be working with staff and students to explore how we can best implement these and deliver flexible and blended learning that really works for our students. We’ll be working with our students as partners network and will also be asking you to get involved in workshops so we can ensure your voices are central in shaping our future offer. Look out for the announcements on My Manchester News to get involved, or contact us via avp-bl@manchester.ac.uk.

We’d like to thank everyone who has already taken part in surveys, workshops and our open meeting – your feedback has been incredibly valuable in shaping our future approach.

Dan and Steve

Professor Dan George, Associate Vice-President for Blended Learning

Professor Steve Pettifer, University Academic Lead for Digital Learning

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