As we watched the headlines come in daily (if not hourly), it became apparent to us very early in Semester 1 that COVID-19 was likely to mean a shift to remote learning. Given the uncertainty about access, we worked to consolidate the content into a series of scaffolded questions that related to material each week, arranged on Canvas in weekly modules. Importantly, as critical reflection on experiences of education is the focus of this unit, each week also included a preliminary “Reflect and Share” question that encouraged students to connect their personal experiences to the key concepts. Further discussions were facilitated in weekly tutorial group Zoom sessions and discussion boards – which replaced the weekly two hour in-person tutorial classes. The rationale for not simply “transplanting” face-to-face hours onto Zoom was to avoid presuming upon the technological, resource, and emotional affordances of both students and tutors (now widely discussed in relation to “Zoom fatigue” and other social issues that have arisen). This rationale was also the basis for our decision to cancel a group presentation assessment and distribute the mark weightings for it evenly across remaining assessments. We also offered regular support to our teaching team through weekly updates and suggested teaching resources; ongoing one-on-one support; and clear rubric marking guidelines.
Simultaneously, we recognised that as a large first year course, with over 550 student enrolments in week 1, we had a significant duty of care for students that were transitioning to University. We utilised various platforms in different ways to communicate with and support students as they faced a reality that they never anticipated. This involved the uptake of WeChat, a greater reliance on SRES, and frequent video messages. Part of our coursework emphasises the importance of ‘care’ in teaching, and we aimed to embed this in our own approach towards unit coordination. Adjusting the assessment and class schedules formed part of this, but also making ourselves known to students through frequent, personalised emails and video messages helped us to communicate this as well. Our focus on care enabled us to ground our pedagogy, planning and practices for this unit. For each challenge that emerged, we sought to meet it by seeking to answer two key questions: a) what do the students and teaching team need during this time? b) How can we meet those needs? Formulating our responsive practice with these answers enabled a consistency of care.