Students in class on Zoom

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  • *2020 QS World University Rankings

Scepticism to surprise: Teaching excellence continues during COVID-19

3 August 2020
Supportive staff and improved work/life balances
Despite the significant disruption COVID-19 has brought to university life, Arts and Social Sciences students recently let us know they continued to receive a high standard of education last semester.

The annual Semester 1 survey collects feedback on the student experience, allowing our students to share what worked well and where improvements can be made.

Capturing the experiences of both undergraduates and postgraduates, over 84% of the 15,000 Arts and Social Sciences students surveyed were highly satisfied or satisfied with the quality of teaching by our tutors and lecturers over the course of the semester, indicating sustained teaching excellence during the pandemic.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Annamarie Jagose, says the positive results reflect the dedication of Faculty staff and a culture of strong teaching practice.

“Given the unexpected leap to remote teaching early in the semester when COVID-19 hit, these strong student satisfaction responses are a testimony to the skill, commitment and creative adaptability of our teachers," said Professor Jagose.

"Their determination to continue providing quality learning experiences for our students in an online environment that was unfamiliar to many is awe-inspiring.”

From scepticism to surprise

Urvashi Bandhu, Master of Public Policy student

Urvashi Bandhu, Master of Public Policy student

When COVID-19 hit, International student Urvashi Bandhu had just started her second year of a Master of Public Policy and doubted that classes could be run online effectively.

But as lectures and tutorials transitioned online, she was “pleasantly surprised” – impressed with the quality of her classes and the above-and-beyond efforts of teaching staff to support her throughout the turbulence of Semester 1.

“The standard of teaching has been high and the approachability, ease of access and communication with my lecturers here is something I truly appreciate,” says Urvashi.

I am impressed with the immense support I’ve received, whether for assignments, a unit of study or even career advice. My lecturers have all ensured I wasn’t left feeling lost. I quite enjoyed studying online, to be honest.
Urvashi Bandhu, Master of Public Policy student

Bachelor of Arts student, Mary Ali, also worried what classes would feel like as the transition began. Like Urvashi, she too was surprised by how much she enjoyed studying online and was eager to praise teaching staff for their committed support.

When classes switched online, I mostly feared a lack of engagement within the classroom. But I was wrong.
Mary Ali, Bachelor of Arts student
Mary Ali, Bachelor of Arts student

Mary Ali, Bachelor of Arts student

“All of my professors were passionate about learning and tailoring the classes to our needs. I was surprised by how organised, efficient and effective the lessons were, especially considering how quickly things moved online. It was the best. I loved it.” says Mary.

Joseph Tesoriero, Bachelor of Education (Health and Physical Education) student

Joseph Tesoriero, Bachelor of Education (Health and Physical Education) student

Fourth year Bachelor of Education (Health and Physical Education) student, Joseph Tesoriero, admits he considered suspending his studies when the lockdown was first announced. But as the semester went on, he discovered the new way of working meant he was able to enjoy a better uni/life balance, developing new skills along the way.

“One of the major benefits was the amount of extra time I could dedicate to my study, which normally would have been spent travelling or hanging around between classes,” he explains.

The transition to online learning allowed for a better ‘work/life’ balance and improved my organisation and planning skills.
Joseph Tesoriero, Bachelor of Education student

Urvashi agreed, saying she also became better organised, learning to multi-task and prioritise her workload. As an international student, she values the new-found flexibility that “allows one to reach their goals faster, from the comfort of their home.”

“I feel that studying online should not deter students from enrolling in Semester 2. In fact the option to commence studies from the comfort of one’s home should be viewed as an advantage, as one acclimatises to higher education and their chosen degree from home, without having to go through the stress of moving to new city/country.”

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Adjustments in preparation for Semester 2

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Annamarie Jagose

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Annamarie Jagose

While the positive survey results highlight the resilience of the Faculty’s strong teaching practices, Professor Jagose says there’s room for improvement in Semester 2, announcing the Online By Our Design initiative, which will provide “a more intentional online learning experience.”

The program began during the mid-year break with a series of collaborative workshops that drew together staff and students from a variety of disciplines to share their experiences of online teaching and learning.

Using the group’s feedback to define a mutually agreed set of learning values, and with support from educational designers, the Faculty is now intent on improving its online capabilities, using specific challenges encountered during first semester to enhance its approach to second semester.

We’re very proud of what we managed under crisis conditions in first semester but now we’re keen to have a more collective, creative and purposive approach to online learning that puts student belonging and engagement at the centre of rich online learning communities.
Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

With a commitment to increasing flexible learning opportunities even after a return to campus, the benefits of the Online By Our Design project will continue to be felt into 2021 and beyond, and include an evolving virtual resource dedicated to supporting collaborative dialogue between teaching staff and the sharing of expertise and experimentation in online teaching.

We offer one of the most comprehensive ranges of arts and social sciences subjects in Australia. With more than 20 undergraduate degrees, more than 40 postgraduate coursework degrees and a suite of dynamic research degrees, we have many ways to meet your study and career needs. Click here to learn more.

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