From Nick Seager, Head of School

On behalf of all the staff in the School of Humanities, I am writing to welcome you back to Keele University for the new academic year. In these challenging times, I wanted to write about your programme for 2020-21: what you can study next year, how it will be taught, and how we will support your learning. This document is for students studying the following programmes:

  • American Studies
  • English Literature, including Creative Writing
  • Film
  • History
  • Media
  • Music
  • Music Technology
  • Masters programmes (MA and MRes) in the School of Humanities

From September, we will offer a flexible digital education (sometimes called ‘blended learning’) that combines on-campus and online delivery. Our approach will provide a challenging and rewarding programme of study that can adapt, as needed, to prevailing government guidelines. We are committed to ensuring that you continue to receive the high-quality educational experience that you have come to expect. Our approach is governed by the University’s current level of operation (i.e. as of July 2020). We shall keep it under review and let you know as soon as possible of any changes that we may need to make, and of course we will finalise details about the teaching for your semester 1 modules before you restart in September.

We want you to know that we put you, our students, at the heart of what we do. We are committed to ensuring that our teaching and learning is accessible and delivered in a coherent and effective manner. You are part of a community of students and through our teaching online or on campus, you will have frequent contact with your module tutors and peers to support you through your programme of study. Our first priority is the wellbeing and safety of our students and staff.

  • We will provide structured weekly programmes of study, clearly set out in module handbooks, combining on campus (in-situ) and online activities. Initial sessions in modules will induct you not just in the content but also the styles of learning. Your course will be divided into four main kinds of work:
    • guided independent study,
    • engaging pre-recorded sessions,
    • live teaching, either on-campus or online,
    • collaborative work with classmates, again on-campus or online.
  • The Keele Learning Environment (KLE/Blackboard) remains the main landing page for modules. You should already be familiar with how the content is navigated and presented.
  • Your guided independent study will be clearly set out on the KLE, so that you can plan your work, access the required materials in good time, seek the individual support of your tutors, and understand how you will be assessed.
  • As an alternative to in-person lectures we have devised ways to help you engage with content we would usually deliver in that form, including:
    • live online sessions for the whole cohort that enable collaboration and discussion as well as the lecturer’s presentation;
    • pre-recorded lectures, which you can access remotely, watch, and watch again as and when suits you;
    • Focused recordings or audio pod/screencasts, giving guidance, such as directions on independent work, on assessments, or covering study skills;
    • activities linked to these recordings, helping you to check and embed your knowledge and understanding;
  • There will be tutorials for smaller groups of students, both on campus and online, to help enable collaboration, participation, and interactive learning experiences.
    • For some modules there will be more frequent tutorials. Preparation work for tutorials will be clearly set out, and activities in live sessions will be varied to develop different skills and engage you.
  • Online live teaching will usually be delivered using Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, both of which are easy-to-use platforms that work well on all kinds of device, including mobiles, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
    • Some activities in your subject might use platforms other than Google and Teams; if so, this will be clearly set out.
  • You will have opportunities to speak individually with your tutors: they will have consultation and feedback hours, and we will provide other opportunities to meet on Teams or Google too.
  • Some practice-based modules in Media, Music, and Music Technology may require on-campus induction in the use of facilities in the Music and Media buildings. Where this proves to be the case, such induction will be done in line with social distancing requirements for everyone’s safety.
  • Our optional, year-long work placement modules will allow students to undertake placement hours in semester 2, either virtually, onsite, or a mix of these. We are identifying virtual placements which will enhance students’ skills and employability, and create some flexibility. And if you change your mind during the year, as late as January, you can opt out of the work placement module and replace it with a semester 2 module, if you feel that suits you better.
  • You will continue to have access to online electronic resources for your programme, including key journals, e-books, and databases.
  • We are refining our reading lists to incorporate existing and new materials available digitally, so that you can prepare for seminars and assignments even when unable physically to visit the library.
  • Modules will use digitised sections of texts as appropriate, which you can download from the KLE.
  • The texts that you need to purchase (physically or electronically) will be clearly identified for each module.
  • The library will re-open the building as campus re-opens more generally and have plans for how they can continue to support your learning. Arrangements will be communicated to you as the University develops its planning.
  • You will benefit from opportunities to meet one-to-one and/or in tutor groups with your Personal Tutor, either in person or online. This will give you opportunities to share experiences, raise questions and concerns, offer feedback, and let your tutor know what you need to support you in your studies.
  • Your Personal Tutor is available during the summer (apart from when they are on leave), so whether you are undertaking assessments in August, planning for the start of term, or anticipate circumstances that we need to take account of, feel free to reach out.
  • Of course, the range of Student Services offered centrally in the University, including counselling, financial and housing advice, and disability support will be available, and your personal tutor can help you find the best support in your circumstances.
  • If during the year you have personal circumstances that may restrict your ability to engage with your programme, you should get in touch with your Personal Tutor.

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We are looking forward to teaching you in the forthcoming academic year and to sharing with you our innovative plans. Please be assured that, despite the challenges we currently face, we will ensure that you have an outstanding academic experience.

Please note that this communication represents our current thinking as of July 2020. Depending on Government guidance and the local, regional and national situation, our approach to the delivery of your programme may need to be further refined. In this case, we will share further updates with you in a timely manner.

We hope that this document has given you the general sense of how your course will work in a blended and flexible way from September. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with either me as the Head of School, Nick Seager, or your relevant Programme Director, if you want to ask particular questions:

The Senior School Manager, Rachel Johnson, can also act as a first point of contact: r.a.johnson@keele.ac.uk