Moving to online teaching


FE/adult education with 20 years experience, mainly teaching Functional Skills English


We were told when lockdown started that classes needed to move to MS Teams. They’d never used Teams before and neither had I so it was all new.

In what ways did you respond to this dilemma?

In the first lockdown we sent packs of work to the students initially because we thought it was short-term. We found out the exams for Functional Skills wouldn’t run and then we really had to gather evidence of what they had done to see if they would have been successful if they had continued as usual. That removed the pressure a bit so what I was actually doing was more pastoral. We could go on Teams with students individually (with their personal emails) and I supported one student on a regular basis because she was struggling at home with her daughter and she didn’t know what she was doing with the home-schooling aspect. It was a bit like I had my family learning hat on even though she was a Functional Skills student.

What are the implications for teaching, learning and my understanding of the role of a teacher?

One of the key things was that when we came back to college in September 2020 we knew what was coming. Everyone had to have a student ID and email and we physically set it up in the classroom so that everyone knew how to do it. We were prepared much more but the student email addresses were confusing and that face-to-face time was important to show people. It was important not to assume that technology was accessible to everyone.

One woman struggled because her daughter was on Teams too and they were sharing the same device so the accounts got confused. I was able to see and message her to help sort it out. When we got breakout rooms one student just disappeared and I looked for him and eventually found him in the main room so it was about being aware of those issues.

It’s made me aware of how quickly we adapted to being online and that we’re quite resilient. I think that sums us up as FE professionals.

One thing I lost was that impromptu staffroom space and it helped that with some colleagues we had a weekly catch up with a cup of tea online. Just having that kind of conversation with people was important.

Keywords: Technical skills, facilitating learning, interaction with students, contextual awareness, pastoral role

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