Year group urged by fellow students to email course leads after reasons given for online teaching deemed “not good enough”.
Third year medical students left their introductory lecture with “disappointment and frustration” after hearing that the majority of their teaching will remain online this year. A copy of an email sent to the “year 3 leads” by one student, Jack, was initially posted on the 3rd year medic Facebook page, where it started to gain traction.
Jack stated: “I would like an explanation of why, with no legal coronavirus restrictions in place, and after 18 months of exclusively online learning, the University cannot provide us with more face-to-face teaching than this.” The email comes after students were told on Monday 6 September, in their first lecture back, that they would only have five in-person classes over the first 15 weeks of the year, followed up with seven sessions in GP practices. The reason given for this was, according to Jack, that the Teaching & Learning Centre at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is not currently available to use, and that “it is inconvenient for the tutors to travel to the University”.
He commented: “I think I speak for most of my year group when I say that we should at least be having our CBL [case-based learning tutorials] face-to-face (not to mention all the other small group classes which seem to have been relegated to “online only”).”
Emphasising that online learning had been “detrimental” in terms of mental health, as well as academia, Jack said: “The last 18 months has been extremely difficult for many of my fellow students.” He went on to comment that “the isolation of online learning” had had adverse effects on mental health.
“The last 18 months has been extremely difficult for many of my fellow students.”
Another student, Jennifer, had emailed about her own “unease regarding the decision to limit in-person exposure so drastically this coming term”. Expressing her appreciation and gratitude at the fact that “University staff have worked incredibly hard over the last 18 months of the pandemic”, she drew attention to the point that “those circumstances have now changed, with no government-imposed restrictions any longer in place”.
She commented that the reasons given by the University for the online teaching sessions were “hugely disappointing”, citing that “CBL is a vital part of the University of Glasgow’s prestigious medical degree course and it can be delivered more effectively face-to-face”. Jennifer made reference to mental health, too, stating that “the benefits of in-person interaction is potentially being greatly underestimated. Studying remotely is lonely, draining, and very difficult for many students who do not have ideal work-at-home scenarios”.
On other year groups being able to experience in-person teaching, Jennifer commented: “The knowledge that first and second year students are receiving on-campus face-to-face PBL [problem-based learning tutorials] and VS [vocational studies seminars] is confusing and seems unfair. As a year group, we have already suffered 18 months of entirely remote learning, missing out on placements and vital dissection labs, even though other universities continued with them.”
Lewis O’Connor, the SRC MVLS Convenor, responded on the Facebook page, and over email, following the raised concerns, saying: “I will agree that the lack of communication and transparency from the medical school regarding why the majority of [3rd year teaching] is online is disappointing and should be better.
“However, it is not by choice that the Medical School has had to make the majority of teaching online. Unfortunately, due to decision making outwith the medical school’s control, [running CBL sessions] is not possible.”
“I would advise you to avoid comparing the lack of in-person teaching online due to its irrelevance in this situation,” Lewis continued. “Legality isn’t the problem here; the lack of an entire teaching centre is the problem.” He emphasised that the medical school “has tried to find solutions”, including looking into rooms both at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and in the Wolfson Medical School Building, however these areas either do not have capacity for third years, or are being used by other year groups.”
“Legality isn’t the problem here; the lack of an entire teaching centre is the problem.”
He advised students that “the majority of teaching staff have been working on the wards throughout Covid whilst trying to find solutions to this problem. So please be kind and respectful… Like us, many are facing burnout and suffering from stress due to the pandemic.”
A spokesperson for the Medical School commented: “The University of Glasgow will continue the requirement for physical distancing in teaching spaces throughout semester one, as such, the School of Medicine made the decision to continue online learning for the third year medical case-based learning tutorials to ensure they can deliver a consistent approach to learning and teaching throughout the year.
“The Medical School continue to engage with students surrounding this decision, and will continue to work with students on this matter.”