As we approach the end of our first week back after the Easter break here at Screen and Film School, we’ve been reflecting on how this drastic shift to online learning has affected our students and staff.
A few months ago we could have never anticipated that this would be the way we would be delivering our second term. It’s been a steep learning curve for many, as we’ve navigated these new waters and found ways in which we can teach a Film Production course from behind a screen. We’ve caught up with a few of our students, Neo, Ben and Giovanni, as well as Alex Hobden- Head of Year One and Two- to see how they’re getting on in this new learning environment.
How have you found the experience of working remotely so far?
Alex (staff): Although we knew it was on the cards I think the remote working came as a bit of a shock to us all. We really only had a few hours to rethink all of our teaching and administration to make it work effectively in a virtual environment. I enjoyed the novelty of video conferencing meetings and having video tutorials with students but it’s quickly become the new normal and now I’m very much focussed on how we can continue to make the experience more engaging and productive for the students. Intuitively you would think it would be much easier working from home but every job just feels that little bit harder and takes that little bit longer. It’s really exhausting! I’ve started to follow a more rigid routine now, going for my daily walk, having tea breaks and a proper lunch, this really helps!
Ben (student): I haven’t found it too different as I do the majority of my work in my bedroom anyway. I think the main thing I’ve really missed out on is the short films we were due to shoot. Although our new assignment suits everyone pretty well and there’s a real variety of projects being made so it will be exciting to watch them all when this has blown over!
Neo (student): Working online has been surprisingly smooth! The Zoom application was a little fiddly at first, but fortunately it seems everyone’s gotten the hang of it.
Gio (student): I think that the working via Zoom is very good for both students and tutors. It gives you the chance to attend lessons straight from your bed!
What things are working well?
A: Zoom has been a real saviour. It’s stable, supports large groups and has loads of great features for making the teaching and learning more engaging. The vast majority of feedback that I’m receiving from students is very positive and attendance to the taught sessions has been excellent under the circumstances. We’re also playing with some new software that we will start introducing to sessions over the next couple of weeks. There are some great tools out there!
The Masterclasses relaunched quickly after the lockdown and have been a huge morale boost for students and staff alike. Running these remotely has given us access to industry professionals that we just wouldn’t have been able to get hold of otherwise. We can connect with professionals all over the world, across multiple time zones and usually busy, high profile professionals now have some time on their hands to come and speak to us.
B: My tutors have reacted really well to the situation and having Zoom tutorials has not only kept us busy but also entertained and I think is really helpful for those who are alone and don’t get the chance to socialise.
N: Particularly, I quite appreciate how by having everyone focused on a screen to listen to their tutors, it’s making for more focused lessons.
G: Probably since everyone is beyond a screen it gives opportunity to those who are shy to shine in class, and allows for more interventions during the lesson
What are some challenges you’re facing by learning remotely?
A: I really miss the face to face contact with students and colleagues. This experience has really made me realise the value of chatting over a cup of tea and bumping in to students in corridors. These small moments that we might normally take for granted are so important and so productive. One of the biggest challenges I have faced as Head of Year is trying to ensure that we are offering an engaging, productive, supportive and enjoyable experience for all students and teaching staff. It’s been a very real challenge for a course that is usually so practice based. We’re using lots of different methods of gathering feedback from the students and lecturers so we can keep getting better and better.
B: Being an aspiring cinematographer it is frustrating not having the access to facilities. However, every challenge will teach a new lesson, and it’s nice having the time to get ahead on my reading list (currently Painting With Light – John Alton) without the pressure of upcoming shoot dates.
N: Challenges regarding online classes mainly pertain to the limits of the Zoom app: Seemingly no built-in volume control for specific users, a somewhat antiquated interface, etc.
G: Sometimes, not having the best internet connection is difficult. The line can be a bit jumpy so there are moments where I struggle to understand, but the tutors know that we just need to ask to repeat.
What’s something positive that’s come out of this experience so far?
A: There is a real heightened sense of community amongst staff and students. Despite not being able to meet each other in person there has been a real atmosphere of support and kindness. An attitude of ‘we’re all in this together’. Students seem to appreciate all of the hard work being done behind the scenes, some students even drop me emails from time to time to see how I am. It’s a small gesture but it can really brighten up a tough day!
B: Being able to read more and research the theory behind what I do as well as looking at different forms of art and media and draw inspiration from things I never would have looked at otherwise.
N: Changing to a goofy profile picture and surprising everyone with it in a call was quite the highlight!
G: It’s good that we all learned how to work remotely and collaborate with each other from our houses, and how to solve problems that we can come across during the making of a movie.
What’s the biggest distraction you face learning from home?
A: My cat Nigel…
B: The fridge.
N: The primary distraction I’ve faced so far has mainly been my family frittering about since they’re stuck in the same flat as me.
G: I personally live with a cat that is always jumping around in my room or on my back so, yeah, he’s the biggest distraction!
What are you looking forward to most about being back in the classroom once this difficult period has passed?
A: I’m really excited about seeing everyone again, I miss my colleagues and the students. I also miss Tracy’s snacks and homemade banana bread in the office…
B: Definitely playing with equipment and being around my fellow students again!
N: I’m looking forward to finally seeing all my classmates again! It just isn’t the same online, you know?
G: Having a real connection with all my classmates and going out all together. We still have fun from beyond a screen but it’s not the same thing.