Lessons from a Pandemic Year: LSST’s roadmap to recovery
By Kunal Chan Mehta | Article Date: 19 March 2021
LSST has been developing and delivering a detailed action plan authored by Mr Mohammed Zaidi, LSST’s Deputy CEO, since Covid-19 first emerged. By following Government guidance, and working closely with expert authorities and Public Health England, LSST’s senior management team continues to meet regularly to manage operations, preparations and responses in its roadmap to recovery.
Although the pandemic and its devastating consequences are far from over, LSST is focused on sharing what has been learned over the past extraordinary year, to support wider reflection and prompt additional exploration of the actions and ideas presented:
A. Ensure the safety, mental health and wellbeing of our staff and students
- From the outset of the pandemic, LSST proactively established a dedicated team to oversee the development of Covid-19 responses and ensure timely training and information was provided.
- LSST proactively provided information and full training to its staff and students on how to stay protected against Covid-19. From the start of March 2020, additional cleaning and personal hygiene equipment had been purchased, with all LSST sites being thoroughly cleaned overnight and ongoing cleaning during the day to ensure minimal risk of catching the virus while at work.
- A specialist mental health team were assembled to work on mental health initiatives under the supervision of Dr Wendy Wigley, LSST’s Head of Student Enhancement and Life-cycle once it was noted that the first lockdown had noticeably created national anxiety and panic.
- Through events and news articles, LSST’s Press Office helped students and staff understand the pandemic to inspire confidence in science and to remain resolute-as-possible during uncertainty (see: How students can confront COVID-19 stress whilst studying from home: a student and staff perspective – London School of Science & Technology (lsst.ac), LSST’s Deputy CEO speaks with the United Nations Global Compact about a united response to the COVID-19 outbreak – London School of Science & Technology and Pandemic paradox: during a divided world, universities unify to combat COVID-19 – London School of Science & Technology (lsst.ac)).
- Through events and news articles, LSST’s Press Office helped students voice concerns over systemic anti-Black racism and to debate inequalities that exist throughout society (see: Dismantling Racism: David Lammy, Labour MP and Secretary of State for Justice speaks with LSST – London School of Science & Technology, LSST students: reject society’s systemic anti-Black racism – London School of Science & Technology and LSST Birmingham student – and community activist – speaks with CNN about researching Britain’s race divide – London School of Science & Technology).
B. Maintain LSST’s educational experience outcomes
- At great speed and under intense pressure, training for digital delivery of teaching and remote working began on 16 March 2020, with full deployment commencing from 23 March 2020 (see COVID-19 Lockdown – transitioning LSST online – London School of Science & Technology).
- In addition to continuing classes, numerous additional webinars on diverse key and study skills including employability and careers advice were on offer throughout Easter 2020, as well as supplementary one-to-one and group academic support. The main focus of this initiative was to ensure students were completing their assignments and were up to speed with their course material and kept informed about student support services.
- Lecturers and Academic Support Centre (ASC) staff were in constant communication with students to help identify concerns – especially around the issues of digital access and digital poverty. Digital processes were also evaluated. Further, additional webinar information had been communicated to students in advance of the Easter break, and students were encouraged to take advantage of these ongoing services and facilities to maintain momentum in their studies.
- LSST’s Deputy CEO waivered £529,000 in student tuition fees for students who faced extreme and acute hardship as a result of lockdown and were not able to fund their studies. The Deputy CEO personally offered academic resources, technology and pastoral support staff services.
- LSST’s Deputy CEO embedded a pedagogy (theory and practice of teaching) approach where lecturers redesigned lecture material for digital learning – rather than replicate lecture slides used in the physical setting. Additional news, blogs and events were co-created with students to assist and inspire further digital learning (see: www.lsst.ac/news and www.lsst.ac/blogs).
- LSST’s Marketing team also flagged the key benefits of essential digital and online learning to help ease any concerns or anxiety:
- • More personalised learning
- • Access to resources before taught sessions
- • More flexibility (not bound to a physical campus)
- • Students can co-create and suggest digital delivery ideas
- • Opportunities to embrace digital opportunities and skills
- • Something to add to CVs! Learning during a pandemic
- Additional IT support was stationed to support teachers with digital delivery. This was followed with extra ongoing support for students to learn from LSST’s new digital delivery and to ensure they had the right digital skills. LSST’s IT team also successfully ran training workshops online and assessed lecturers to ensure that they were able to deliver digital and online classes with ease.
- The ASC and Personal Academic Tutors (PATs) reached out to students to ensure robust management of their academic work during such isolating and challenging times. They encouraged students to continue developing their Personal and Professional Development Plans (PDPs) and to report any concerns or issues to Student Support.
- LSST’s Press Office and Work Placement unit released a series of news articles and blogs to help students think about their future aspirations in the workplace taking into consideration their current studies and future career ambitions. This initiative provided students with real-world, albeit digital and online, experiences and ‘top tips’ that helped them understand the link between PDP and future employability (see www.lsst.ac/news and www.lsst.ac/blogs).
- The Student Support Services (SSS) team also contacted students to confirm their safety and wellbeing, while ensuring students who are employed in any essential services were provided with the appropriate support.
C. Protect the long-term operation and financial sustainability of LSST
- While many organisations were closing down, through commitment and dedication, LSST managed to open and launch a new Luton campus during the pandemic taking over a former BBC building – see: www.lsst.ac/news/luton_hastings. The site has received praise from Luton council, The Mayor of Luton, and many large organisations in the area. The LSST Luton campus is working with the BBC and Vauxhall Motors on several projects led by its public relations and marketing team.
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, the executive team worked on various in-depth contingencies related to Covid-19 to ensure minimal disruption to LSST services and operations (see: https://www.lsst.ac/coronavirus).
- The Board of Governors ensured LSST remained a dynamic and proactive institution by allowing Covid-19 response measures to be put into place very quickly while ensuring students were not disadvantaged. Consequently, The Board of Governors remains confident that there will be an increase in student achievement and satisfaction, ensuring LSST maintains its place as the leading alternative provider of higher education in the UK.
D. Harness innovative ways to build back better to emerge stronger
- Transitioning to digital and online learning – to facilitate digital and online delivery of teaching and remote working, LSST acquired Online Webinar software, expanded its VLE team, organised various vigorous training sessions, produced various training guides and user manuals. All online classes take place during the same days and timings according to the published student teaching timetables to ensure that students do not experience any inconvenience. However, all delivery was tailored for the digital environment – rather than the physical.
- Transitioning Student Support and Welfare Services – all student services, including front and back-office operations, were transitioned to remote working and online delivery. The switch to digital delivery thus had minimal impact on LSST operations, LSST’s Learning Resource Centres (LRCs) and electronic learning platforms (Virtual Learning Environment – VLE) were already online as part of the standard academic practice year-on-year.
- Creating a new online library – LSST’s online LRC is fully resourced with thousands of relevant texts and access to academic journals. LSST’s VLE is equally fully populated with all student resources well over and above course-specific learning aids and assessment briefs. Plus each student has full access to the affiliated university’s online library and resource access.
- Student attendance recording mechanism – Student attendance is recorded and monitored through the webinars ‘LogMeIn’ system. Line managers monitor and evaluate the webinars to ensure all scheduled webinars are taking place and provide support where necessary. The executive team request regular updates from all departments and ensure best practices are shared throughout the organisation.
- Keeping campuses open for emergency access – During the lockdown the campuses remained accessible for emergency access only with cleaning and security operations taking place to ensure the safety and security of company property.
- Connecting with industry – during the pandemic LSST students have continually been able to reach out and connect with leaders from a variety of organisations such as John Lewis, the BRC, GOV.UK, senior politicians and world-leading academics from Harvard University and MIT – see www.lsst.ac/news .
- Mental Health Champions – LSST has launched its mental health champions initiative to help students feel more comfortable about discussing mental health issues (see: www.lsst.ac/news/champions ).
Navigating through the pandemic has been challenging and exhausting for everyone, but paradoxically it has taught us to be adaptable and flexible and also has opened our eyes to new opportunities, discussions and ideas – and these are worth sharing. Why not share your best practice discoveries in our comments section below?
National lockdown guidelines should be followed at all times to minimise risk during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. For more information please visit our dedicated Covid-19 information webpage: Coronavirus – London School of Science & Technology (lsst.ac).
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