Industry and scholarly literature concerning the future of work is commonly framed in terms of disruption and COVID-19 has certainly been a further and unexpected disruption to learning and working. At UTS, the delivery of Autumn 2020 session was reorganised at fast pace, which was a test for everyone. For students, it has been a particularly difficult challenge adjusting to a new mode of study in unstable circumstances.
It is important to acknowledge the difficulties faced by students during the time of COVID-19. Without underplaying or seeking to normalise these difficulties, it is also important to reflect on the techniques and skills we develop to overcome them. In the context of remote learning, students have overcome a series of unexpected challenges they did not sign up for.
Identifying 21st century skills
Encouraging students to reflect on these challenges and how they overcame them is one way to assist them in identifying the specific skills they have cultivated during the remote learning period and how these skills and experiences correspond to the demands of the future of work.
Transferrable skills, such as communication, self-organisation, resilience, team work and active learning, are among the top attributes graduate employers look for when hiring. Graduate student abilities to articulate the experiences and narrate the circumstances in which these skills were acquired will provide them with some advantage when transitioning to employment.
Experiences and skills that students will have likely cultivated while studying remotely include the following:
- Adapting to change
- Active learning
- Collaborative skills in the virtual space
Asking the right questions
Here are some questions that help to articulate how these skills were developed:
What have been the key challenges in adapting to learning from home?
What is an example of how you adapted to learning from home?
How have you implemented self-organisation and decision making to adapt to remote learning?
There are different ways students could be prompted to engage with these questions. For example, encouraging students to narrate their experiences, such as identifying the problem, the solution they found and how they implemented it, is a good way to approach the task.
Teaching staff could provide some time in class for students to reflect on these questions, note their ideas and discuss them with other students in small group chats, and then return to open class discussion.
Feel free to share any insights from your students in the comments box below. More resources on engaging students while they are studying remotely can be found in the Remote Teaching Toolkit.