For twelve years, U:PASS leaders have been running a regular two day training session, always face-to-face. Day one focuses on activities about U:PASS, including the history of PASS/SI, boundaries, referral, duty of care, adult learning principles, and how to run collaborative groups. The main component of day two is a rotation of small groups doing practice-runs of a collaborative session (topic of their choice) and giving each other feedback. This part is usually carried out in groups of about 5-6 over several hours, with a senior leader facilitating and giving more informed feedback.

The outbreak of COVID-19 changed that, and in Spring 2020 we went fully online. (Big thanks to my colleagues Kaitlin Moore and Glenys Geor who converted the activities to online equivalents).

But we lost something in the bodily presence of being in a classroom together. How could we bring the best of the face-to-face activities to the session, but do it safely? We decided to try running a mixed-mode version.

What we did

  1. We asked all the students attending in person to bring laptops to campus. They were to let us know if they needed to borrow one from us (no one did). Also the library has some to borrow too, which we were aware of.
  2. We asked them to all wear masks throughout the day as per University requirements.
  3. We created a link document, with all the Zoom links to all the activities (Jamboard, Google doc, Quizlet, etc) and sent it out to them on the day.
  4. We had one leader who was in China, so she joined via a personal Zoom link and was looked after by a senior leader throughout the day on a laptop.

Making it mixed-mode

And here’s how we converted the face-to-face activities:

Face-to-face version pre-COVIDCOVID-safe face-to-face version
In groups, leaders draw on butchers paper to show the different roles of lectures, tutorials and U:PASS leaders. We used 4 Google Jamboards with pre-populated items that students worked together on individual laptops from the linked document.
Referral game where they answer with the services that they know of, and learn about the ones they don’t. We created a Quizlet where students matched the issue (e.g. lost keys) with the service (e.g. security).
How does HELPS help – we used the different bookmarks to break students up into groups and report on the different areas of HELPS.We pre-populated a Google doc with the different areas and asked them to use Google to fill out the key elements and allocated each group a particular area.
How we learn – we have a giant puzzle on the floor they put together using laminated A4 ‘pieces’.We used Google Jamboard to get them to work on putting the puzzle together in small groups online.
Redirecting game – leaders
pass around a ball in groups
and try to constantly
redirect instead of answering the question.
We forgot to take the balls so we got everyone to sanitise before and passed around mandarins we had available (and chucked them after). There was much giggling and no split mandarins thankfully!
Practice sessions – leaders run a 30-minute face-to-face practice in different classrooms under the guidance of a senior leader.Senior leaders sent through Zoom links and then leaders were allocated to different Zoom rooms to take over hosting and run their practice session.

So is it possible to run a face-to-face training session in a COVID-safe way? Yes, it is. Hope this helps you if you’re trying out mixed-mode or other forms of teaching.

Feature image by Erwan Hesry.

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