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Students’ learning environments

Being mindful of students no longer in spaces we create for learning and how we can support them in their own environments.
a young students on their ipad in the dark
© FutureLearn

In the classroom and campus we control many aspects of the environment – we provide a safe, inclusive environment conducive to learning and teaching. Once this is taken away, we need to support students in their own learning spaces. This can include:

  • Students’ physical learning environments
  • Tools and devices
  • Connectivity
  • Personal support

Physical learning environment

Children, teenagers, partners and everyone else are all at home right now. Aside from all the other strained resources the ones we need to be mindful of for our students are:

  • Space and comfort
  • Bandwidth / connectivity
  • Noise and disturbances
  • Time and schedules
  • Safety and pastoral duty

Many are invisible and increase a broader range of student support challenges. Your students may also find they have a new teacher, their parents, supporting them while also balancing their own work, family and personal life.

What tools and devices do they have?

On top of the physical environment are the tools and devices your students have. Unlike the classroom or campus, you’ve lost control over being able to provide the basics. They have been disrupted and may not have access to the resources they had only weeks ago.

What kind of connectivity do they have?

Internet networks are under strain as people flock to their home and mobile networks for connectivity. Another reason to reconsider live events, students with only limited time or bandwidth reduces their connectivity. You can’t assume they can always connect to the internet, another reason to focus on asynchronous and offline – it improves the low-bandwidth experience.

What physical spaces are they in?

Students will be limited by the space they can study in. Desks will be shared, or eaten from at other times. Chairs are likely to be hard and uncomfortable. Some students may be working from their bedrooms in increasing discomfort. Not all our students returned to safe spaces; and they may have returned to very real threats to their wellbeing and mental health which they had previously escaped.

How can we be more mindful and supporting?

These unprecedented and challenging times will affect everyone differently, some student support areas to be aware of are:

  • Inclusion and engagement
  • Pandemic-induced anxiety
  • Feeling/being isolated
  • Struggling ourselves.

We all act differently to these but we should not shy away from mentioning them either. We need to adapt and maintain student support services while also being mindful of our limitations and always remain compassionate. With our students, ourselves, and others – we have never had to do this before. We can’t fix everything immediately, but we can learn and improve.

Your task (10 mins)

Consider how you’d ask your students to find the strengths in their personal learning environments. Guide them by the points made in this step but keep it simple. You may want them to share a description, rather than photos or video, which will help focus on the positives. It’s not recommended to showcase environments as it may create a social divide between students. The more you can understand their local context it may open up areas to provide them with increased support.

If you have personal contact with your students – you could ask them to open up more directly with you personally. Here are some topics to discuss:

  • Check they are OK and not at risk
  • Describe their physical learning environment
  • Ask for which devices they can use (and when)
  • Set personal timetables, when can they learn? (Builds from Week 1)
  • Ask about people – who helps them study?

You might not have the magic wand to fix your students’ learning environments but you can try to understand them and show support during these challenging times.

© FutureLearn
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