Chat Champions supporting blended learning in Public Health


Student representatives monitored online participation in Public Health classes to enable lectures to be delivered via a truly 'blended approach’ and encourage live student engagement.

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a number of innovative ways of delivering blended and online learning across the university. We understand that students engage in learning differently, and we need to provide flexible ways to access lectures in a way that suits diverse learning styles.

A truly 'blended approach' to teaching has been developed and implemented by the Public Health team and wider School of Human Sciences, led by Nevin Mehmet, Deputy Head of School for Student Experience. It was important for the School to retain the face-to-face teaching element that public health students prefer, while adapting to Covid-restrictions and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students and staff.

Students were offered the opportunity to participate in simultaneous classroom and online learning, with lectures delivered to both audiences at the same time, with the support of students. Some students could attend the lectures in-person in the traditional classroom environment, while others chose to participate via MS Teams.

To maximise student engagement and to help lecturers feel comfortable managing dual learning platforms, the role of a 'Chat Champion' was developed. Student representatives were trained to monitor the online participation (especially via the text chat) and to feed into the live classroom discussion.

Supporting students

This blended approach of simultaneous online and face-to-face teaching has enabled many students to continue with their studies in difficult circumstances. The majority of students studying Public Health programmes are female, and from BAME (82%) communities. As a result, many students may be managing the responsibility of home schooling their children, which predominantly falls to females, while also continuing their own studies.

By offering a flexible approach for students to attend 'live' lectures, those who are managing childcare at home can still participate in learning, in a way that keeps them connected to their university cohort in real-time. When the Tier system was introduced, more students chose the option of participating online rather than travelling to campus, but did not feel that their learning experience was compromised as it was well-managed by the Chat Champions.

We have been able to make the transition from campus to online delivery very smoothly with little disruption for students and staff. The use of technology to aid teaching and learning in this way has only been possible with the introduction of our Chat Champions.

This approach has been one of the most practical and useful innovations to address the current challenges to teaching and learning in the Public Health portfolio. It has provided a targeted approach to inclusive learning, enabling equal participation from students learning online. It has also benefitted staff with the assistance of Chat Champions, allowing lecturers to concentrate their efforts into teaching and engaging students.

Thank you to everyone involved in this innovative approach supporting blended learning.

You are welcome to send us your stories so that we can share more of our successes across the university.