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Providing effective remote pastoral care

Departments from across UCL share how they are supporting students’ wellbeing during the building closures.

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2 April 2020

In response to COVID-19, personal tutors understand now more than ever how important it is to engage with their tutees. We reached out to find out how departments are stepping up to meet the challenge of providing remote pastoral support through this period of uncertainty. 

Below are some colleagues' top tips and guidance on the new approaches they are taking to support their students at a distance:   

•    Anna Freud Centre
•    UCL Chemical Engineering
•    UCL Economics
•    UCL Institute of Health Informatics
•    Language and Cognition
•    UCL Medical School
•    UCL Physics and Astronomy

Anna Freud Centre

  • All tutors are encouraged to establish regular and sustained contact with tutees, including reaching out to those who have not been in touch.
     
  • A dedicated personal tutors Microsoft Teams site has been created to:
  1. raise questions
  2. share ideas and concerns
  3. offer each other general support
  4. provide feedback to the Director of Education.

UCL Chemical Engineering 

  • Personal tutors are engaging with their tutees remotely, using tools such as email and Microsoft Teams. 
     
  • Senior members of staff, including the Director of Education and Departmental Teaching and Learning Admin team, are kept up-to-date with students who are travelling or have travelled back to their home country. 
     
  • The Faculty of Engineering is setting up a pastoral care and wellbeing website, in response to COVID-19.
     
  • Two colleagues are listed as named contacts and will be supported by Programme Directors and other staff who have specialist training, such as, in mental health.

UCL Economics

  • All personal tutoring office hours are continued online via virtual conferencing tools, and bookings for appointments continue. 
     
  • Personal tutors are encouraged to keep offering these office hours throughout the revision period and term 3. 
     
  • The Departmental Tutor is also accessible to students daily and is using various digital platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. 
     
  • All students who go into isolation/quarantine or are hospitalised for treatment are advised to let their tutor know. 
     
  • We liaise with Academic Representatives concerning UCL's exam mitigation policies.

UCL Institute of Health Informatics

  • Tutors send weekly emails to their tutees to keep in contact. They also have online meetings. 
     
  • Created small groups for overseas students with weekly pastoral catch-ups.
     
  • Module leads are having weekly online meets for groups in addition to usual webinars.
     
  • Additional activities such as reading group been set up for overseas students. 
     
  • New extension and deferral and self-certification policy been sent to all students to encourage proactive planning and reduce stress.
     
  • Clinical personal tutors are being swapped with other tutors if they request it. This ensures that students have an available tutor.

Language and Cognition

  • Set up an interactive map initially for everyone on the BSc PALS programme and followed by the MSc Speech and Language Sciences (staff as well as students) – it’s just for fun but is a lovely way of sharing where we all are in the UK and the world (entirely optional!).
     
  • For postgraduate students on the MSc SLS students (in Language and Cognition) we’re now running weekly 30 minute live Question and Answer session via Blackboard – every Wednesday 12pm. Year A and year B get 30 mins each. During this session we:

    • Provide a 5-minute update presentation for the students, followed by a 20 min Q&A session and then a 5-min wind-down chat with opportunities to share social stories/gossip etc.

    • It’s being used as a way of sharing information in as efficient was as possible and providing a routine for students who want to keep in touch with peers. After Easter we’ll be introducing additional break out groups for students to chat more informally.

UCL Medical School

Our postgraduate students are mainly health care professionals, doing a part-time Master’s in Health Professions Education or Medical Education whilst working clinically. 

Historically sessions with personal tutors have low take-up. We are offering something that is more tailored. All students are allocated two tutors, and we advise them how to contact us if they need ad hoc support. This year we are auditing how our students use this resource. 

We are also: 

  • Keeping in regular contact with students via Moodle announcements, to let them know that personal tutor appointments are available to discuss concerns about their studies in relation to the current situation with COVID-19.
  • Setting up a ‘Covid Student Support’ Moodle page for our students. This provides links to up to date information about Extenuating Circumstances and UCL regulations. It also details the role and availability of personal tutors at this time and offers two ways of interacting with personal tutors above and beyond the usual appointments.
  • Offering weekly evening drop-in’s with the personal tutors via Blackboard Collaborate so that students can ask questions.
  • Hosting a Question and Answer discussion forum on this Moodle page for any student who has a question about their studies in the current situation.

 UCL Physics and Astronomy 

  • The expectation is that tutors engage much more regularly with their tutees, by any means they can, whether that is Teams or email.
     
  • All tutors should inform management of those students for which they have concerns.
     
  • The key is allocating limited resources efficiently as some of our tutors working from home will also be homeschooling or caring for family. 
     
  • We have provided our personal tutors with UCL guidance on supporting students across a number of key areas such as wellbeing and finance, and also links to external bodies such as Student Minds. 
     
  • Tutors are kept regularly updated on changes in assessment regulations as this is one area of major anxiety for our students. 
     
  • In addition, students can contact their Departmental Tutor and any member of the Education Support Team for further guidance and support. 
     
  • A member of staff also has a daily Microsoft Teams meeting with the lead Academic Representative. 

Contact us 

Email arenacentre@ucl.ac.uk if you have any questions, or would like to share your experience of personal tutoring with others through a case study.