Rebecca Bullard, School of Literature and Languages, email@example.com
‘A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process’ is a two-week online course created by staff and students in the Department of English Literature and the Online Courses team, and hosted on the social learning platform, FutureLearn. It engages a global audience of learners in reading, writing, discussing, and enjoying poetry.
The analysis of poetry, sometimes called ‘close reading’ or ‘practical criticism’, is a core skill for the study of English Literature. This course aims to develop this skill in pre- and post-A-level students of English Literature in ways that supplement teaching in schools and FE colleges. In doing so, it encourages students to make a successful transition from A-level to university-level study of English and Creative Writing.
The Online Courses team at UoR approached colleagues in the Department of English Literature to work with them to develop a course that would connect students’ pre-university learning with their studies at UoR. The resulting online course develops learners’ subject-specific skills and gives them insight into what studying English and Creative Writing at university level might be like.
Staff in the Online Courses team and Department of English Literature worked together to combine their diverse areas of expertise. Yen Tu, Digital Learning Producer, supported by Sarah Fleming, Assistant Digital Learning Producer, ensured that the course reflects best practice in the pedagogy of online social learning (Sharples 2018; Laudrillard 2014). Rebecca Bullard, as subject specialist, wrote the articles and designed tasks and activities to develop learners’ creative and critical skills.
It took about six months of intensive collaboration to produce the course materials. The first live run of the course took place over two weeks in December 2019. Rebecca and a team of student mentors engaged with learners on the FutureLearn platform throughout the live run to facilitate social learning and encourage completion of the course. The course content, feedback and statistics are currently being evaluated in order to measure impact and inform the next run.
The impact of the initial run of this course can be evaluated using the UoR Evaluation and Impact Framework (L1: Reach, L2: Reaction, L3: Learning, L4: Behaviour), using course analytics and comments from learners. Some participants gave permission for us to use their comments; where permission was not explicitly given, comments have been paraphrased:
L1: c. 1970 learners from over 100 countries enrolled on the first live run of this course. Comments on completing the course included the following:
L2: “I have always loved poetry but found some modern poems inaccessible. This course [has] shown me some ways to gain access.”
L3/4: “I’m a school teacher, having to teach unseen texts next year. This course has made me enjoy reading and dissecting poetry and I hope that I’ll succeed in inspiring my students to do the same.”
L3/4: One learner commented that the course has changed her perspective on poetry and that she is considering applying to UoR as a result of this course.
The success of the course emerged out of the different kinds of collaboration that it involved and encouraged:
Staff-student: The course highlighted the expertise of UoR staff and students, The course videos showcase real teaching methods that are used in the Department of English Literature, and offer tangible evidence of the academic excellence and the outstanding learning experience that underpin the UoR T&L Strategy 2018-21. Current students were paid to work as mentors on the course, giving them confidence in their own expertise.
English Literature-Creative Writing: The course engages learners in both critical analysis and creative practice, reflecting research that indicates the close relationship between these different methods of approaching literary studies (Lockney and Proudfoot 2013).
Department of English Literature-Online Courses: Specialists in both areas drew on their different kinds of expertise to develop a structure, set of activities, tone and style for the course that encourage maximum engagement from learners.
Learner-Educator-Mentor: The social learning platform FutureLearn facilitates active, real-time conversations between Learners, Educators and Mentors, which strengthens and deepens their engagement with the course material.
During 2020, further research will be undertaken to evaluate the impact of the course on particular learner groups. The Online Courses team will run a research study to evaluate how teachers (including those in WP areas) are using the course in their teaching. The Department of English Literature will evaluate the impact of the course on students enrolled on EN1PE: Poetry in English.
‘Unseen Poetry’ will be an exemplar for a new ‘A-Level Study Boost’ series which will be rolled out to other Schools across UoR.
‘A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process’: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/a-level-study-unseen-poetry
Laudrillard, Diana. 2014. Rethinking University Teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies. Abingdon: Routledge.
Lockney, K. & K. Proudfoot. 2013. ‘Writing the unseen poem: Can the writing of poetry help to support pupils’ engagement in the reading of poetry?’ English in Education 47:2, 147-162.
Sharples, M. 2018. The Pedagogy of FutureLearn: How our learners learn. https://about.futurelearn.com/research-insights/pedagogy-futurelearn-learners-learn