IMechE view on Cambridge Uni moving lectures online for next academic year in response to COVID-19

21 May 2020

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Lydia Amarquaye, Education Policy Adviser at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) responds to news from Cambridge University that its lectures will go online for next academic year (2020/21), commenting on the impact for engineering students.

In response to the news that Cambridge University plans for all face to face lectures to go online in the next academic year, due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, and that many other universities would follow their lead, Lydia Amarquaye, Education Policy Adviser at IMechE commented: “It is encouraging to hear that universities are beginning to make plans for the year ahead, considering the challenges COVID-19 is presenting. It is important to ensure that students do not feel that they are being neglected during the process of planning how to reopen universities and wider society.

"Cambridge University is taking positive steps to find ways to run smaller teaching groups that could still adhere to social distancing requirements. This is essential for engineering degrees, where many elements of courses require collaborative projects.

"Any move to online teaching will have a major impact on engineering courses. There are very few engineering roles that do not require team-working, and university courses have been designed to replicate these experiences. These are often combined with laboratory experiments, and while experiments could be demonstrated on video, the project planning and iterative learning aspect that often accompanies these experiments will be lost.

"As companies try to get themselves running again, the opportunity for one-year industrial placements could be lost. This will undoubtedly change the plans for many students, where this is offered as part of their degree programme; many companies also use this year as a trial run for recruitment of graduates. Having benefitted from this myself, it would be worth considering how to support students and employers in the recruitment cycle for the next few years to fill the many gaps within the sector.


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