Image: London Contemporary Dance School
Innovation in learning and teaching maintains conservatoire training during COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic we have been faced with a variety of challenges in relation to our delivery methods. We are longstanding experts in the delivery of high intensity face-to-face collaborative training, and we have had to adapt very quickly for the benefit of our students and staff, whilst always taking into account the latest government guidelines on how Higher Education Providers should respond during these unprecedented times.
We are delighted to still be delivering a full programme of teaching to all our students, having welcomed back full cohorts from September 2021. We benefitted hugely from the innovation, flexibility and durability of our staff and students in developing an interactive online delivery of modules during the summer term when UK lockdown restrictions were in place across all of our sites. We have since then spent significant time and resources further evolving these programmes to make sure that the participative nature of our courses remains integral to our ongoing delivery, whilst of course ensuring that safety of staff and students remains at the centre of our approach.
This has allowed us to develop a specifically nuanced approach that reflects both the excellence and intensity of our teaching provision, one that is unique to performing arts education. The subsequent programmes also prioritise the health and safety of staff and students and safe operation in physical spaces. Consequently, we now deliver a blended learning experience that incorporates a combination of face-to-face classes, live online classes and independent study. Students are in small class groups for the purpose of face-to-face teaching. Innovation, utilising technology and fostering a spirit of cohesiveness has been paramount in achieving this success.
The sharing of ideas, experiences and difficulties has meant we have developed an effective and valuable integration of delivery methods during this first term back, and has ensured that we have been able to maintain conservatoire levels of training. It has also allowed us to capitalise on a great opportunity to use our knowledge to help students to increase their repertoire of skills and become highly adaptable, digitally literate artists.
Some great early examples of our schools’ blended delivery during the early stages of the UK’s initial lockdown can be found below, showcasing both the great talent of our student body and the willingness to adapt and produce challenging pieces in challenging times.
Back in the Studio:
We are Rambert School:
We have also been fully aware of the risk to the welfare and well-being of students including their financial, physical, mental and emotional needs as they undertake training under radically different circumstances. In many ways the Conservatoire schools are better placed to support students than traditional institutions due to the small cohorts, high staff-to-student ratios and high contact time. Each of our schools has also responded to the financial difficulties that some students have faced as a direct result of the pandemic, and all of the Conservatoire’s schools have their own hardship funds that are available as appropriate to help address this.
Our students have welcomed their return, and have had the following to say:
‘The blended programme is well balanced. Activities that require in person teaching/studio space take place when we are onsite, whilst virtual classes focus on activities that can be adapted to make them achievable in our homes. As a result, we can maximise our studio time and get the most out of our training in these strange times.’ (CSB)
‘I think NSCD’s response to COVID has been exceptional. The system of support bubbles has been a great asset to our training and gives some semblance to what life was like in regards to dance training before the global pandemic.’(NSCD)
‘Being back at London Contemporary Dance School, especially in the building, has brought a new sense of purpose to third year. Not only do we need to be engaged with our course, but we need to harness our enthusiasm like never before. Nothing beats seeing other people and friends in the flesh.’ (LCDS)
‘I feel that Northern as an institution is coping extremely well. They are keeping in constant contact with the students about any changes that arise with government guidelines and answering queries when they arise. They are also able to keep a normality with their training, keeping us all feeling like we have something to work on or towards.’ (NSCD)
‘Being back in the studio and having the freedom to express myself, makes me so happy. When I saw my fellow dancers, I realised how much I had missed the physical presence of people dancing alongside me, helping to uplift and motivate each other.’ (CSB)
The Conservatoire will continue to closely monitor ongoing and emerging risks as the pandemic continues, and we will ensure that we do this alongside a commitment to evolve and adapt our teaching to ensure that the specificity of a true conservatoire education is maintained.