Creative Writing and Films Studies student Jo Rawnsley and lecturer Dr Edmund Hurst share their experiences of online learning since lockdown
“Even though we're going through an unprecedented time right now, the English and Creative Writing department has been fantastic in supporting us as students. I couldn't be prouder of being a part of the department! They have been in constant contact with us and have been very creative in their approach. They have had online office hours, discussions on our student online platform Canvas for us to share work, get peer feedback and share our resources as well as simply have a space to support one another.
“One lecturer has also made a chat channel for all creative writing students in all years – where we can share video, text, images and live chat. This has been an amazing space for us to talk to our friends and course mates, as well as getting to know more people from our course. I've made new friends through this and am always feeling supported by the community which has been created.
“Now more than ever I feel we need to feel connected and through having this space, I feel the community is getting stronger. The same lecturer, Dr Edmund Hurst, has also been doing creative writing live streams. He is taking time out of his spare time to bring us all together even more. He plays video games whilst having creative conversations with his students and this also allows us as students to have another space to connect.
“The live streams have become a highlight of our week, Dr Hurst’s been doing them twice a week since March and we all hope it continues throughout the lockdown. Like I said, they have become a highlight for us and truly make a difference to our time. It gives us something to look forward to as well as giving us inspiration. After every stream I become inspired and motivated to write, even if I've had a bad day due to my mental health – the streams always cheer me up.
“The department and lecturers have gone above and beyond to help us stay connected and once again I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this department, but also the University! I have made YouTube videos about how amazing the uni is and how much they have been supporting us through this crisis. In a space of a few weeks, the entire uni was online and still supporting all the students. Now that I'm nearing graduation, I don't want to leave and intend on staying at Hull to do a MA in English and Creative Writing.
“I am also a part of a creative writing committee called HU Writes, we intended to host a creative showcase in April, which unfortunately had to be cancelled. However, this didn't affect our spirits and we created a website/blog to showcase the creative writing talents of all Hull uni's students, not only those studying creative writing. We have a YouTube channel which is full of videos from our previous showcase in November and we intend on creating our own videos from home to share.
“The creative writing community is blooming thanks to the efforts of the lecturers, but also the students themselves. I am a course rep and I am so proud of all the students I talk to and they too are so thankful for the ongoing support. The extensions and new word counts have given students the time to really succeed and do the best they possibly can in their upcoming assignments. The department and uni have recognised the stress students are currently under and once again have been nothing but supportive!
“I am proud to call myself a Hull university student and I rave about the uni whenever I get the opportunity. For example, with the uni making PPE for the NHS and helping student nurses is absolutely amazing, but it's also the small things like my lecturer's live streams that make me proud. Everyone is doing their utmost for students, but also the local community and it makes me incredibly proud!”
"Even though the current situation hasn't been without its stresses – I have been pleased that online learning is accessible and can be done with ease thanks to the efforts of the university staff. Thanks to this we're all still connected and able to continue to make the most out of the experience."
Dr Edmund Hurst, lecturer in creative writing at the University of Hull, praises the students who have brought the online creative community to life since lockdown.
“I have been overawed by the creativity, determination and consideration of the students who have been involved in our online creative community at the University – at all levels of the degree programme. From third year students helping first years with workload stress and creative techniques, to second years discussing motivation and summer writing plans, and MA students sharing their experience and perspectives, the community has grown far beyond any expectations I had when we first began.
“I am exceedingly proud of how well my students have risen to the challenge over this very difficult period and if I can help by playing Sonic the Hedgehog and making jokes about bees, then long may it continue.
“Webchat apps have been great for answering questions quickly, the online equivalent of knocking on an office door, and Canvas is an exceptional tool for digitising lectures, seminars and workshops, alongside providing a space for students to share their work and ideas. However, there is more to learning than just going to class and I began the livestreams in March as an excuse to stay in contact with any interested students; a space for casual conversation, anecdotes, storytelling and writerly Q&A sessions, all against the backdrop of my mediocre gaming skills. It’s been a wonderful experience.
“After all, though it is so often done in solitude, writing is a social activity. Writers write together, discuss their work, give feedback and – crucially – provide companionship and conversation alongside the necessary distractions, jokes and personalities that lead to motivation. With the classroom environment no longer available, it was an exciting challenge to translate this into a digital space.
“There is no doubt that it is the students who deserve the credit for this virtual community. I may have provided a space for them, but they are the heartbeat of the community and it’s all down to their good humour, resilience and enthusiasm that it has been such a success.
“The streams will be paused briefly during August, but are due to recommence again in September and I very much look forward to welcoming a brand new cohort of students into this ever-growing, ever-supportive digital community.”