Opinion

Online Teaching: The Drama Students’ Perspective

Rosie Bowers is a second year Drama student.

Featured image from mauriciokell on Pixabay

Maybe one day I’ll be able to start an opinion article without saying that we have been failed by someone. Today is not that day. The students at UWE have once again been failed by their own university, currently a money sink of £9,250 per year. Rather than postponing teaching until a good quality of learning is possible, they have instead decided to move everything online. This has stung particularly badly for drama students, as second years were due to perform just two weeks from now.

This article is a reminder to the university that online drama lessons are not drama lessons.

University students have been absolutely dragged through the mud in the last year. With no forgiveness on fees, debt, or rent, even though classes are unattended and student flats sit empty. Even though we are forced to stay at home and access our lectures through phones for some, we have been given no financial compensation, and no indication of how we’ll be able to make up the lost teaching.

(And the £200 grant to help buy a laptop was useless, since applications closed before most students even heard about it.)

With the announcement that the no detriment policy would be scrapped, to be replaced by nothing, most of us are at our wits’ end. And not just about grades.

Believe it or not, students actually want to learn useful information, not just pass assessments.

For the non-drama students, let me explain. We have to perform group pieces, that have been designed to be performed in a room together, online, in separate houses, with whatever technical lags come with the quality of our wifi. These performances will need to be completely changed if they’re going to be any good, and we are expected to show them on the 18th of January, and we are expected to do this alongside preparations for individual presentations, and for many a second performance.

I am in no way trying to minimise the suffering of students on other courses, only providing our experience as drama students. To get justice, we all need to share our personal perspectives.

I was able to ask some of my classmates how they feel about the recent announcements, to show that this issue runs deep. One student has said:
“This [assessment announcement] is too much!… I get they haven’t had any advice from the government, but the way they’ve dealt with things from the start has been appalling.”

Drama students are panicking. By performing online, it will be near impossible to stay in sync, although the main problem is that we’ve had no time to prepare for it. Other students had these contributions:

“When we did ask [our lecturer] before Christmas about online performing, she always pushed the fact that ‘we shouldn’t worry’ and ‘It’s so unlikely that we will go into lockdown.’… It was kind of saying ‘Yeah we have life preservers on this boat, but you don’t need to learn how to use them or where they are, cause I don’t believe that anything bad is going to happen.’”

“I am not in a frame of mind to produce good quality work that I can feel proud of.”

In response to all this panic, the university and our subject leaders have been decidedly vague. There has been no guidance in our practical modules, and when challenged by student reps, the very people they are supposed to listen to, all that was said was “Nobody will be disadvantaged”.

This is not a response; it is a sedative.

All the higher ups seem to care about is placating us while they take our money for doing, frankly, nothing. On a personal note, all of the learning I have done this year has been self-imposed. I am painfully aware of the fact that university is supposed to be independent, but still, when asked to do their jobs and teach us, most lecturers seem resigned to sit back and let us fail for ourselves.

Overall, the atmosphere among the drama students is anger, and disappointment. As a final note, I’ll leave the findings of one student who went back and worked out how much content we’ve lost compared to our first year.

“We’ve had 3 weeks less and 50% less contact hours [than first year], 60% if you count teachers leaving early… The government seems to forget about us… So many students are struggling money wise already… and now it’s almost impossible to survive.”

All quotes are taken from second year drama students, who wish to remain anonymous.

Petition to get UWE to reduce tuition for 2020/21- https://www.change.org/p/university-of-the-west-of-england-require-uwe-to-partially-refund-tuition-fees-for-20-21-due-to-covid-19/psf/share?source_location=signed_interrupt

Petition for all universities to reduce tuition for 2020/21- https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/550344?fbclid=IwAR0Oy3YYIP5dLSNUHGUnY37TIs88AegjAoObz6EnqblQVBCuYOxe5vdKJ8g

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