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University of Northampton: from offline to online without interruption

When lockdown struck, the team at the University of Northampton rallied together to keep courses running as smoothly as possible. Here, staff share examples of how they moved their courses out of the classroom and onto the screen.


Production week goes virtual

For the working with a director module, students experience the complex process of working under the direction of a professional director to achieve a performance. Students prepare for and undergo an audition process, undertake an intensive rehearsal period, and participate in a production week in which they experience industry standard technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals and a short run of performances. 

This project is usually the highlight of the second year for our students – it is a culmination of all their hard work. It manifests in an open-air production and we invite local schools to attend. In 2020, this had to change, and at very short notice.

It was decided we could make a 90-minute film, with the students filming themselves in their homes and via online tools such as Cisco Webex to create a 'Locked Down Shakespeare'.

Some of the students were at first apprehensive but as they have worked in rehearsals with their directors, they have seen that this is not only possible, but an opportunity to work in a way that hasn't been done before. A chance to triumph over adversity, make something beautiful, give people hope and look back on fondly.

When their grandchildren ask them what they did during the lockdown - they can show them this!

You can watch the video in full on YouTube.

Police constable degree apprenticeship

Creating practical exercises online

Apprentices studying to be police officers were able to continue their studies without drastic interruption during lockdown after we moved modules online.

One exercise at the end of their initial training is to ‘police’ a shopping centre. They use their newly acquired powers and procedures under the supervision of an experienced instructor at ‘incidents’.

This is a developmental exercise prior to formal deployment with a tutor constable. We recreated this virtually via our virtual learning environment. Students needed to watch a video and then answer related questions.

Incidents covered included were drink drivers, missing persons, allegations of robbery, shoplifting and suspicious activity. Their answers were then discussed in a group webinar session, meaning the whole class could learn from the experience.

Giving evidence in court

Normally this course includes a mock courtroom scenario where police officer apprentices present statements from an incident in front of two criminal barristers representing the defence and the prosecution. As this wasn’t possible during lockdown, we replicated it using webinar software.

Students ‘attended’ court online and faced cross-examination by the barristers in a similar way as they would have normally: Two barristers onscreen listening to the testimony of the officer while asking questions.

This seemed equally challenging to the apprentices and all reported that it had been beneficial.


The essentials of midwifery module gives students a sound knowledge of anatomy and physiology, an introduction to midwifery care in the ante, intra and postnatal periods, including care of a newborn.

Self-study resources

As part of our blended learning approach, we wanted to develop a resource that students could use during self-directed study which could provide an introduction to the body systems – learning that could then be developed further with facilitated online sessions. The resource would need to pull together a number of different e-resources into a student-friendly e-learning package.

Created using Xerte Bootstrap, the tool was initially just developed for midwifery students, however, longer term, it has the potential to be used more widely across the faculty of health, education and society for other programmes that also have basic anatomy and physiology input.

Creating virtual clinical assessments

In normal circumstances, first-year student midwives complete an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) where they are assessed on two core skills essential of midwifery care.

As face-to-face assessment were not possible, it was turned into an online viva, with students articulating step-by-step how they would perform the clinical skills. The vivas took place in a Blackboard Collaborate classroom where the assessor could both see and hear the students during the assessment.

As part of the support for students coping with the change, they were given revised assessment guidelines and three virtual module leader drop-in sessions.

Further information

For more examples of how innovation during lockdown is inspiring long-term change in higher education, see the learning and teaching reimagined initiative.