“Nearly half” of postgraduate-run online classes have been “oversized”, with numbers reaching “as high as 50”, York Vision has been told by York’s Postgraduate UCU branch officer.
One postgraduate reported that they are running an online seminar for all students who are abroad, shielding or self-isolating, on a module with more than 250 students.
In the University of York’s Teaching and Assessment section of their website, a representative figure for students in seminars is between 5 and 15, meaning that class sizes have increased by at least a staggering 333%.
This is only projected to increase as more students go into self isolation.
This issue is becoming paramount after the Vice Chancellor, Charlie Jeffreys, announced in an email to students that due to the DfE (Department for Education) implementation of Tier 2 rules, there will be an increased “proportion of online learning for most programmes”.
Students are grateful to the PGWT’s effort, with one second year Electronic Engineering and Music Systems student saying that: “questions are still being answered, and we can email them whenever we want”.
However, they went on to admit that online modules are not as “useful”: “I wouldn’t like going more online, to be honest”.
The UCU Branch Officer further stated to Vision that: “an immediate solution would be to move all seminars online so that groups can stay together throughout the term, students have a stable, consistent learning environment, and PGWT (Postgraduates Who Teach) are not put in the impossible position of trying to hold an interactive seminar with over 50 students.”
A University of York spokesperson told Vision that: “students who need to self-isolate and move to online learning often have to do so at short notice, and our teaching staff are aware that class sizes will expand on these occasions to ensure that all students have access to the resources they need.
“When this occurs, class sizes are being reorganised as quickly as possible, but should any member of our teaching staff, including our postgraduates, require assistance in managing an online class, they should contact their department so that we can work to support them.”
Postgraduates who teach (PGWTs) are employed by the University on zero hour contracts, something the Officer tells Vision gives them “no job security at all”.