The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted higher education, displaced academics and in some instances destroyed institutional infrastructure. In the immediate aftermath, much of HE has switched to online delivery.
One of the main challenges facing the delivery of STEM subjects is the provision of laboratory experiences that underpin these subject areas – students need to see the theory applied in practice and experience real-world science and engineering, with all the uncertainty and imperfection that entails. When Covid-19 forced the closure of institutions back in 2020, academics across STEM disciplines rallied together to find new ways of teaching laboratory skills. Now is an opportunity for the collaborative communities that emerged during the move to remote (and subsequently hybrid) learning to share what they have learnt and assist colleagues in Ukraine.
At the recent Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference, a panel of Ukrainian academics described the challenges they have faced in recent months. Towards the end of an inspirational and moving discussion, a plea was made for practical STEM resources that will allow students to continue to gain experience of lab work. Rallying to the call, Advance HE, working closely with the Institute for Higher Education Ukraine, the British Council and academics from both Ukraine and the United Kingdom, have started to collate resources on the Practical STEM Teaching Community Resources website.
The aim of the project is to create a collection of teaching resources across STEM disciplines that will allow Ukrainian academics to continue to provide their students with online/remote learning experiences in laboratory skills. These include interactive virtual labs, simulations and video demonstrations. While the initial focus is clearly on Ukraine, the repository will provide support, in the longer term, for academics in other contexts where access to appropriate laboratory facilities is limited.
How can you help?
Over the past couple of years, academics across the world have overcome the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, establishing innovative ways of teaching, developing resources to support remote and hybrid learning and guiding their students towards successful education outcomes. We now ask the community to share these resources wherever possible.
The initial response to a call sent out via networks such as #DryLabs, #DryLabsDownUnder, #Physics-LTHE, #RemoteForensicsCSI and #DryLabsRealScience has been inspiring. There are, however, still a wide range of subject areas across all disciplines that require additional resources and we ask academics who may have freely available teaching assets to share them. The Practical STEM Teaching Community Resources website is still a work in progress and additional subject areas can be added if obvious gaps are identified, but this is where we need the support and generosity of the academic community to help build and expand the repository.
Resources can be contributed or requested by completing the short online form on the website or by contacting Professor Ian Turner (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr Pete Mylon (email@example.com) or Dr Nigel Francis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Teaching mathematics in a time of war
Dr Anastasia Yakovenko is a lecturer in mathematics from Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University, Ukraine, which has been in the Russian occupied territories since the first days of the war. This blog is compiled from her reflections about her experiences of teaching during the war and the emotional impact on, her, her friends and family, and students. Read more
Learning to teach in wartime
Olga Yashenkova is Associate Professor in the Department of English Philology and Intercultural Communication at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. In this blog she shares reflections of her experiences of teaching during the war in Ukraine, and the impact of Russia's attacks: on her, her friends, family, and students. Read more