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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Gateway goes virtual for Michaelmas Term 2020

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    11 November 2020

    The Gateway Programme, an academic and career-based development programme unique to Murray Edwards, has moved online for Michaelmas Term 2020.

    What were the challenges of moving Gateway online and how did you overcome them?

    Firstly we were under huge time pressure – we usually do all of our planning and preparation for the year ahead from the moment the last session has finished in Easter, and continue planning over the summer. This year we had to plan and set up admin for the year’s programme over a far shorter timeframe, as well as moving the Gateway Programme to the Zoom virtual platform.

    Screenshot from a Graduate Gateway session, held over Zoom.The move to remote working with Zoom was made more difficult as although we were able to trial sessions with small groups, we were unable to trial sessions with larger groups until the first week’s sessions where we had over 60 students attending.

    We’ve had an array of technical issues, with our fair share of power cuts, Wi-Fi problems and crash courses in new applications. Moving Gateway entirely onto virtual platforms also means making sure we stay aware of application updates and upgrades, particularly to Zoom, Moodle and Teams.

    Have you received any feedback on the new format? 

    We have had some really positive feedback. So far this term, we have run 18 different sessions and students have told us that they like our use of the breakout rooms, as it allows them to talk in smaller groups and enables them to “meet” people that they wouldn’t otherwise meet (i.e. outside their subject and/or household). 

    Recent quotes from feedback collected include the following:

    “Not only did the Gateway session (on supervisions) give me a bit more confidence and understanding of what to expect from supervisions in order to improve academically and get the most out of my time here, it also made me feel supported and gave me an hour to do something different and interact with others. I left that Gateway session feeling a lot more confident to tackle my course and also feeling super comfortable with the people I’m going to be tackling it with!” (1st Year – Supervisions and Subject Skills, Sci/Tech).

    “The speaker was great and managed to engage my attention even if the session was over Zoom.” (Teach First).

    How many students have taken part in Gateway so far this year?

    At least 215 different College students have joined us for a Gateway session so far this Term, and many have already attended a number of sessions. Attendance at each session has increased by 15-20% compared to last year’s figures. 

    Can you give us some examples of the sessions you’ve been running this Term?

    For first-years the focus has been on Academic Skills, with topics including supervisions, note-taking and writing for Science. Subject-specific focus has been provided by our Student Advisers. Our new postgraduates have been offered sessions on working relationships and communicating research. For students in all other year groups, we have already run five separate Career Paths sessions with industry experts, looking at different sectors such as Finance, Academia, Graduate schemes and Teaching.

    What has impressed you most about students taking part in Gateway this Term?

    Our team of fantastic Student Advisers have also had to move online, and they are a great source of information and advice for the first-year students. We have also been impressed that so many students have joined us for the Gateway sessions at the end of an online-heavy day. We hope that they are finding the sessions useful and interesting.

    What will Gateway look like next Term?

    Next term we will hear from many College alumnae with sessions including online networking. This is an opportunity to speak for a short time with several alumnae to find out more about their current roles. We will also be offering 1:1 sessions with alumnae to help students with career planning and CV writing, and a session including recent graduates talking about the differences between succeeding as a student and succeeding at work. We will be asking them to share what they have learned since leaving College, what has surprised them, what has helped them the most and what they wish they had known before starting work.