The global challenge: developing sustainability skills in King’s summer programming

Hannah Bond is Associate Director – Learning and Teaching for Summer Programmes at King’s College London. 

Education plays a key role in the fight against climate change and education institutions must prepare learners of all ages to with the ‘knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address the interconnected global challenges we are facing’ (UNESCO, 2021). One of the ways universities and schools can equip young people with the skills and knowledge they will need, is through developing sustainability skills – the ‘knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society’ (UNIDO, 2021).

Sustainability skills are relevant to all disciplines and levels, summer schools included. In July 2021, King’s Pre-University Summer School launched the inaugural Global Challenge to help prepare our students to address complex challenges and empower them to make informed decisions to positively impact society and the planet. Modelled on a hackathon – an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in a specific topic or challenge – the Global Challenge is an intensive problem-based group project that students complete alongside their subject studies.

Students are the future changer makers; they are integral to forging a more progressive world and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, it is the role of the education sector to properly equip students with this sustainability knowledge, skills, confidence and to understand complex issues so they can play a transformational role in helping to build a sustainable and inclusive future we can be proud of – and understand the cross-collaboration which is needed to get there. 

King’s Sustainability Officer Alexandra Hepple, who contributed her expertise to the project 

We recognise that summer schools offer students a transformative, intensive learning experience where they can learn alongside other young people from a wide range of geographical, cultural and academic backgrounds, and we recognise that such diversity can drive new approaches and creative problem solving. A key requirement of the project is that students address a global problem in a collaborative, thoughtful way, working with teammates from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds.   

Beyond developing skills directly related to sustainability, the Global Challenge aims to develop students’ creative problem solving and academic skills as preparation for university and beyond, with an emphasis on critical thinking, communication skills and teamwork. It also builds students’ understanding of sustainability, at a global level as well as in relation to their own lives and communities, and their exposure to varying perspectives/experiences 

In its first year, the Global Challenge project was adapted for online delivery due to the pandemic. Students learned about the factors contributing to food insecurity around the world, working together to identify solutions and communicate these to different audiences. 

“We discussed source reliability when sharing our findings. We also conducted research on the topic of the UN SDGs and how certain SDGs had links to our topic and we discussed ways we could incorporate them into our final activity.

We were able to all make very well structured arguments that were backed up by evidence and research. This skill is not only crucial to our future when in university but also to our current lives in high school.”

Lucas

For King’s Summer Programmes, Hannah Bond delivered a well-received presentation on ‘Hacking’ the Sustainable Development Goals: Facilitating global problem solving in short term programming at the 2021 EAIE Conference 2021, sharing the fresh work being done at King’s with the wider international education community. As our summer schools return to on-campus teaching in 2022, the prospect of running the Global Challenge in person is an exciting one.

Five steps to successful summer school online teaching

Kat is a research student in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College London.

A photo of Kat

In 2019, when I taught the Media, Gender and Culture module for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenging yet rewarding time as a summer school tutor. Teaching the course again in 2020 and 2021, in the context of the pandemic, was inevitably a very different experience. Sessions needed to be redesigned to work effectively online, and there were practical barriers to address as well, from students’ Internet connections to the availability of teaching resources in different countries. However, through testing different approaches and carefully revising the course material, I was able to create an engaging online summer school experience for the students on the course. Below are my top five tips for course design and online teaching practice in the summer context:

  1. Don’t try to replicate a face-to-face module in an online context. Online learning is an experience in itself and works best if approached as such. For instance, simply throwing in some discussion questions, as we may do in offline seminars, may not work in an online setting where engagement levels can vary (Zoom fatigue has become a term we are all too familiar with by now). Instead, I developed shorter, simpler tasks and activities that involved students actively doing something, such as watching a brief video clip and then conducting an analysis in groups.
  1. Find alternative channels for student participation and interaction. With the majority of summer school students being non-native speakers and in some cases having experienced educational systems in which speaking up in class is not always encouraged, a reticence to participate can be intensified in the online classroom – especially when students are unable to turn their cameras on due to connectivity problems. Thus, it was crucial to find other ways to enable student participation. One way was to invite my students to actively contribute via the chat. While this often meant that students wrote much shorter comments than they would when speaking out loud, I found that it benefitted especially those students who otherwise would not speak in class. Students organically started commenting and ‘liking’ their peers’ contributions, which helped foster a sense of community among a diverse group which had never met in person.
  1. Using emoji reactions, such as thumbs up or clapping hands, can be an extremely useful communication tool. Given the lack of non-verbal communication and body language, I regularly asked my students to “send me an emoji” to indicate their agreement to simple yes/no questions. For example, when working on a task individually, I would ask students to indicate via emoji if they needed more time to work on said task. Emojis can also be useful as an icebreaker activity, when inviting students to choose an emoji that expresses how they felt that day. Emojis were a shared form of communication which felt fresh, low stakes and spontaneous to students, and helped build a welcoming atmosphere in the class.
  1. Vary your platforms. Being in the same online meeting room every day, even if just for an hour, can be quite tiring. Therefore I incorporated activities on other platforms, such as Padlet, Mentimeter, or within Teams channels. The latter also meant that students would often continue discussions held during class after the live sessions had ended, including posting links to additional material. And again, these non-verbal activities were a great way for quieter students to still actively contribute to class!
  1. Be patient and flexible. There will always be unforeseen technical complications when running a course online, from students having microphone issues to breakout rooms not working as intended. As such, it is important not to overload a session with activities and to be prepared to improvise. The same is true for the asynchronous online learning that summer school students are asked to do in their own time. With most people reading everything on screen nowadays, it is important to choose short yet engaging readings (these do not always have to be academic, or could even be a website), but also include other activities, such as watching short video lectures, conducting independent research or brainstorming, or contributing to a Padlet.

Overall, my experiences showed me that King’s Undergraduate Summer School does not have to physically take place in London in order to be a unique experience. While the London location is undoubtedly an asset, there are many other contributing factors to the success of a module. As a colleague has elaborated on this blog before, we the tutors play a huge role in personifying the King’s experience. The above-mentioned steps, particularly the use of various channels of communication, as well as the general feeling of ‘we are all together in this online learning experience’, meant that I was still able to bond with my students over the course of the three weeks.

Creative experiential learning is still very much a possibility online. For example, the students and I visited Tate Modern virtually, exploring and engaging with their artwork on feminism which is accessible on their website. Even more importantly, the module benefited from a large number of brilliant guest speakers, both researchers at King’s lecturing on their areas of expertise, as well as journalists based in India and Paraguay – many of whom would not have been able to join us without online technology. As such, students got to experience London and the research community at King’s, as well as forming connections across a diverse group and participating in stimulating discussions. Whether online or not, this is what makes a great summer school experience.

Shaping the new era: conference season

Alexander HeinzMatt Doherty

Throughout this autumn conference season the emergence of a new era in international education is increasingly visible, with colleagues globally dedicating their energy to developing education strategies for the future. King’s College London was prominently represented at the EAIE Community Exchange 2021. Dr Alexander Heinz, Co-Chair Summer Executive at King’s and Chair of the EAIE Expert Community for Summer Schools, hosted a roundtable on the marketing of summer schools and was a Spotlight session panellist discussing the para-Covid period. He also led the community in a very well attended campfire event on the future of short-term programming.

Later this month, Dr Heinz will be joined by Matt Doherty, Programme Developer at King’s Summer Programmes, to deliver a virtual presentation at the Global Inclusion Conference 2021 in Atlanta. They will be speaking about advancing inclusion through short term international programmes, making the case that short term programmes allow for creative ways of ensuring accessibility and learning about personal agency and responsibility for wider communities.

The Summer Programmes team is looking forward to continuing our conversations and partnerships with like-minded colleagues and organisations around the world as the year continues.

Summertime for new thinking

Dr Sarah Williamson is Executive Director of King’s Summer Programmes.

Sarah Williamson

What a time we have all experienced in the past 18 months. The extent to which Covid-19 has changed our personal and professional lives is nothing short of a revelation.

Daily activities, including a wider range of jobs that anyone would have initially thought possible, have all been taking place online. We have gone from being rooted in our homes via national lockdowns to leaping into new ways of living via our electronic devices. Now, as we begin our second year of online summer teaching we are taking a moment to reflect on how far the world has come despite being forced to stand still geographically.

When Covid-19 began to affect our lives, we decided very early on that we would not let it curtail our summer learning programmes and summoned up all our ideas and energy to launch the King’s Summer Online programmes. The Summer team worked tirelessly to find the best ways to connect with you all via virtual means last year and this year they have taken those good beginnings and enhanced each aspect further. Digital inequalities have become a pronounced strand to our often uneven world and here at King’s Summer it has become an important consideration for our thinking and research plans. But as our lives have progressed, we have all experienced first hand some of the incredible value and ability that moving in an online education sphere enables and it is now clear that our future educational experiences will be all the better for seizing the opportunity to make use of the best of e-learning alongside the best of face-to-face learning. Why choose, when we can work a bit harder and have the best of both worlds?

Of course we all wish that we could come together in this great city of London – the original think space! – and share its dynamism and beauty in real life, but we are certain that though our connection this year may be digital, there is nothing virtual about the very real experience you will have with King’s this summer. And as soon as we all can, we want to welcome you in person to campus. #summerisreallife #summeristheonlyseason

Thought leadership online

Connecting with other thought leaders from the field of international education has never been more important. Though attending conferences in person has not been possible this academic yearour Summer Education Programme continues to engage with and have influence on best practice in short course learning and teaching globally. 

A virtual conference

Michael Salmon, Associate Director – Curriculum Renewal, spoke at the Higher School of Economics/Coursera eStars Conference in December 2020, sharing his thoughts on Retaining the human factor in the move to online international education. The question of how international education functions online – whether in terms of student experience, pedagogy, cultural exchange or various other aspects – is one that we continue to take a great deal of interest in as we look to create sustainable, innovative online programming for the long-term.

Michael continued exploring this theme at the British Council International Education Virtual Festival in January 2021, delivering a paper titled Virtually abroad: a useful conception for short-term mobility? This well-received session formed part of a wider workshop on innovation within UK higher education as a response to the pandemic.

In March, Summer Programmes will be hosting the 3rd TNE Hub Symposiumand we are looking forward to connecting with researchers and practitioners in transnational education. Dr Alexander Heinz, Chair of Kings Summer Executive and Hannah Bond, Associate Director – Learning & Teaching, will be speaking on the topic of Creating effective learning communities in TNE.  

Also in March, Dr Heinz has been appointed to the honorary role of e-Learning Dean for an expert course on Short Term Programming at NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 

As the world slowly emerges from the COVID pandemic, exciting new perspectives for international educators are coming into sight. We as a sector will need to be prepared. 

The impact of summer

Hannah Bond is Associate Director – Learning and Teaching for Summer Programmes at King’s College London. Michael Salmon is Associate Director – Curriculum Renewal.

The impact of a King’s Summer education can often stay with our students long after the season ends. King’s summer programmes are immersive educational experiences, a moment to connect with students from an enormously wide range of countries around the world, experience cultural exchanges, and learn new skills for life, work and study. It’s a chance to study a topic in greater depth or learn about a new subject for the first time, or take a step towards further studies at a more advanced level. In many cases, as with Aditi Sangal who joined us for a summer course more than half a decade ago, it can be the launching pad for a high-profile career. 

A photo of Aditi Sangal

Of her time studying International Relations with King’s in her home country of India as well as Journalism on a scholarship to London in 2014, Aditi recalls how the experience opened up the world for the first time:

“I learned what makes a good story, how to cover international stories and observed what I could learn from journalists like Christiane Amanpour. I acquainted myself with journalism vocabulary lede, nut graph, angle, sourcing and such. But more importantly, the course introduced me to the essential rules of news-gathering and reporting for the first time, such as being off the record, reporting on death, and reliable versus unreliable sources.”

Fast forward seven years, and Aditi is now an Associate Producer for CNN, based in New York, where she has covered US news stories like presidential elections, President Trump’s impeachment, natural disasters and mass shootings, as well as global events including the coronavirus outbreak. 

“It’s quite surprising to think back and realise the point at which I began my education in journalism, but it’s comforting to know that the King’s summer programme had me covered. It opened my eyes to what I needed to learn before I could consider myself a strong candidate for any journalism job. I went on to study at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where I further built on the basics I learned at King’s.”

More journeys like Aditi’s 

In 2020, due to the global pandemic, our summer schools went online for the first time. The online summer school experience gave students a taste of a King’s education, with collaborative project work, guest speakers, expert King’s faculty and insights into King’s cuttingedge research.  

We would expect there to be many more stories similar to Aditi’s among the hundreds of participants in 2020 summer coursesOne student on our Pre-University programme spoke of how she felt sure that the course would help her become a knowledgeable and inquisitive scientist – we will have to check back in with Carlotta in a decade’s time and see how she has got on! 

These moments of learning and discovery which shape us as people and guide our career paths will increasingly take place online. The process has been accelerated by the pandemic, but was firmly in motion long before. For university summer schools, we need to provide high-quality education and learning experiences available online for those who prefer to study in this modeAfter all, it is coming together and connecting with experts and peers  whether in person or online  that creates a long-lasting impact. 

Moments from a summer

Michael Salmon is Associate Director – Curriculum Renewal for Summer Programmes at King’s College London.

Having taken the decision to move our summer schools online this year, rather than cancelling outright in the face of Covid-19 uncertainties, it is safe to say that the last few months have been much eventful than they might otherwise have been! Dr Alexander Heinz, Chair of the Summer Executive, will suggest in a forthcoming article that one of the defining features of summer schools is their ephemerality: by nature and by design, they play out a constant tension between having only just begun and shortly to conclude, and indeed this contributes to make them special, memorable, educationally exciting.  

I would also argue that for these short summer weeks, it is easier to identify key moments that stick in the mind and reveal something about the communal experience that tutors and students shared in (compared to a degree programme, of course, or a full year abroad). Further, identifying these key moments is an important act of both reflective pedagogy and forward planning, a moment of stillness and consideration that enables momentum to be conserved. In this post I am going to describe a handful of such moments from the last few months. 

Seeing collaboration happen 

There were a number of ‘Aha!’ moments for me this summer which all involved seeing students conduct online discussions with one another. The practicalities around teamworking were a concern as we headed into the teaching period, especially as collaboration is such a fundamental part of all our courses. However, I repeatedly saw students either working together in very similar ways to how they would in a classroom or, in some cases, even more effectively. 

For example, one offhand comment a student made within a discussion channel (“wcould have a meeting here later – I think this room should be free after class”) really brought home to me the resilience of the students vis-à-vis the move online: they were able to conceptualise the digital spaces which our e-learning platforms provided as something very close to a physical classroom. I also greatly appreciated seeing students with the same mother tongue holding chats in English at a very high level of sophistication – the fact that they were able to type asynchronously rather than having to answer in real time paid dividends here. Although we had not taken student digital literacy for granted by any means, I was impressed seeing students able to navigate and negotiate the choppy waters of online group work with a great deal of flair. 

Our team found that through hosting and moderating various online platforms and working with students to ensure that collaboration was as effective as possible, we had a phenomenal insight into who students were and how they were experiencing the courses. This would not have been possible in the same way with students placed in distinct classrooms, and was an unexpected pleasure. 

Hearing the positives 

Perhaps the aspect of the course we were most unsure about, more than how we would support our tutors, more than how online social activities could be conducted, more even than how online teaching would be received, was how well we would be able to deal with student issues. Those working in summer schools of any shape or form will be familiar with the queues at helpdesks and urgent phonecalls which are an inevitable part of in-country delivery, and which need to be dealt with professionally and efficiently by a skilled team. Doing this online with students spread all across the world would be a new experience for us, and we dedicated a lot of our planning time to implementing new triage procedures, new contact methods, new communication channels, and much more. 

Running a summer school at a distance can also mean that it is harder to judge how students are experiencing the course. Despite confidence in our procedures and a strange sense of calm as the course began, everyone on the team was somewhat nervous to see student feedback, both in first impression surveys and end-of-course feedback. In particular, the two items ‘I felt welcomed and supported on the first day of the programme’ and ‘I felt sufficiently supported throughout the programme occupied prime position in my mind, for the reasons stated above.

As it turned out, the feedback received for these two questions was incredibly positive, and I think I speak for all of the team in saying that seeing these responses arrive was something that will stick in the mind when looking back at the summer. These moments when we were able to see for ourselves that essentially every student felt supported were extremely valuable.

Connecting in spite of it all 

The Summer Community of Practice has long been a fundamental part of the Summer Education Programme. It brings together tutors from varied disciplines in a collegiate network, allowing for best practice to be shared and for much informal support.

Moving online was of course no barrier to holding regular Community of Practice meet-ups, but to begin with we did find that there was so much to discuss in terms of new procedures, new class types, new digital tools and all the other new uncertainties which have characterized 2020 since March at least. For this reason, it was the final session which really sticks in my mind as a memorable demonstration of the best aspects of the summer.  

This session was held around the halfway point of the course, and the idea was for those tutors already teaching to share experiences with those yet to teach. The conversation flowed freely, with some fantastic suggestions about managing group work online or getting the best out of taciturn students, and I was able to sit back and absorb, or add thoughts drawn from my own teaching practice, rather than sticking to an agenda. It was a wonderful session, over too soon, and really demonstrated to me how a summer school can enable connectivity among staff all around the university, driving student experience forward beyond the summer into ideas for quality learning all year round, even against a background of the most unprecedented disruptions to business as usual.

Into the next phase 

These, then, were some out of many more moments that I felt worthwhile to reflect upon, and which brought a degree of sunshine to the work of the past few months. Now, the work of consolidation must begin, as we look forward to making these unexpected moments into part of the new normal 

Summer Teaching: A Professional Crossroads

Stefan Mandelbaum

Dr Stefan Mandelbaum taught International Commercial Law on King’s Undergraduate Summer School in 2012 and 2013. He is now a Senior Lecturer in International Law at Anglia Ruskin University and a member of the Senate at his institution. 

Teaching for King’s Summer Programmes as a doctoral researcher turned out to be an important crossroad in my academic career. Coming from a strong legal-philosophical background and responding to a 2012 call from the Summer School for module suggestions, I initially proposed a course on “dispute settlement in international investment law”, simply because my doctoral work already focused on this subject matter. During the interview, Summer Programmes put to me that a course on International Commercial Law would give me the opportunity to merge different aspects of international law into one course. While the course development and delivery turned out to be as challenging as preparing a fairly new subject for HE teaching naturally is, the course, with me as a lead tutor in 2012 and 2013, eventually ranked among the most popular courses in the Summer School curriculum. The in-class, organisational and pedagogic challenges which only a summer course poses, together with being involved in considering an audience even before their application  became experiences which have shaped my lecturing style ever since. In the following, I would like to give two examples of the impact my summer school teaching had on my career as a teacher in HE, one concerning the acquired pedagogic skills when dealing with an array of educational and cultural backgrounds in class, the other addressing the direct link between the subject of teaching and my current position.

Peer learning

In both years, the summer module on International Commercial Law cohort consisted of students of very different backgrounds, ranging from first year UG students and Masters students of various subjects to judges and business people. Overcoming this welcomed but also challenging mix of sometimes very different abilities led me to develop an in-class tutoring scheme in which I prescribed an overall task (e.g. case study, moot problem) for all students while appointing the most senior class members as group leaders. This method enabled a study atmosphere where the junior class mates were learning from me and their peers whilst the more advanced students were recognized as leaders and had to learn how to teach what they already knew. While this model of hierarchical participation originated in the diverse composition of an international summer school class, it developed over time into a critical pedagogic method which I have continued using ever since. From good student feedback in my previous years to a 100 percent satisfaction rate in both my King’s summer courses, the facilitation of such an integrative learning environment had led my last semester’s course on “International Commercial Arbitration” to be among the 10 top-scoring classes out of 2.500 at my present institution, Anglia Ruskin University.

Shaping my career

Learning how to cater for the varying abilities and expectations of summer school participants, however, is only one of the pedagogic upshots for my career. The subject of “International Commercial Law”, rather peripheral at the time to my research expertise, has been pivotal in getting the lectureship that I am holding now. My teaching orbits not so much the very specific doctoral topic I was working on (the market for such a position is rather thin) and my first appointment outside King’s College London as well as the leeway to my permanent post now was via a “visiting lectureship” on “Transnational Commercial Law”. I can honestly say that if it would not have been for King’s decision to opt for the ‘commercial side’ of international affairs, I would not teach and do research in this field, and I would not be able to now expand my research collaborations to the business aspects of international sports law or management studies, both of which emerging into cutting edge fields of scholarship.

EAIE 2019 in Helsinki: Summer as a Creative Space

In the coming week, members of King’s Summer Programmes team will be attending the EAIE Annual Conference in Helsinki. In a schedule packed with encounters with partners new and old, King’s Summer Education Programme will form a key part of the wider conference programme.

Dr Alexander Heinz, Associate Director (Research & Innovation), will be speaking on summer schools as a creative space for education; sharing a platform with Nita Kapoor, Director of the University of Oslo Summer School, and Jason Kinnear, Assistant Dean for Study Abroad at UNC Chapel Hill.

As Vice-Chair of the EAIE Summer Schools Expert Community, Dr Heinz will speak at and co-host a summer school health clinic, as well as a large reception for sector professionals.  He will also lead a campfire session for peers from around the world.Together with Lorraine Ishmael-Byers, King’s Associate Director for Disability Support and Inclusion, Dr Heinz endeavours to whet the appetite of other institutions to follow into the footsteps of Dialogues on Disability, a sector-leading programme by King’s, the University of Delhi, Humboldt-University, the Autonomous University of Mexico and others, and to encourage colleagues to think beyond national boundaries about mobility for and policy discussions among disabled students.

Fahema Ettoubi, Academic Services Manager, and Emma Carlile, Assistant Programme Development Manager, will attend EAIE for the first time and will be available to meet with partners and members of the wider international education community.  Both look forward to showcasing King’s Summer Programmes portfolio to current partners but also new institutions, enabling us to stand out from the crowd.

Ten Years of Summer at King’s: A Pivotal Space

Professor Soelve I. Curdts, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, and Visiting Lecturer at King’s in July 2010, reflects on the value of transitionality.

Incredibly, almost a decade has passed since I taught at King’s Undergraduate Summer School in 2010. The experience turned out to be pivotal in ways I could not have foreseen at the time, and its layers grow more multifarious with each passing year. In fact, such layering over time is one of the things we – hopefully – share with our students beyond the subjects we happen to be teaching.

Arrivals and Departures

For me, 2010-2011 was a time of transition. I had studied and taught in Germany, France, and the United States, and was in the process of contemplating where to go next, both literally and metaphorically. The world was all before me – a prospect that filled me with a sense of uncertainty, to be sure, but also of exhilaration. The latter was fostered both by London as a pivotal space, and by the Summer School at King’s College London as a place that brought together scholars, teachers, and students who reflected on (their) transitionality in intellectually stimulating and productive ways. In a world where we increasingly discover states of transition as the norm they have perhaps always been, such reflection, which the summer school at King’s College London is uniquely positioned to enable by creating rare constellations of international students and teachers, is of crucial significance. In my own teaching and scholarship, I try to sustain a sense of those very moments of transition which, precisely as they claim neither origin nor end point, are constitutive of thought.

“The summer school offered a privileged space, where students could explore areas of inquiry they would not otherwise have engaged in.” Soelve Curdts

Thinking between arrivals and departures happened quite literally that summer at King’s, as a community of scholars and students gathered for a brief period of time. Our students came from—and would go back to—not only different parts of the world, but often entirely different fields of study. In this, too, the summer school offered a privileged space, where students could explore areas of inquiry they would not otherwise have engaged in. I would like to think that the occasional business student reading a work of literature, or the English major tackling the intricacies of a physics problem can make – has made – some kind of difference.

King’s College London welcomed me (back) to Europe after a long absence with a preciously open and heterogeneous vibrancy which spoke – to quote one of the poets I taught there – of something evermore about to be.