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Illustration on Reclaiming the Bodys Wisdom by Jenny Leonard Art ;

Experimenting with creative tools to improve student's online experience

Jayne Peake

Engagement Manager, The Exchange

26 January 2021

Moving teaching online has far-reaching impacts for both students and teachers. How do we keep a sense of ourselves, our bodies, stay motivated and feel connected to each other in the digital space?

Creativity can bypass old familiar ways of thinking and learning; often experiential, it can deepen the capacity to remember learning and help reduce levels of stress and anxiety .–  Helen-Jane Ridgeway, Movement Practitioner, Tamalpa UK.

The Exchange asked students in the Social Science and Public Policy Faculty (SSPP) to share their experiences of online teaching in order to better understand what could be done to help. The results of this survey are being used to develop creative tools for academics to experiment with in their lectures.

Feedback about online teaching revealed that students wanted: more break-out rooms, ice-breakers, activities to change the pace and more opportunities for interaction both inside and outside of the lecture format.

Almost all students reported negative impacts on their bodies and minds, including fatigue, eye soreness, back-pain, lack of motivation, frustration and loneliness. Some more data is depicted below:

Pie chart illustrating student opinions of digital learning
Pie chart illustrating student opinions of digital learning

The idea to experiment with creative activities was birthed from a project about embodied knowledge by researchers Dr Camilla Audia (Geography) and Frances Crowley whilst exploring the contribution local and tacit knowledge plays in climate and weather forecasting in rural communities in Burkina Faso. Camilla and Frances will use what they learned to develop a selection of 5 minute ‘games’ with Helen-Jane Ridgeway, a Movement Practitioner from Tamalpa UK. We asked them to share their own personal experiences of the online space:


Could you share some tips that have worked for online sessions so far?

Camilla: Polls and interactive quizzes have been a great way of keeping people engaged. I’ve appreciated the opportunity try out new things with students, including exploring their own environment and putting together small installations with objects from their desks or rooms to depict key concepts.

Frances: Giving everyone the chance to check in about how they are has felt important. With so much happening to people these days in their personal lives, due to COVID, not checking in like this is like not mentioning the elephant in the room.

How has COVID impacted the way you connect with people?

Camilla: I have deepened my connection with people who were far away, it isn’t seen as an added difficulty in connecting. However, it never reaches the deep face to face connection which includes body language, informal side chats, coffee talks and chocolate sharing. The human aspect is deeply missed.

Frances: If a session is facilitated well and gives each person a turn to speak, it seems to increase connection by eliminating frustration and making sure everyone’s voice is heard. Having the camera on is key too – connection can take place through sight as much as sound – facial expression, gesture etc.

What value do creative methods add to teaching and learning?

H-J: They bring a different form of expression, different ways of thinking and problem solving. Embodied creative learning allows for more self-awareness, self-care and eventual autonomy. They can bring a sense of purpose and of course, elements of fun!

What impact on well-being does creative practice have?

H-J: Creative practices and methods help build new neural pathways, supporting the right and left hemispheres to connect and build synapses, which encourages a healthy autonomic nervous system function.

To get involved in developing this toolkit, or to join free creative events please email

Screenshot of Reclaiming the Bodys Wisdom call

A screenshot of the Reclaiming the Body's Wisdom online session

Watch the full recording of 'Reclaiming the Body's Wisdom' below:

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