23 July 2020

Landscape students recognised for success in remote group working

Three students from the Department of Landscape Architecture have been awarded £5000 in recognition of their successful adaption to remote working, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stefanie and Meghana recording an audio presentation via web call.
Stefanie and Meghana recording an audio presentation via web call

The group of MA students, Stefanie Goldsborough, Jiangyan Shou and Meghana Manjunath, were awarded first prize in the Neil Rackham Foundation award, in July 2020.

The award recognised their creative adaption to changing circumstances, as well as their success in overcoming the challenges of working across multiple time zones, as they worked on Landscape Urbanism and Design, throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The award, which was established by by Sheffield alumnus Professor Neil Rackham, recognises a group of students who have 'risen to the recent challenge of remote group working through volunteering, coursework, a society, or work experience'.

Working in teams is an essential skill in Landscape Architecture; adjusting our process to work remotely allowed us to build self-dependency, encouraged us to trust one another, and find creative solutions to replace things we had previously assumed were necessary

Stephanie Goldsborough

MA Landscape Architecture

A fund of £10,000 was donated with six prizes, ranging from £5000 to £500, awarded.

The University received over 80 submissions in the form of videos, blogs, vlogs and written pieces, which were reviewed by a panel of staff and Students' Union officers.

Deputy Vice-President for Education, Professor Brendan Stone said: "we were hugely impressed with the applications received, which have showcased an outstanding range of successful and inspirational examples of group work, at this challenging time.”

“We were particularly impressed with how quickly approaches to group work had been adapted to these unprecedented set of circumstances.”

Professor Neil Rackham added: "in these trying times, universities need to find new ways to develop the core skills of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. Simple distance learning doesn’t do a good enough job, so we sponsored this competition to get ideas from our students. The response has been fantastic!”

Taking notes in a group discussion, multi-tasking drawings with a web call
Taking notes in a group discussion, multi-tasking drawings with a web call.

The MA students were five weeks into their work on the Landscape Urbanism and Design module, when government restrictions, as a result of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, meant that physically working at the University was no longer an option.

Guided by module coordinator Laurence Pattacini, they quickly put in place plans to ensure they could continue working on the design for their Sheaf River site, as smoothly as possible.

Stephanie said: “working in teams is an essential skill in Landscape Architecture; adjusting our process to work remotely allowed us to build self-dependency, encouraged us to trust one another, and find creative solutions to replace things we had previously assumed were necessary.”

“Working across multiple time zones and with variable availability meant we needed to have consistent ways to contact one another.”

“We tackled this by putting systems in place during the first week; we made sure everyone was on the same page and closely followed our plan. These included a shared Google Drive folder to host all work, two WhatsApp groups, one for notes, web links and relevant photos, the other for all discussion, our ConceptBoard account and an InDesign template with a predefined colour palette and Paragraph Styles. As for getting together, we had drop-in “when you can” work sessions on Wednesdays.”

“One reason we were most successful was that trust was assumed. Once we agreed on one element of the design, for example, that there would be a bike lane down the east side of Queen Street, other people would not change that in their work. Similarly, if we agreed one person was going to decide tree species, we trusted it would get done, and went along with whatever that person suggested until there was time to meet and discuss.”

"All in all, our successes came down to letting go of preconceived expectations, being adaptable, thinking creatively, and actively communicating even it was not easy.”

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