Lockdown podcast keeps University of Bradford students talking

Weekly online talk show helped dispel myths and allay fears during coronavirus outbreak

A podcast designed to allay students’ fears and address their concerns during lockdown has been hailed a success by organisers.

The regular UBU ‘lockdown podcast’, as it has come to be known, began with weekly discussions between its host, Conor Macmahon, a Film and TV Production Graduate (Faculty of Engineering and Informatics) and student union officers.

They chatted about exams, the marking process, accommodation, addressed mental health issues, along with a host of other nagging doubts harboured by those who took part and tuned in. The show began as a live weekly broadcast but has now moved to once a fortnight – one broadcast in March which included an interview with coronavirus survivor and former University of Bradford student Faiz Ilyas, had a reach of over 1,700.

For London-born Conor, 22, who was raised in Holywood, County Down, just outside Belfast, it was an opportunity to bring his presenting skills to the fore. Prior to lockdown, he already had a regular show on the University’s RamAir and before joining the University of Bradford, he spent a year as an intern with Channel 5.

Conor said: “It’s a live podcast with me and the sabbatical officers. I talk to them and ask them what they have been up to. We use it as an easy way to get information to students, to talk about exams, coursework marking and extenuating circumstances and also about worries over accommodation. It’s an easy way to relay information.

“Initially we did them every week but now we are doing them every fortnight. While there might be less to talk about, people are still tuning in and talking.”

He added: “It’s a way of making sure we convey the right info to students. A lot of the comments we get are from anxious students commenting on what they are worried about, whether that be about assignments or how they are going to get marked, which is a good thing because while they’re there, we’re able to answer their questions. It’s a platform that not everyone gets the chance to have.”

The fortnightly show was devised with the help of Adam Tasker, Student Development LeaderStudents’ Union and Andrew Fitzpatrick, Student Union Chief Executive Officer.

Daniel Batchelor Student Voice Manager at the Students’ Union, said: “When lockdown suddenly happened, a lot of the Unions and University usual communication channels suddenly became obsolete. Students were no longer in lecturers hearing first hand of the latest development affecting their education. As a Union we understood that students felt confused and anxious about how the lockdown would impact on their short, and long-term future.  The Union was inundated with questions from students on all sorts of issues affecting students and needed to find a new platform to address this.

“We launched the podcast just one week into the lockdown, and noticed the impact straight away. Students were getting answers and directions as our officer team invited University senior leaders online to provide answers. Student concerns reported to the Union thematically started to decline as our student body began to understand clearly what was going on. Our podcasts have evolved significantly over time to include discussions not just about education, including themes about the entire lockdown experience, and coping strategies.

“We were also able to interview one of our old officers Faiz Ilyas who thankfully recovered from Covid-19, to discuss his own first hand experience with the illness after he was hospitalised. The podcasts have become one of our most important communication channels in recent months, allowing our officer team to fulfil their roles in representing University of Bradford students, and we hope to continue developing these in the coming months.”