It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.
I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.
Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all.
It’s not always about the technology, however in order to utilise technology effectively and efficiently, it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. How else are they going to apply the use of technological solutions to learning problems? Most practitioners are more than aware of the learning problems they and their learners face, what they need are solutions to those problems.
I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.
It was half term, so my children were at home. Well they were at home last week as well, so not a huge change in the house this week, well less concerns about home schooling!
I did think about taking some leave, but with nowhere to go and not much enthusiasm in the household for doing stuff I like doing, I decided to try and have a meeting free week. I booked out my diary and at the start of the week I had just two meetings booked in. By the end of the week after a lot of different things happened, so I had about fifteen meetings in the end. My hope for no meetings went out of the window.
If we are as an organisation excellent at what we care about but have a clunky part of the infrastructure, there are only so many conclusions you can reach about that infrastructure.
Making our infrastructure excellent would lead to an order of magnitude improvement on an already excellent system.
The clunky infrastructure IS PART OF the overall excellence.
The clunkiness or otherwise of the infrastructure makes little difference to the excellence of the organisation.
I would suggest the first of these is just silly to suggest, however much the consultants would suggest otherwise. If the second is true it is imperative we do nothing to “improve” our infrastructure. If the third is true, it doesn’t matter.
I think reflecting on the article is that we don’t know what excellence is.
The first half of the week was dominated by finalising the draft of the Jisc HE Strategy which will be launched the week of Digifest. We have been creating a document for externals senior HE stakeholders on how Jisc can and could support the HE sector over the next three years and beyond to 2030.
I agreed with this tweet by Matt Lingard on the scheduling of webinars.
I know there is never a good time and everyone has different daily schedules but I wish UK edtech webinars would avoid my lunchtime/exercise slot! Makes recordings essential for #WorkLifeBalance
If these webinars are important for the work we do in Higher Education then don’t make them during lunchtimes. People need a break from their screens at some point in the day. With the lockdown this is even more important for people’s wellbeing. So if you are thinking about when to run a webinar, don’t run it at lunchtime!
I had a blog post published on the Advance HE blog, Looking through the digital lens, in which I reflect on how we may want to start to look through a digital lens on our strategic priorities.
Well no snow again… everyone else seems to have had it.
Got bogged down into internal systems and processes this week, something which I have been avoiding in my new role, well I say new role, I have been doing this job for nearly two years now. In my old role I would have to deal with contracts and suppliers, not so much as Head of HE. However with working with universities on digital strategy, digital leadership and blended learning, means I need to immerse myself back into these systems.
Did a fair amount of work on future visions this week.
I think this is an interesting concept for future online events. The concept is to record some keynote videos that can be made available for online conferences. Reminded me of how some have used TED talks in the past. However there is a difference between YouTube or Netflix and an online conference. How do you add value to an event so that it is more than just streamed video? How do you facilitate social interactions, networking, discussion and also how do you encourage this?
Had an interesting and useful discussion on assessment this week with colleagues from the UK and Australia. The key challenges the HE sector have faced over the pandemic include: maintaining academic standards and quality as assessment is transformed, student wellbeing and engagement in regard to assessment, the skills and capabilities of staff to assess online, and how to transform at scale and at pace. There are still issues with assessing within in vocational and practical qualifications, There are challenges with PSRBs and Professional Certification.
These are the main challenges and pain points that arose from our research back in April and more recently, it is not an exclusive list and is potentially going to change as universities move again through the assessment process and learn new lessons on what they can and can not do.
Maintaining the academic standard and quality as required by internal and external regulations, as they translate and convert existing practice into online modes.
Ensuring staff have the necessary digital skills and capabilities to successfully deliver online assessment, across the assessment lifecycle. Each step of the lifecycle will require different skills to deliver.
Transform multiple modes of assessment to online versions at scale and at pace. Many universities have experience of designing and delivering online assessment, however they will not have done this at scale or transformed at the pace required.
Maintain student engagement through the next few weeks and through the assessment process, as they continue to socially isolate and study remotely.
Ensure student wellbeing during a time of crisis remotely and consider the impact of online assessment on wellbeing as an extra pressure and source of stress.
What technologies are out there that could be used to design, deliver and support online assessment? Which technologies should we be using?
What are other universities doing with online assessment? What best practice is out there? Who is doing it well? How do we compare?
I had a week of meetings which was exhausting and quite tiring. Spent a lot of the week working on Jisc’s HE Teaching and Learning Strategy. I had meetings with key stakeholders within Jisc, as well as digging though university needs and ambitions.
I wrote a blog post for Advance HE on digital leadership, which will be published in a couple of weeks. It was based around the concept of the digital lens.
A strategic digital lens allows universities to better understand how digital and technology can enable them to achieve their core strategic priorities. It can help inform staff how they will use digital in their work to meet the institutional priorities.
Lawrie published a blog post, Stop normalising pandemic practices! There are some out there who think that what we are doing is what we want to do when the pandemic ends. However Lawrie reflected “I do want people to remember that pandemic technology practices don’t have to be everyday practices when we are out of this.”
What we are doing now is not normal and I don’t think we will be going back to what we had before.
We are reviewing the concept of the Technical Career Pathway within Jisc, I worked on the Learning Technologist pathway, but we’ve had little take up, but I think one key factor has been we don’t really employ dedicated learning technologists. I had a meeting this week to review on what we might need to do in the future.
We have been reviewing Data Matters 2021, which was a charged for online event. Some individuals have been challenging the concept of charging for online events, but would be happy to pay for an in-person event. Despite being online there are costs in organising and running online events. Having said that do we need to have events, could we achieve the same impact via different channels or medium? There are other online channels that could be used instead of an online event using a dedicated platform. An online event which is mainly about the transmission of content, probably shouldn’t exist, just use a YouTube channel! My experiences of the Jisc e-Learning Conferences back in the late 2000s was that these events could be (and were) highly engaging and interactive. There was conversations and discussions, as well as presentations. These events were value for money and people, though questioned the fee, did feel they were value for money. People don’t always value free events.
Had a fair few meetings with universities this week talking about blended learning, digital strategy and embedding digital practice across an organisation.
So I have made it to a hundred weeknotes. Wasn’t sure if I could keep it up and some are better and more informative than others. The lockdown has resulted in them being less of a travelogue. Sometimes when writing them I would realise that what I was writing would be better as a blog post. They certainly are for me, the stats on them are quite low and there are many more popular posts on the blog.
Tuesday and Wednesday was Data Matters 2021, an online version of a conference which I did actually start planning back in 2019. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021. We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online. The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future. I attended a lot of the sessions and did the final closing statement as well. It was well attended and as a paid for event was the first in modern Jisc as a paid virtual conference.
Did some planning as well this week, haven’t planned a project for a while, but it was quite easy to get back onto the Confluence Jira bandwagon for this. I have to say I use these tools for my individual work planning, but this was the first time in ages that I was doing this for a team.
Even though all my meetings these days are online meetings I found this article by Atlassian on better meetings useful and interesting.
Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.
More final-year pupils than ever before are applying to local universities so that they can study closer to home, amid concerns that the impact of the pandemic may extend into the next academic year.
This echoes one of the future visions on the hyperlocal university I wrote for Learning & Teaching Reimagined.
My top tweet this week was this one.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery. pic.twitter.com/9cMKpNVyUy
I have been working on proposals this week, which is always a challenging activity for me, as I need to be concise and succinct, whilst my default when it comes to writing is to be extended and I make extensive use of redundant terms.
In the post I reflected that the key issue is rethinking the curriculum and the pedagogy. We have designed courses for in-person face to face teaching. Most of the time this has been converted (or translated) into a remote delivery format. It has not been converted to reflect the opportunities that online pedagogy can bring to the table. Even if it has then often the mobile pedagogy isn’t even thought about. Teaching and learning remotely is one thing, online teaching and learning is another, and mobile teaching and learning is different again. The solution appears to be a combination of redesigning the curriculum, to be a combination of low bandwidth, asynchronous type activities, alongside traditional live streaming, with option to deliver content to learners to access on their devices at a time and place to suit them.
Understanding where your learners are and how they will access teaching and on what device and connection is critical when it comes to successful curriculum design.
Daniel illustrated this idea of Bandwidth versus Immediacy through the following graphic.
Wonkhe on a similar note published this article on the same kind of subject.
Asynchronous learning gives students the chance to treat modules like box sets, bingeing or skipping as they see fit. Tom Lowe wonders what this might mean for learning.
I read this by Peter Bryant, which was published last week, on the snapback. He reflects on the changes that the pandemic has brought into higher education, but wonder what would happen when we can go back to in-person face to face teaching?
Whilst all these changes were borne out of the pandemic, would I want to go back to large didactic lectures, social isolation, mass exams and tutorials driven by repetition and memorisation? Firstly, that was never the exclusive way we taught, so many colleagues were doing amazing, innovative social pedagogies before and during the pandemic. But across the sector I reckon face to face lecture/tutorial/exam was a pretty dominant pathway for learning pre-pandemic. So, what happens when we can do those things again, face to face? What happens when we don’t have to worry about Zoom bombing, invasive proctoring solutions and the impersonality of online learning? Will we learn from this mess and value the ‘human interaction’ that a two-hour lecture using PowerPoint or a three-hour handwritten exam affords us?
With new safety protocols prompting design changes, traditional office spaces may be a thing of the past and this was explored in this article in The Guardian.
The pandemic has shown us that work can go on without a workplace. If it can be done online, it can be done from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. At the same time, however, the move to remote work has revealed the value of the workplace, as many employees hanker to return to the office. In light of these two opposing trends, what might the office of the future actually look like?
I had my mid-year review this week, and as with other reviews, these weeknotes have been useful in referencing some of my work. Seemed to go okay, which is nice. We reviewed my objectives, deleted a couple and added some more.
I had to write some notes for the Data Matters Conference, these I edited and published as an article on my blog.
Wednesday saw the inauguration of a new US President and hopefully a more positive future.
In 2018, the government launched a review of post-18 education and funding, with the aim of ensuring that post-18 education gives everyone a genuine choice between high quality technical and academic routes, that students and taxpayers are getting value for money, and that employers can access the skilled workforce they need. This week the Government published a paper, that sets out an interim conclusion of the review, which responds to some of the key recommendations of the report of the independent panel led by Dr Philip Augar.
On Thursday I spent most of the day judging the University of Coventry Post-Graduate Researcher of the Year award. This did mean spending most of the day on Zoom. Quite exhausting, but quite a rewarding process. There were eight finalists, and each had to prepare a written statement, deliver a presentation and be interviewed. Challenging for this at the best of times, but more so with everything happening on Zoom. Hats off to Jennifer and Heather for some excellent organisation of the event, which made my contributions much easier to do.
It’s sobering to think that this week saw the highest daily death rate recorded from Covid. In the last seven days, 8565 people have died within 28 days of positive Covid test. On Wednesday we saw 1820 deaths. Putting that into perspective, that is more than 50% of the total deaths in The Troubles in Northern Ireland over thirty years! It is more deaths than the number of people who died on the Titanic in 1912. These are troubling times and it looks like it will be some time before we can think that the pandemic is over.
Data Matters 2021 is happening next week and it isn’t too late to book your place at the conference. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021.
We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online.
The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future.
The UK education sector is moving towards an uncertain future. The sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of industry 4.0 and student expectations. With COVID-19 having such a huge impact on the operation of the higher education sector now and in the foreseeable future, the entire student experience has been and will be disrupted by the restrictions in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. This has impacted on the use of formal and informal learning spaces, as well as an increasing reliance on online platforms and digital content.
The sector is facing real challenges in delivering a quality student experience during a time of uncertainty. There are difficulties in supporting students who are learning remotely and online, away from campus. There will be further challenges as students return to campus as lockdown eases, vaccine has an impact on infection rates and universities move from a remote model of delivery to a blended model that needs to reflect what enhances and improves the learning experience.
Universities will want to understand where, what and how their students are learning and what interventions they can make that will have a positive impact, and add certainty to the student experience in the face of uncertainty. They will also want to avoid acting unethically and within the legal constraints of GDPR.
The pandemic and resulting lockdown has also impacted on student recruitment, domestic as well as international. Universities have a responsibility to support all students to thrive and achieve, and it is increasingly recognised that students’ experiences are very different depending on a large number of factors, including background and personal circumstances, type and subject of their course. The mental health and wellbeing of students is an increasing concern for universities and sector bodies.
The role of data, analytics, data modelling, predictive analytics and visualisation will be a core aspect of this uncertain future, but the uncertainty will bring new challenges for the sector in how they utilise the potential of data. Public scepticism about algorithms and data use is creating new ethical and legal challenges in the gathering, processing and interpretation of data.
Digital is core to the UK’s higher education sector, enhancing and creating efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience and supporting staff in delivering excellence.
Book your place on the Data Matters 2021 Conference.
The challenges of digital poverty are making the news, with demands to ensure students have access to devices and connections. What isn’t making the news so much is demands to rethink the curriculum design and delivery so that it is less reliant on high end devices and good broadband!
Could we deliver content and learning via an USB stick or even on DVD?
This tweet by Donald Clark of a suggestion by Leon Cych to use USB flashdrives, reminded me of a presentation I delivered fifteen years ago.
As suggested by @eyebeams why not load a ton of stuff up on flash drives and send them to people with low or no bandwidth… this has been done for years in some countries
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning.
I also did a fair amount of work reflecting on how to convert learning content (from the VLE) to work on a range of devices from the PlayStation Portable (PSP), iPods, mp3 players, as well as devices that usually sat under the television, such as DVD players and media streaming devices.
So for an online conference I prepared a presentation on this subject.
No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!
Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.
Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.
Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.
With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?
Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?
I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.
Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.
Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.
I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.
My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.
This was the first week of the third national lockdown and the week that the President of the United States attempted to subvert democracy through violence.
Well after two weeks on leave it was back to work. Due to covid restrictions and a growing number of cases I wasn’t about to head off to the office as I would have done in previous years. It was back to working from home. Two of my children were also at home, undertaking remote learning.
I didn’t anticipate too many e-mails in my inbox as virtually everyone else had been on leave for most of the two week as well, however was slightly surprised to find 95 in there.
Of course, going through them I found most of them were from mailing lists and spam, so it wasn’t long before I was down to just three.
Monday evening saw an announcement from the Prime Minister that England was going to again go into a national lockdown, there were similar announcements from the devolved administrations.
Schools and colleges were to close to all students except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time, as they did in November, the Government has provided guidance to universities on what they should be doing.
Unlike in March, universities were able to continue to deliver in-person teaching for specific groups, however other students were expected to remain at home.
Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:
Medicine & dentistry
Subjects allied to medicine/health
Education (initial teacher training)
Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).
Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.
We have previously published guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.
If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.
For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.
The news was full of stories about lack of laptops and connectivity this week, but I do think the issue is wider than that. My household has digital privilege, we have a 1Gb/s fibre connection and both my school age children have devices to access online learning.
However we did have an issue this week with a 300MB presentation uploaded to Google Classroom. We were unable to download the file (as that was restricted), we couldn’t preview the file (as it was too big) and Google Slides couldn’t open it.
We struggled, I did think that a student on a 3G connection with a bandwidth limit would also struggle with accessing the file.
Is the solution providing devices and bandwidth? Well in this case no the design here was a problem. Maybe we need to start thinking about low bandwidth and asynchronous curriculum design, which puts the learner first.
Did a lot of thinking about digital poverty this week, but I think that my colleague Lawrie sums it up best with this tweet.
Lots of stories on my local news about “digital poverty”. Let’s be clear, it’s not digital poverty, it’s poverty, and the differences between those with digital access, and those without are growing because of poverty.
In the same week that universities were defending the fees being charged for delivering their courses online, I had an e-mail from one university stating that they did not think they should pay for an online conference, though they would pay to attend a physical conference. There is something here about recognising the value of something despite the platform (physical or virtual) that it is being delivered on.
One thing that has become more apparent this year is the importance of data in supporting both student and staff experiences. However, sometimes making wish lists for the future is the easy part; what is often harder is figuring out that vision and the steps required to get there.
Prior to the pandemic, one of the key challenges that higher education was thinking about was the climate emergency and how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and move to a carbon net zero position. Despite the pandemic this is still an issue and I was involved in a meeting where we discussed some of the challenges and issues and potential solutions. What is different now is that the pandemic and the lockdown has changed the thinking of many higher education institutions about the design of their campuses and their curriculum.
The third lockdown has got many institutions thinking about their curriculum design, also what they need to do to embed practice for the future. How do we move from models of translation to ones that are transformative.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Just had my first Teams call of the year, wonder how many of those I will have over 2021?