Did I predict the virus? – Weeknote #58 – 10th April 2020

This week I have spent a lot of time looking at assessment, but also reflecting on the Plymouth e-learning conference where ten years ago I chaired a debate about closing the physical campus in times of crisis and disruption.

It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…


I was supposed to be on leave this week, we were heading off to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

I saw on Monday that the OfS on Friday had published new guidance on academic standards and quality.

There is recognition that in these challenging times that maintaining quality will be difficult.

It’s interesting to note that cloud services are struggling to keep up with demand, as I read in this article by Andy Powell.

‘These are unprecedented times.’ It’s a sentence you no doubt will have heard a lot in the last few weeks, and one that applies to technology every bit as much as other sectors.

In fact, public cloud services have seen a massive spike in demand since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Microsoft have reported that whole countries have gone from not using cloud to deliver teaching at all to 100% cloud-based remote learning – all in a matter of weeks. Collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams are probably responsible for the majority of that increased demand.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that we are starting to see the first signs of resourcing issues.

The Register has reported that ‘Azure seems to be full’, and I have seen similar coverage of cloud capacity problems elsewhere.

Inspired by Rory Cellan-Jones ‘s article, my thoughts on the challenges education would have had if coronavirus had happened in 2005?

Coronavirus: What if this had happened in 2005?

This got me thinking about the services and platforms that we were using back in 2005 and would they have been able to cope with the increased demands that something like coronavirus would have put on them.

Here is Rory Cellan-Jones’s article from the BBC News site

QAA published some new guidance this week covering a range of areas of assessment.

On the 8thApril 2010 (ten years ago) I was at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference in, yes you guessed it, Plymouth.

I posted some photographs from the conference to the Twitter.

At that conference I was part of a panel session which was called  Floods? Snow? Swine flu? Terrorist threats? ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Culturally, most institutions do not incorporate online or virtual learning into everyday working cultures, at any level: management, staff or students. Those who do not routinely use digital options can’t see that closing the physical institution need not have a significant impact on the business of the institution, if that business can be carried out at home or online. The issue is not to focus upon contingency planning, but to focus on changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is.

I had written a blog post to support the debate

“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”

I wrote back then ten years ago

Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

I asked the question

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?

My thoughts, ten years ago was this.

Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any such million-to-one chance happens.

I spent Thursday all day on an online design sprint. We used Miro for the “boards” and “post-its” and it worked really well. It was good chatting with people from the HE sector about their challenges and it was good to see how many of their challenges chimed with the challenges I had discovered in my earlier research. We also discovered some new challenges as well.

My thoughts on moving events and conferences online were included in an article on Media FHE called Higher education events postponed or shifted online as pandemic bites

According to James Clay, head of higher education and student experience at JISC, one of the common mistakes in online delivery is trying to replicate the original format. Without the visual and verbal cues that come when people are in the same physical space, it can result in a frustrating and disappointing experience.

So short week this week with Good Friday, I am looking forward to a long weekend and I will probably try and make the most of the weather (well in the garden I will).

My top tweet this week was this one.

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