Having moved down into assessment over the last few weeks, I am now looking at teaching online and student wellbeing (and engagement).
We know that the move to teaching online was very much done quickly and rapidly, with little time for planning. Platforms needed to be scaled up to widespread use and most academics moved to translate their existing practice into remote delivery. This wasn’t online teaching, this was teaching delivered remotely during a time of crisis.
The Easter break gave a bit of breathing room, but even then there wasn’t much time for planning and preparation, so even now much of the teaching will be a response to the lockdown rather than a well thought out planned online course.
Thinking further ahead though, with the potential restrictions continuing, institutions will need to plan a responsive curriculum model that takes into account possible lockdown, restrictions, as well as some kind of normality.
I was involved in a meeting discussing the content needs of Further Education, though my role is Higher Education, I am working on some responses to Covid-19 and content for teachers is one of those areas. What content do teachers need? Do they in fact need good online content? Who will provide that content? How will do the quality assurance? Do we even need quality assurance? And where does this content live?
I had to replace my printer this week, but this was rather easy and quick thanks to John Lewis and Waitrose.
My printer had been working overtime compared to how it use to be used, lots of home schooling packs getting printed off.
There have been many challenges in moving to remote delivery, but the process can be rather exclusionary and many students across the country are struggling as a result.
Covid-19 has illuminated the depth of the digital gulf between well-off families where every child has a study-bedroom kitted out with a high spec laptop, and free school meal pupils in overcrowded homes, with shared bedrooms and inadequate IT. At least in the classroom, every child has equal access to learning. A recent survey found that teachers in the poorest communities believe that at least a fifth of their pupils do not have adequate access to a device for online learning at home. We think this may understate the problem.
It’s a similar picture in FE and HE, though it can be difficult to see what the national picture looks like on the way in which data is collected and used.
This is more difficult to provide specific figures for as OfS uses POLAR as the default measure for disadvantage and deprivation, but as far as I am aware that is the onle measure of “deprivation” which is gathered.
POLAR measures entry to higher education by age 19 in small geographical areas across the UK. It sorts each area into one of five groups – or quintiles – based on the proportion of young people in the area who enter higher education by the age of 19. Quintile 1 areas have the lowest rate of participation. Quintile 5 areas have the highest rate of participation. It does not assess an area’s socio-economic profile. It is purely and simply concerned with the proportion of young people in a local area who enter higher education.
However this does not tell you how many students are classed as deprived, as this data is not gathered.
HESA does gather some data in this space, out of 1,057,595 English students, 196,090 (18%) 2018/19 are in the lowest quintile for Index of multiple deprivation (IMD). The figures for 2019/20 are not available.
Of course there are different ways of gathering the data in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.
The key message from this, is just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it’s working for everyone. Delivery, even emergency remote delivery, needs to be inclusive, and that means flexibility and an understanding that not everything can (and needs) to be delivered live online when delivering remotely.
I’ve had some more interesting discussions on assessment this week and I have been validating our challenges in assessment.
These are the main challenges and pain points that arose from the research, it is not an exclusive list and is potentially going to change as universities move 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?
As part of this, I chaired a webinar on assessment, where universities and colleges could share their challenges, solutions and other issues.
Financially, Universities will be struggling next year, WonkHE has done some analysis and it makes for depressing reading.
Following Boris Johnson’s full recovery, lockdown is lifted gradually from June 2020. However, a larger than expected number of people are asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19, and both infections and deaths begin to rise sharply. The UK re-enters lockdown in mid July 2020, with the expectation that it will be at least 12 weeks before life can begin to return to normal. This brings the economy almost to a standstill. With no time to reschedule the start of term, students continue to apply to university with the expectation that most if not all of their first term will take place online, and few if any reserve accommodation before they can be certain they will use it. Nearly no international students study at UK providers during this period – other countries have left lockdown and students express a preference against online provision.
This wasn’t the first article from WonkHE, a new report models the financial impact of changes to recruitment to universities.
The headline from LE/UCU is a £2.5bn black hole in tuition fee and teaching grant income only – with a prediction that 111,000 fewer UK and 121,000 fewer international first-year undergraduate students attending.
The Guardian spoke about the impact of this as well. Universities are expecting 230,000 fewer students – that’s serious financial pain.
Our universities are a vital and unique part of our society with an importance that far outweighs their considerable economic value. Yet research into the impact of Covid-19, conducted by London Economics for the University and College Union, shows that universities face a black hole of at least £2.5bn in fee and grant income for 2020-21 as students both in the UK and around the world defer or abandon their plans to study here.
This was the headline in an article from the HEPI blog.
Surprise has been expressed that Universities UK’s (UUK) package of proposals for helping universities in the current crisis has not already been accepted by Ministers in Whitehall and by the devolved administrations.
It feels like that the sector is expecting to get bailed out, we might need to think about if this doesn’t happen.
Universities are reporting that planning for the future (next 12 months and beyond) is going to be challenging.
On Wednesday I tweeted this
The speed of this virus is really frightening.
As of today over 18,000 people have died of Covid-19
Two weeks ago the total was under 6.000.
A month ago it was just 281
Six weeks ago, it was 6…
People do what they’ve always done and may not know how to create effective online experiences. One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. An example of this, is from Dave White in a recent blog post about his experiences at UAL, he called it practice mirroring.
In my post I discuss ways in which a 60 minute lecture could be “translated” into an online version.
This was one response to the post on the Twitter.
This post resonates with me and my current experience of the transition here at the UOB.
— PaulHollins (@PaulHollins) April 23, 2020
So what happens after the Covid-19 crisis? Jim Dickinson of WonkHE wrote about this in this blog post, If there’s no going back, how do we get forward to a new normal?
The transition period will be particularly difficult (and therefore particularly wicked) for universities, I suspect, for all sorts of reasons.
Lockdown isn’t just going to disappear, it will be lifted gradually. This means that universities will need to be responsive and adaptable as changes are made to the restrictions that are in place. This has been something I have been thinking about for a while now. The impact on teaching, learning, assessment, as well as curriculum design.
My top tweet this week was this one.
— James Clay (@jamesclay) April 17, 2020