Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.

The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.

University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.

We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.

It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.

We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.

There was massive disappointment across the sector to the news that the government were not going to bailout the university sector or agree to the UUK plan.

This was reported in the Guardian.

Universities’ hopes of a long-term government bailout in England have been dashed, though £2.6bn in tuition fees will be paid early and ministers pledged to allow full fees to be charged even if students were unable to return to lecture theatres.

As a result we saw many universities announce major cost cutting measures and potential redundancies.

The University of Edinburgh announced aggressive cost cutting with losses of £70-£150m projected for the next academic year alone. It says that the  loss of overseas students and accommodation/events will result in big losses over the next four to five years.

Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay
Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

The Guardian reported on the challenged in motivation and engagement by students when it comes to online learning.

As universities shift online, experts worry that disadvantaged and disabled students may slip through the cracks.

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

I wrote another blog post in my series on translating teaching.

Though we might like video and Zoom, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential of audio recordings. We still have radio despite the advent to television and the internet. The internet even has it’s own subscription style audio content in the form of the podcast.

I have a few in development and will continue to write them to help people think about how they plan their teaching and their curriculum.

I also published on my tech blog about using your iPad as a second device in a Teams meeting.

So you want to use your iPad a whiteboard in a Teams meeting? Well this is one way in which you can do this easily. You will need an iPad (obviously), a whiteboard app and another device to interact with the meeting as well as using the iPad to draw from.

I’ve since tried a similar process and it works in Zoom like this as well.

Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

If there had been no coronavirus, then on Wednesday I would have been in London running the Data Matters conference.

The Data Matters 2020 conference will bring together experts from across the sector to discuss and debate the key data and analytics challenges in building the future vision of Education 4.0. We will discuss the possible future, the importance of laying the foundations for that vision, we will think about what we need to do today, to start that journey.

We, with QAA and HESA, had planned a great programme and there would have been 250 delegates in attendance. In the end after careful consideration and because of the ongoing and unpredictable developments around coronavirus we decided not go ahead.

We did consider running an online version, however back in mid March, it was difficult to see what the landscape would be like in May, additionally, as it was a joint event with QAA and HESA, they needed to plan how this cancellation would fit into their responses to the coronavirus crisis. Many of the sessions were workshops and I don’t think they are that easy to replicate online. It would have meant planning a virtually new conference. We also didn’t have an online conference platform and we didn’t also think people at that time would pay for an online conference in the midst of a crisis. I still think that was a wise decision.

I found this post,  Can we plan for a socially distanced campus? on Wonkhe interesting and useful for the planning for September.

We know how to operate a traditional on-campus model, and we are very quickly developing a better understanding of how to facilitate off-campus working and learning, but how can we best support social distancing on a functioning campus?

I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.

This use case I published on the Jisc Intelligent Campus blog a year ago gives you an idea of what could have been possible.

The flow of people through campus and beyond is complex and not well understood outside of known peak times such as class changes or lunchtime. The density of people at any one place and time, and the speed of their movement, can have a big impact on how easily people can get in and around campus buildings and facilities. Knowledge about pedestrian movements, and ways to respond to them, could be valuable to help provide better services and a tailored experience, within campus and connecting to the wider local environment.

Is this what social distancing looks like in a lecture theatre? via WonkHE Seminar.

I found this SUMS paper on quite interesting and was written by my old friend Nick Skelton.

Some of the key messages included:

The pivot to online education within weeks shows the incredible ingenuity of the sector. However, in the rush to move online, best practice has not always been followed and the quality of experience has suffered.

An increased emphasis on digital delivery of education for 2020/21 is inevitable. This will need to be of a higher quality than the experience produced in the first response to the crisis.

This reinforces much of what we know about how the sector responded to the crisis, it was a reaction that needed to just happen.

We do not know what social distancing restrictions will be in place in September, but we still need to be planning for the next academic year.

I think as I said before this is a real challenge for the sector, and not something they have experienced before.

However with September, we need to be better informed, better planned and understand how we can translate the entire student experience and this is echoed in this key message from the SUMS paper.

Digital provision of education is the better understood part of the digital delivery puzzle. Trickier still is the digital delivery of induction, socialisation and community building activities. The best answers will come through a renewed understanding of why students choose to attend university.

telephone cables
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Towards the end of the week I tweeted this out.

Then there were six, and then just one.

They came back the following day as well. No idea what they were doing, I was hoping it might be FTTP to replace the FTTC we have, or even a new cabinet? No idea.

Took a bike ride to the beach at Weston-super-Mare.

Just to note that I am following government advice during this national emergency and the photographs were taken during my government sanctioned one form of exercise per day.

The beach and promenade was a lot busier than it has been in previous weeks, but still pretty much deserted than it would have been without the lockdown. Hopefully it will stay deserted, as this is  shorter week this week with the early May Bank Holiday.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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