What should we do, what can we do? – Weeknote #66 – 5th June 2020

So after a lovely week off, taking a break from work including a lovely cycle ride to Brean, I was back in the office on Monday, well not quite back in our office, more back at my office at home. So it was back to Zoom calls, Teams meetings and a never ending stream of e-mails.

My week started off with a huge disappointment, I lost the old Twitter…

Back in August 2019 I wrote a blog post about how to use Chrome or Firefox extensions to use the “old” Twitter web interface instead of the new Twitter interface. Alas, as of the 1st June, changes at Twitter has meant these extensions no longer work and you are now forced to use the new Twitter! When you attempt to use them you get an error message.

I really don’t like the “new” web interface, it will take some time getting use to it, might have to stick to using the iOS app instead.

broken iPhone
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Most of Monday I was in an all day management meeting, which as it was all via Zoom, was quite exhausting. We did a session using Miro though, which I am finding quite a useful tool for collaborating and as a stimulus for discussion. At the moment most of the usage is replicating the use of physical post-it notes. I wonder how else it can be used.

The virtual nature of the meeting meant that those other aspects you would have with a physical meeting were lost. None of those ad hoc conversations as you went for coffee, or catching up over lunch. We only had a forty minute late lunch break, fine if lunch is provided, more challenging if you not only need to make lunch for yourself, but also for others…

Some lessons to be learned there!

Monday was also the day that schools (which had been open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children already) were supposed to re-open for reception, years one and six. However in North Somerset with the covid-19 related closure of the local hospital in Weston-super-Mare, this meant that the “re-opening” was cancelled at the last minute, with some parents only been informed on Sunday night! Since then the plan is to go for re-opening on the 8thJune, now that the covid-19 problem at the hospital has been resolved.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Universities across the country are now providing more details about how they will re-open in September.

Back in May I wrote about how Universities are reflecting on their plans in light of the current lockdown, the easing of the lockdown, social distancing as well as guidance from the regulator.

Students applying for university places in England must be told with “absolute clarity” how courses will be taught – before they make choices for the autumn, says Nicola Dandridge of the Office for Students.

I wrote then

This has implications for future planning and announcements of what universities will be doing in the Autumn. They will probably need to start publishing in June their plans. Some have done this already.

Now we see much more detail about what is happening. 63.3% of universities have confirmed their intentions for their teaching delivery in the next academic year, and details about what they are doing can be found on this website.

College in Cambridge
College in Cambridge – Image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay

The government recently published some guidance for universities reopening buildings and campuses

Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses – GOV.UK

Lots of commentary on the Twitter about this, mainly as it is of little help, or “bleeding” obvious…

Though this section from the report has huge implications for the sector.

Libraries are currently required by law to cease their business during the emergency period (regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020). However, they are allowed to provide services for orders made via website or on-line communications, telephones and text messaging, and post. You might therefore consider how to make library services available in line with those methods.

So I decided to write a blog post about this aspect of the report and legislation.

The library will remain closed…

Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

For those already at university, a National Union of Students survey found that almost half of students were happywith their online learning.

Which of course means that over half were not happy.

Universities will need to reflect on this in their curriculum design in the new academic year. There is more to online delivery than just Zoom!

There was a similar story, but from a different angle on Wired.

Universities are struggling with online learning. And with social distancing here for some time, there are no easy solutions.

A Wonkhe blog post this week reflected on the QAA’s principles for preserving quality and standards in 2020-21.

What I found interesting in the post was this distinction.

They’re designed to offer assurance to the public – and, these days, to students – that universities have collectively got a grip on the issues, without specifying the exact ways any individual university should be operating.

The principles approach doesn’t question whether it’s possible or feasible for universities to comply with the principles. It doesn’t create mechanisms to check whether universities are complying, or penalties for those who are found to not be. In that sense, it offers no assurance whatsoever.

Earlier in the week, Lawrie had been chatting to me about the challenges many in the sector were facing and the difference between guidance and help. I have some thoughts on this, will post at a later date on this.

The BBC reported that Students might have to stay in ‘protective bubble’.

Students might have to stay in a “protective bubble” of the same small group, when the UK’s university campuses reopen in the autumn. University leaders suggested students would live and study with the same group to minimise mixing.

Though I don’t think this will happen though….

On Tuesday I ran a small focus group looking at community and how we build and foster student communities in the new landscape. Before this was something that many probably didn’t worry too much about, there were student unions, student societies, junior common room committees, who would do all that. Your subject community wasn’t that important in comparison. Now with planned bubbles and social distancing things have changed. Though many know they will need to build and foster new learning communities that operate mainly online, not many will have the experiences or the skills to do this.

Now that UK universities are in the process of announcing their plans for the next term, many prospective students are reconsidering their own plans. This creates even more uncertainty for the university sector.

The University of Reading reported a £106m funding gap for next year due to the impact of coronavirus.

Vice-chancellor Prof Robert Van de Noort said the university – Reading’s second biggest employer – needed to save the amount over the next three years. He said its income will be affected by a halving in the number of new international students, UK students deferring and a loss in income from conferences, all due to the virus.

They are not unique and many universities are reported huge decreases in revenue for the next year.

Some are struggling with designing learning for social distanced spaces.

One thought I had was to think about asynchronous activities that don’t require time spent in front of a screen. Students will need to spend a lot of time in front of screens, so some non-screen activities will be beneficial. These don’t need to happen in social distanced physical learning spaces.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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