Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

At the weekend, in Bristol, the statue of Edward Colston was pulled down by protesters and dumped into the water of the Bristol Docks. There was real anger about the “celebration” of a man who made his fortune by buying and selling people. It’s vitally important that as a society we learn from the lessons of history, but my opinion, aligns with David Olusoga, statues do not teach history, they celebrate the lives of those they represent. If we want to retain such statues, then we should put them in a museum and put them in context.

Though the R factor for the coronavirus is decreasing elsewhere in the UK, here in the South West it’s 1.0 which means that though the rate of infection is not rising exponentially, it also isn’t declining. In theory I can go to the office in Bristol next week, if I really need to work there and can get there easily by foot or cycle. Well I think I will be working from home again next week.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a journalist and his article has now been published online on a webpage.

“Universities were given very little time to plan. When we use words like ‘pivot’ or ‘change’ to describe distance learning, that is often very different from the experience of university staff and students. Universities had to switch delivery very quickly as an emergency response, not just online, but also for remotely and from home.”

I spent part of Monday reviewing and revising a blog post I have written (for another blog).

Next week I have my Senior TEL Group meeting which was supposed to be happening in London, but as to be expected this time I am going to run it online. I planned the agenda and sent it out to colleagues in preparation for next week. We are going to be sharing what’s happening in their universities as well as talking about the new HE partnership that Jisc has with UUK, Advance HE and Emerge which was announced last week.

Unfortunately we cancelled Data Matters 2020 that was scheduled for last month due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. This week I started the planning for the programme for Data Matters 2021 which will now take place on 26th January 2021. We are planning to run the conference at a venue, but in parallel we are planning to run the conference online if lockdown or social distancing restrictions make it impossible to have the event in a physical venue. We’re still working on the theme for the conference, but as the landscape has changed so much that the original theme is now rather dated. So we need to start thinking about a new theme.

Part of my job is attending meetings with funders and government, so I spent part of Wednesday day preparing for a meeting with the Department for Education, which I will be talking about the work Jisc is undertaking in the HE space.

The BBC reports that more students think they are not getting good value for money from university, suggests an annual survey.

It found 31% of students thought their courses were poor or very poor value, up from 29% last year The survey, based on 10,000 students across the UK, was gathered in a year disrupted by Covid-19 and lecturers’ strikes.

This to me strikes at the heart of why charging fees for university results in a change in attitude to students feelings and thoughts about higher education, it becomes very much a “product” rather than education. You don’t see similar articles with parents complaining about the value for money they get from local schools!

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

I started to think about the presentations I will be delivering next week on Thursday.

I am part of a QAA workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment in which we will look at some of the key quality assurance issues that universities will face in the new academic year.

QAA’s bi-annual Regional Network meetings, which are exclusive to members, provide an opportunity to meet with colleagues from across the sector, hear key updates and share insights about current issues in quality assurance and enhancement through discussions and workshops.

This session will include an update on COVID-19 before moving to a focus on the pedagogy of online teaching and learning and how this underpins quality. We will discuss key messages from a range of sources regarding maintaining quality in an online environment, before hearing applied examples from providers.

I am also running a session at Jisc’s Connect More which I have called What of the future?

Connect More is an opportunity to explore how to elevate the student experience during this challenging time. You’ll hear first-hand examples of effective digital practice from peers across both HE and FE and pick up a host of new ideas to put into practice at your organisation.

My session will be asking delegates to think about what happens next? What they think they need to do? As well as what they want support and help with to make it happen?

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

There are concerns from the sector about the importance of fostering and building community when much of the course will be online. I ran a focus group last week and I read this, this week from the Guardian.

Lecturer and student relationships matter even more online than on campus

Teaching students online isn’t about pontificating on a stage, it’s about developing meaningful relationships

The article talks about the shift that has happened over the last few weeks and what may happen in the autumn. It is uncomfortable and people will need to think differently over the next year and beyond.

As educators, we need to be willing to experiment: this will be unsettling for both staff and students, who have become comfortable in their respective roles. But staff must now think seriously about relationships and, perhaps, be more open and vulnerable.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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