Remembering – Weeknote #78 – 28th August 2020

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Spent the best part of the week writing and reviewing documents.

Over the weekend I thought this Wired article, The UK’s universities are bracing for a coronavirus train wreck, was an interesting read.

Universities across the UK thought they had everything sorted. In March, near the end of the second semester, they had rushed to deliver online teaching, as the coronavirus pandemic forced them to shut their doors to maintain the safety of staff and students. With the spread of the virus easing over the summer, institutions began planning for the safe arrival of students in September. Stop-gap measures hurriedly introduced in March had become permanent by August; policies and guidance on social distancing, sanitising, and digital teaching alongside limited face-to-face tuition on campus had been drawn up having in mind the capped numbers of students universities then expected to receive.

Then came the A-level results.

It was one of many articles and blog posts on the fall out from the u-turn on the A Level results and the resulting impact on admissions and places.

I thought the honesty of Sheffield Hallams’ Vice Chancellor blog post was a breath of fresh air amongst all this.

The most important thing in all this unfortunate story is to focus on the thousands of students whose life chances were put at risk through the algorithm. 

Had a good meeting with Cumbria, as well as talking about teaching and learning, I also spoke on the Intelligent Campus concepts I worked on a few years ago and potential for the future.

Tuesday afternoon I headed into Bristol and spent time in the office, being in the office twice within seven days was interesting and a nice change from working from home. I think in the future I will probably have a similar working pattern depending on meetings and events.

I was saddened to hear of the death of an old friend of mine, Professor Mark Stiles, formerly of Staffordshire University.

Professor Mark Stiles and Fleur Phillips at ALT-C 2006 in Edinburgh at the conference dinner

I first met Mark back in 2003 at ALT-C in Sheffield and then again a couple of years later in 2005 in Manchester again for ALT-C. As I had been attending various Jisc meetings at that time and I remember him being extremely helpful at an Experts meeting where myself and others from a team led by London Met had been working on some case studies on innovative practice. He was an expert in learning technology and his depth of knowledge was incredible. We regularly bumped into each other at events, meetings and conferences over the years. When he retired I saw him less, but I would follow his car postings on Facebook with interest, he loved his cars. He will be missed.

Jisc's Portwall Lane Office, Bristol
Jisc’s Portwall Lane Office, Bristol

The BBC reported that there was no plan for a return to the office for millions of staff.

Fifty of the biggest UK employers questioned by BBC have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future.

Within my own organisation, decisions are still being made about the future of the offices we have. However it is clear that we won’t be going back to what we had before. Even being a pretty much blended workplace anyhow, the covid-19 pandemic forced a non-office culture on everyone. Of course everyone won’t be able to work from home, and not everyone will want to work from home. Giving people a choice is important. What I am hoping to see in the future is that office space encourages and enables different ways of working and that rows of desk working staff is not the norm for the future.

I discussed this more in a post on changes to my office working on my tech and productivity blog.

Fetter Lane, London
Fetter Lane, London

The day after this, there was this article on the BBC News: Warnings of ‘ghost towns’ if staff do not return to the office.

Dame Carolyn said the UK’s offices were “vital drivers” of the economy, supporting thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars. “The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade.

The reactions on the Twitter were both insightful and amusing, this was my favourite.

I do think that this could be an opportunity to rethink the concept of work, offices and commuting. There could be a positive impact on climate change for example as people travel less. However there could be a negative impact on the high street as people are in more for receiving parcels at home from online shopping. The question though is how do you manage that transition?

Image by Spencer Garner from Pixabay

We had an operational meeting about the Data Matters 2021 conference. This will be an online event in January 2021 over two days and will cover a range of issues relating to data and analytics. We have been working on a theme for the conference, so much has changed since the 2020 conference was planned, that the theme for that one is pretty much redundant.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Leave a Reply