So there are still real challenges for higher education as infections continue to rise and groups of students being forced to self-isolate, regional and local lockdowns make it challenging to deliver teaching. were the students to blame?
A glance at the Wonkhe dashboards would suggest this is a reasonable conclusion to draw – there are no Mid-level Super Output Areas (MSOA) in England with more than 100 Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days that have less than 2,000 students in residence. As you have probably come to expect, things are a bit more complicated than that.
David points out that blaming students for the rise in covid-19 isn’t just not helpful, but also isn’t accurate.
Universities are suffering again from negative press, saying they shouldn’t have opened. However they weren’t given much choice and on top of that in the most recent restrictions, even at the highest tier, universities are expected to remain open.
Though what does open mean anymore?
When we had the full lockdown back in March, yes students were sent home, however universities remained open, their campus may have been shut down, but research was still happening, teaching was going ahead and many students were learning.
Universities can remain open, but doesn’t mean the campus has to be open. Maybe the government should have listened to the advice from their own SAGE scientists who said three weeks ago that “all university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential.” If that advice had been followed maybe, many of those covid-19 infection hotspots could have been avoided.
What we do know is that many universities are moving to online delivery curriculum models and for many students self isolation is part of the student experience.
AI software designed to monitor students via webcam as they take their tests – to detect any attempts at cheating – sometimes fails to identify the students due to their skin color.
I am not surprised, in my work on the Intelligent Campus, when we did some research into facial recognition, there was quite a bit of coverage about how it only really worked with white males. Can we be surprised then when used for exam invigilation that it fails on the same issue?
Women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to be told their photos fail UK passport rules when they submit them online than lighter-skinned men, according to a BBC investigation. One black student said she was wrongly told her mouth looked open each time she uploaded five different photos to the government website.
There is a question here about removing the systemic bias we find in AI and algorthims being used in education (as well as the wider society). A deeper question is how does that bias get there in the first place?
Across the week we saw more universities report large covid-19 infections in their student populations.
Sheffield Hallam has seen over 370 cases of Covid since the beginning of term and the University of Sheffield has seen 589 cases. The local area has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of people testing positive.
Another 1,600 students have tested positive for coronavirus at Newcastle’s two universities. Newcastle University says 1,003 students and 12 members of staff have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week. That’s up from the 94 students reported last Friday. There have also been 619 new cases among students at Northumbria University, compared with 770 last week. That means nearly 2,500 students and staff have tested positive since returning to studies.
More than 400 students and eight staff members at the University of Nottingham have tested positive for Covid-19. The university said the figures would be “higher than other universities” because it was running its own asymptomatic testing programme.
Almost 400 students and staff at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are self-isolating after more than 160 people tested positive for Covid-19. A university spokesperson said the safety and wellbeing of staff and students was the university’s first priority.
One result of this is a lot of universities are moving back to online teaching.
This week, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University both said they will move more learning online. The University of Sheffield said all teaching will move online from Friday until 18 October. Sheffield Hallam said it will increase the proportion of online teaching, but keep some on-campus.
Both universities (Newcastle and Northumbria) said they had extensive plans in place to support students. Earlier today they said they would move most of their teaching online in response to the outbreaks.
The two main universities in Manchester are teaching online until “at least” the end of the month after a coronavirus outbreak among students. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester (UM) said it was a “collaborative decision” with public health bosses and “won’t impact” on teaching quality. It comes after 1,700 students were told to self-isolate at MMU on 26 September.
I took the plunge and ordered full fibre from BT and if it goes to plan I will be getting 900Mb/s down and 110Mb/s up from the new all fibre connection. This will be much faster than my current 32Mb/s FTTC connection and so much faster than the ADSL connection I had between 2012 and 2017 which rarely went above 1Mb/s.
Over the weekend there was a huge amount of anti-university press in relation to Covid-19. I did think last week that this was just the beginning, when I posted my blog post about the uncertainty that the higher education sector was facing, when I noted a few stories about social distancing and isolation that was being reported in the press. I didn’t think that the story would blow up so soon! So much so that I wrote another blog post about all the stories that were coming in.
Radio 4’s Today programme made the mistake of thinking online was somehow cheaper and inferior.
Dear @BBCr4today why on earth do you assume that Online or blended learning should be cheaper? we have 100+ hours of interviews of university staff, they're working longer,harder to get that experience online & ready for the start of semester. And you think it should be cheaper!
This perspective of what was happening to students was an insightful read, to be failed and abandoned time and time again, at first by an algorithm, then by institutions is draining and hurtful, writes student Kimi Chaddah.
Imagine having overcome a reformed and rigid GCSE system. Next, your A-levels are cancelled and you have to forcibly fight your way to a university place. Then, you’re forced into social isolation in a new place with people you don’t know, all the while being told to “not kill granny” by a man who discharged hospital patients into care homes. Meet the students of 2020.
The anti-student sentiment continued, so much so, that Johnson in his Wednesday press conference actually was quite sympathetic towards the student situation.
What we do know is that virtually all students are attempting to stick to the rules, but it doesn’t require very many students to be infected to infect many more in halls and residences. They are using the same kitchens, the same hallways, the same doors. They are in the same shops, the same bars and coffee places and visiting the same places across campus. Continue reading The future is… – Weeknote #83 – 2nd October 2020→
On this day ten years ago, I said “Books are indeed wonderful things, but still, the iPad is the future of reading…”
This was the key focus of a talk I gave on the 1st October 2010 at ULCC’s FOTE10 event at The Senate House, at the University of London.
This was the second time I had spoken at FOTE, having delivered a session the previous year on the future of learning.
There was a bit of a backlash against ebooks back in 2010, as people felt that they weren’t as good as “real” books. For me they weren’t a replacement for books, they enabled different ways of reading. For many ebooks and e-book readers enabled a new way to access books and content, that otherwise would mean they wouldn’t have access.
The purpose of my talk was to discuss the value and potential value of ebooks and to differentiate between the act of reading and the medium of reading.
In the first part of the presentation I focused on the book and the physicality of the book, as well as the reading experience. I also wrote about this back in 2010.
There is something very beautiful and sensual about a new book. Anyone who has ever bought a new book will know what I mean. Whether you open the parcel from Amazon, or remove the book from a bag of a high street bookseller, there is something about the smell of a new book, the feel of the roughness of the paper between your fingers as you slowly flick from page to page. As you open it for the first time you can feel the stiffness of the spine of a book that has never been read. The smoothness of the dust jacket, the rough texture of the cover, combine to produce a tingling feeling of excitement as you realise you are about to open the book and start to read.
There is even something about a used book, or one from a library. What is the history or legacy of the book? Who read it before you? Where did they read it? How did they feel when reading it? Did they share it with others? Even the annotations, that can be annoying, give a flavour of how previous readers of a book felt and used the book.
Books are extremely portable, they can be easily carried to any location and used. They fit into a multitude of bags and can be used whether you are a passenger in a car, on a train or flying in a plane. You can use books at home, in a coffee shop, on the beach, in a library, a classroom or in the park.
Books have an unique user interface that has never been adequately duplicated on any electronic device. You can flick from section to section, page to page. You can highlight and annotate. Put sticky notes on specific pages. Use a series of physical bookmarks to identify sections.
Books are also easily lent, libraries know this, but I am sure you like me have lent a book to others. You want them to share that feeling you get when reading a book for the first time, something you can’t get back when reading a book for a second time.
Now in 2020 I don’t think that much has changed in how people feel about physical books, if anything the importance of the physicality of books has increased for people. As I did predict, we didn’t see the end of physical books, we still have bookstores and people still buy physical books. If anything bookstores have recognised that buying books isn’t just about the books, it’s the whole experience of buying the book. Publishers now recognise that people appreciate the physicality of books and have spent time ensuring that books are now more than just the words, focusing on the covers and look of the book as much as the content.
In the second part of my talk I started talking about ebooks. These have been around since the early 1970s, so they aren’t new, I talked about access and the growth of ebooks.
In May 2011 Amazon.com announced that its ebook sales in the US now exceeded all of its printed book sales. However by 2016 we started to see a decline in ebook sales, with paperback book sales higher than e-book sales. Despite concerns about ebooks killing the books market, this didn’t happen. In the UK e-book share went up from 20% to 33% between 2012 and 2014, but down to 29% in the first quarter of 2015.
What was new ten years ago was the growth of the consumer market for ebooks, the Kindle and in 2010 was the exciting then new iPad. This was the focus of the third part of my talk, which looked at ebook readers. In 2010 there was a range of ebook readers available, most hardware suppliers had their own range of devices, as well as their own ebook stores. By early 2017, smartphones and tablets had both individually overtaken e-readers as methods for reading an e-book. Now in 2020 we have seen a dramatic decline in the variety of readers and stores, with Amazon dominating the consumer market. Though the use of ebooks in education though has become embedded into learning and teaching in 2020.
The fourth part of my talk was about then then new iPad. Since then we’ve had 22 more iPad models, but all of them have a built in app for reading, what was called iBooks and now Books.
For me the fifth part of my talk was probably the real reason saying the iPad is the future of reading and I also think something that hasn’t been realised even now in 2020.
I took the analogy of transport, that the first horseless carriages were literally carriages without horses, but the future of the carriage became cars, trucks, buses and other forms of wheeled transport.
So to bring it back to books, I talked about how after printing the bible the next biggest thing to be published by printers was plays. A printed play though isn’t in any way a replacement for watching a play. However what printing did allow was more different ways in presenting text and content, from newspapers, magazines as well as books.
In the next section I demonstrated some real ebooks that you could get on the iPad, including interactive books, books incorporating video and audio, as well as traditional ebooks.
So in 2010, ebooks were digital versions of real books, what I did think we could see in the future at that time, utilising the potential of devices such as the iPad, was to create new and exciting reading experiences. I don’t think now in 2020 that we’ve got that, so I do think I still stand by the iPad is the future of reading.
Today ebooks are part and parcel of education with easier access to books by students from academic libraries. However we still don’t have that next generation of ebooks that could potentially transform learning and teaching.
I did think last week that this was just the beginning, when I posted my blog post about the uncertainty that the higher education sector was facing, when I noted a few stories about social distancing and isolation that was being reported in the press. I didn’t think that the story would blow up so soon!
About 40 universities around the UK have now reported coronavirus cases and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new term begins.
The University of Aberystwyth is the latest to suspend face-to-face teaching to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
At the University of Essex a cluster of cases has been linked to sports teams.
Queen’s University Belfast – some students have been told to self-isolate after a “small number” tested positive.
The University of Exeter, which has also reported a “small” number of cases.
In Wales, with much of the population in lockdown, students in many of the Welsh universities were also forced to isolate and stay in their halls. This was proving to be traumatic for many first year students, who are mainly young and for most is their first time away from the family home.
Universities are facing various welfare challenges as you might imagine, but also the challenge that as well as physical face to face delivery, those sessions now also need to be delivered online. This is a different challenge than March where all students were off campus now there is need to deliver multiple versions of the same session. In addition the rise in covid-19 infections is impacting on staff, who may now want to shield, creating additional challenges for delivery across campus and online.
As universities struggle to contain student parties, and with coronavirus outbreaks already confirmed at several campuses, many academics are afraid of face-to-face teaching. But some say managers are bullying them to return and, fearing redundancy, they feel unable to refuse.
It doesn’t help that the press coverage is rather negative and biased against the sector. The universities were told by government that they should reopen their campuses. The Government were clear about what they expect from the sector:
We will introduce new restrictions in England, but not a return to the lockdown in March; we’ll ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.
The culture secretary has defended students going back to university in England after a union labelled the situation “shambolic”. Oliver Dowden told the Andrew Marr Show it was important students did not “give up a year of their life” by not going.
Though many (if not all) universities have planned for this, it’s still a difficult situation.
This morning we saw pieces on Radio 4’s Today programme and on the television on BBC Breakfast about the crisis, didn’t help that there were a fair few inaccuracies in the reporting.
So the higher education sector is facing real challenges as covid-19 infections result in self-isolation, local lockdowns and the resulting impact on learning and teaching, what they need now is support and help in working through this.
After a lovely weekend (well Sunday) in Lynmouth it was back to work on Monday. Well back to the desk in my house. The office, not so much.
The coronavirus figures have started to creep back up, so we’ve been put into a new lockdown of sorts. Schools are remaining open, but people are been asked to work from home.
Met with my sector strategy colleagues on Tuesday and gave us a chance to catch up and chat about what we’ve been up to and what’s coming up.
Spent time working on a structure for the Data Matters 2021 conference. This conference is usually a physical face to face event, however, as might be expected with coronavirus, this time we will be running it as an online conference. This now only throws up some challenges, but also provides a range of opportunities. In addition to the structure I have been working on the types of sessions that could be run. As well as traditional sessions such as online presentations, I have been thinking about different kinds of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. I’ve also been wondering about pre and post conference sessions as well.
This week we saw new Covid measures put into place across the UK to try and reverse the increase in coronavirus infections over the last few weeks. The impact of these coronavirus restrictions on the student experience is starting to surface, from the students breaching social distancing at an open air cinema at Exeter to Abertay in Dundee in Scotland where hundreds of students are being told to isolate. Public health officials at NHS Lothian were investigating a coronavirus cluster at Edinburgh Napier University’s Bainfield student accommodation. A number of people tested positive and contacts were being traced and told to isolate for two weeks. But the university remained open though, with students and staff who haven’t been asked to self-isolate have been told to attend as normal.
This must be causing challenges for universities as they respond to new restrictions and need to adapt their curriculum delivery models as a result, as well as ensuring the wellbeing of those students affected.
The Government are clear about what they expect from the sector:
We will introduce new restrictions in England, but not a return to the lockdown in March; we’ll ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.
It was back in June I wrote a blog post asking if we needed to worry so much about the immediate future. Then, things were starting to look a little more positive. Maybe, just maybe, universities wouldn’t need to worry as much as thought they might in designing and delivering courses online in the next academic year. However in that blog post I was certainly overtly cautious about might happen.
Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.
Then in August I discussed the uncertainty that the higher education sector were facing was causing real challenges for planning and preparation.
Chatting with a few people, it was apparent that across many universities where was still concerns about social distancing and reducing the risk of infection, so plans were still being made to deliver blended or hybrid programmes, at least until January. The recent local lockdowns now happening regionally, has demonstrated once more the need for effective flexible, responsive curriculum planning. Though we may see a national lockdown if there is a critical second wave, the current thinking from government appears to be to control local spikes with local lockdowns.
At the time of writing that post, universities were concerned about falling student numbers, expecting many students to defer for a year. Then we had the exams algorithm fiasco, so suddenly universities which were worrying about not enough students, faced having more students than they planned for, with more students then places achieving the required grades. This has caused additional planning headaches for many universities, combined with putting in safeguards for social distancing.
So now we’re in a new, but just as, uncertain place where we have new restrictions, local lockdowns and the threat of a second wave which could result in a second national lockdown.
This uncertainty means that universities will still need to be responsive in how they deal with the various restrictions that are in place, but also responding to pockets of infection and isolation of parts of their student population.
I have written about implementing a hybrid curriculum that could help universities deal with these new levels of uncertainty.
With a hybrid course, some sessions are physical face to face sessions. There are live online sessions and there are asynchronous online sessions. In addition there could be asynchronous offline sessions as well. You may not want to be online all the time!
Some sessions could be easily switched from one format to another. So if there is a change in lockdown restrictions (tightening or easing), students self-isolating then sessions can move to or from online or a physical location.
This needs to be more than the emergency response we saw in March and April and universities have recognised this and undertake huge amounts of effort and work to ensure that courses are better orgaised and planned. Their students will be expecting more than simple translation of physical face to face sessions to remote online formats. The online sessions need to be reflect the fact they are online and not in a physical space.
Alas designing flexible, responsive, hybrid curriculum does take not just time, but also expertise. Term has started, so time is limited. I don’t think you can easily assume staff have the relevant digital skills, capabilities and experience to design, develop and build such curriculum models. There is a lot more to this then merely providing the guidance, training and support. Where do you start for example? What works and what doesn’t? There are subject and cohort differences. A model that fits one university, may for various reasons not fit another.
Another big issues for universities will be dealing with the non-academic side of student life, for those who are self-isolating. Back in March students were told to go home, now they are being told so self-isolate in their accommodation. There are questions there about how they will get food and will they cook, can they still use shared kitchens? It’s one thing to be in the family home, another to be stuck in a single room in halls. How are you going to support student wellbeing in such an environment. Then there is the issue of non-compliance, how will universities deal with that? Will they want to?
As I said back in August, what we do know is that the future is uncertain and that we probably will still need to wash our hands just as often.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery, and so have many others as well.
What we have been seeing was many people translating their usual practice to an online version. I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff and students.
We’re not working alone in this space and others are working on and collaborating together on solutions to the problems of translating and transforming models of delivery to new online and blended formats.
In the area of active learning I really liked this shared Google Doc CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 which was initiated by Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, Associate Professor at Louisiana State University, with collaborative input from various groups, including members of the LSU LTC and the POD Network.
The crowdsourced document outlines some common active learning strategies and corresponding approaches appropriate for online teaching in both synchronous and asynchronous approaches, as well as running those activities in a physically distanced classroom.
If you are looking at how to translate activities then this document is really helpful in providing a range of possibilities.
The weather made a definite shift this week, with hot summer days, which though was a nice change from the wet and grey days we had in August was slightly mitigated by the fact that I was working at my desk.
The week started with a culture session. As with frameworks, defining the culture is a very small part of the story. You can define what you want the culture to be, however unless you can define your current culture, then it can make it challenging to see what has to change. Much more challenging is how you move from the current culture to the new model. There are factors that impact on this, shared understanding is one of these. Something I think I need to reflect more on at another time.