Category Archives: weeknotes

Quiet – Weeknote #110 – 9th April 2021

Well the week started later (as might be expected) with Easter Monday. Also with it being a school holiday and people taking leave, it was also a rather quiet week with very few meetings. This allowed me to crack on with a few things that were in my to do list.

The Guardian started the week with this article – Universities are angry at PM’s failure to include reopening plan in Covid roadmap.

University leaders said it was deeply unfair that students could get haircuts or work in pubs next week but still had no idea when their campuses would reopen, as the government announced that school pupils in England will be expected to wear masks until the middle of May.

mobile phone
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The BBC News reported on Gavin Williamson wanting to ban mobile phones in schools.

Mobile phones should be banned from schools because lockdown has affected children’s “discipline and order,” the education secretary has warned. Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph phones should not be “used or seen during the school day”, though he said schools should make their own policies. Phones can act as a “breeding ground” for cyber-bullying and social media can damage mental health, he added. “It’s now time to put the screens away, especially mobile phones,” he wrote.

I was reminded of a blog post that I wrote back in 2008.

Does your institution ban mobile phones in the classroom? Does it just ban the use of mobile phones in the classroom? Or does it just ban the inappropriate use of mobile phones in the classroom?

The key with any great learning process is the relationship between teacher and student, get that right and you are onto a winner. Disruption happens with that relationship breaks down, not when a phone rings.

My experience of school policies today, is that they actually already ban mobile phones….

I also liked this response from @Simfin who is an expert in this space.

I did like this article on Wonkhe – Where next for digital learning? by Julie Swain. She says that the key pillars of action to support staff and students need to focus on are:

  • Digital poverty
  • Digital Learning Spaces
  • Mental Health Support
  • Digital Learning Skills

In the article Julie recognises that digital poverty isn’t just about connectivity and hardware, it’s also about space and time.

She says about space: Space has proven to be a major issue. There were assumptions that students and staff had “study spaces” at home where they could shut off and dedicate themselves to learning. Again that is just not the case for many and it is not uncommon to be “inside someone’s spare room or even bedroom “.

Though I also think we need to consider low bandwidth and asynchronous learning activities as well as space, connections and hardware.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Spring forward – Weeknote #109 – 2nd April 2021

clock
Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

Sunday morning saw the clocks going forward, I am reminded of this classic Giles cartoon about this.

“Sorry Mum, I put all the clocks back instead of forward and Uncle Charlie and all of them have arrived for lunch.”

With Good Friday it was a shorter week than normal.

I liked this article on Wonkhe, How to build back student community and opportunity between now and the new year.

Jim Dickinson and Rosie Hunnam interrogate the student opportunities lost to the pandemic, and gather intel on what it would take to build them, and the student community they support, back higher.

This reflects a lot of conversations I have been having over the last few weeks on the importance of building student communities across the current covid-19 restrictions in place. Too often universities assume students can build their own online communities, but discussions with students reflect that this more than not doesn’t happen. Even where it does, it is often based on previous in-person communities. Going forward with potentially restrictions still in place in September, the importance of community building is there and how you do this online is still a real challenge.

After a range of virtual events, meetings, lectures, etc, often the last thing we need is more screen time on a virtual coffee break.

Lens
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

On Tuesday I was along with Doug Parkin and Lawrie Phipps presenting a a session on digital for a Spotlight Series for Senior Strategic Leaders. I was mainly talking about how to look at and embed digital into strategy. It was a good session.

On Wednesday I presented to the DigiLearn community about Learning and Teaching Reimagined.

 

This seemed to go down well with the attendees.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has shared outcomes of their work to explore the links between good practice in digital pedagogy and improved student engagement, progression and achievement.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Powering up – Weeknote #108 – 26th March 2021

I realised that I have been walking and exercising less during the last few weeks, now the children are back in school, so this week I made a determined effort to increase the amount of walking I do.

Like last week, I have spent a lot of the week interviewing staff and students as part of a project we’re doing at Jisc. We have been talking to them about their thoughts and perspectives on digital learning. As with a lot of these kinds of interviews there are some interesting individual insights, however the real insight comes from analysing all the interviews and seeing what trends are in there. I also spent time planning a similar, but different project.

I attended a roundtable on a digital vision for Scotland and facilitated a breakout room reflecting on the vision.

If you have watched a 60 minute TV programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. Few of us have the time or the skills to create a 60 minute documentary style programme to replace the lecture, and where would you go to film it? So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.

In a meeting this week with staff from a university I was discussing this issue and their response was, what about comedy stand-up? That’s a monologue. That got me thinking and reflecting, so I wrote a blog post about needing a tray.

Lego Star Wars
Image by 501stCommanderMax from Pixabay

Continue reading Powering up – Weeknote #108 – 26th March 2021

Social loafing – Weeknote #107 – 19th March 2021

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I have spent a lot of the week interviewing staff and students as part of a project we’re doing at Jisc. We have been talking to them about their thoughts and perspectives on digital learning. As with a lot of these kinds of interviews there are some interesting individual insights, however the real insight comes from analysing all the interviews and seeing what trends are in there.

Have been working with Lawrie and Advance HE on a session on digital for a Spotlight Series for Senior Strategic Leaders which takes place on the 30th March.

Institutional strategies and the delivery of research and teaching are underpinned by digital, never more so than during the Covid-19 emergency. This workshop will engage leaders in understanding the ramifications for leading in this increasingly digital world, reflecting on some of the lessons learned during 2020, and looking forward through a digital lens at what might be possible and what might be needed in higher education over the next five years.

Image by TuendeBede from Pixabay

Quite intrigued by the term social loafing which I heard about this week.

In social psychology, social loafing is the phenomenon of a person exerting less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when working alone.

This resonated some of my experiences in doing individual and group work.

Have been talking about our strategy document with colleagues as well and how we expect the document to be used by them with universities.

BT’s Openreach to build full-fibre internet ‘like fury’ after Ofcom move was reported by the BBC. This should result in better broadband, but could also mean more expensive internet connections for some. The pandemic has demonstrated the need and dependency on good and fast connections for remote teaching and learning, as well as for working from home. Personally upgrading to FTTP has resulted in not just more bandwidth, but also more reliability as well.

I enjoyed this comic strip from 1997 and how it eerily predicted education in 2021 including always on camera surveillance.

My top tweet this week was this one.

But the coffee was so much better… – Weeknote #106 – 12th March 2021

In other years I would have been in Birmingham this week as it was Digifest, as it happens and not entirely unexpectedly, I find myself at home staring into a webcam instead of standing on a stage and siting down in my chair to watch presentations on a screen. Not quite the same experience, but the coffee was so much better….

I was chairing a series of sessions on the Monday, which was interesting and I had to chair the Q&A, which was challenging in an online environment, as questions were often posted without the context or needed clarification, which resulted in some confusion on the part of the speakers.

Wednesday I was delivering a 30 minute session on the future of digital leadership, in which I stared at my webcam. I have no idea how many people were watching the session, was it a thousand people, or was it just three people.

I have blogged many times in the past about the advantages of an online conference, and of course the main one is that the coffee is so much better.

I do think that this conference missed a trick by not having either a chat function, or a space to discuss the presentations. Yes some of us uses the Twitter, but it’s not quite the same (and it’s public as well).

It appeared to go down well with a few comments on the Twitter.

The thing is how would I know. It was really hard to get any kind of feedback from the audience, in the main as I couldn’t see them.

Going through an old USB drive and found a funding proposal about using tools such as Jaiku and Twitter with HE students studying in FE Colleges.

The proposed name of the project

Mmm Coffee

Which was an acronym of…

MiCrO blogging For he in FE made Easy

We didn’t get the funding, in case you were interested….

Tried out the transcription feature of Zoom, I love transcription

“yeah yeah you know, yes, so I joined a piggy bank robber host and therefore you’re talking child”

I can’t even remember now what I actually said!

My top tweet this week was this one.

A shared understanding – Weeknote #105 – 5th March 2021

cogs
Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay

I started as Head of Higher Education at Jisc on the 1st March 2019. So I have done two years (and a bit), had three line managers, a changing role and, oh yes, a global pandemic.

On Monday I had an excellent conversation with Isabel Lucas from Cumbria about the HEDG meeting I was presenting at, at the end of the week.

I have been sharing internally (and externally) the draft of the Jisc HE Strategy.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Another post on language, this time from Wonkhe: Why what we mean by “online learning” matters.

As higher education institutions plan for what will happen as we move slowly towards more students being on campus, there is continuing chatter about the form that teaching and learning will take. This includes how best to deliver it and how to communicate what this might look like. In all of this discussion, there has been a proliferation of words like “remote learning”, “digital learning”, and “hybrid learning” – and these terms have largely been taken for granted in respect to their pedagogical nuance. But if the preferred solution to the problems created by the pandemic in the first semester was “blended learning”, as we tumble through a second semester it would appear that the HE sector is beginning to settle on its next term of preference – “online learning”.

We do seem to spend a lot of time discussing what we should call what we do. The article makes the point that this does matter. I disagree slightly what matters is not what it is called, but whatever it is called, we have an agreed and shared understanding of what is means for you, for me and the students. We change the term, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we change our understanding. I recall having this discussion about the use of the term hybridthat I used in an article to mean responsive and agile, whilst someone else was using the term to describe a mixed approach. Words are important, but shared understanding actually allows us to move forward.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Wednesday I joined a panel at the Westminster Education Forum to deliver a session on the future use of technology in assessment.

“The future for England’s exam system – building on best practice from the 2020 series, the role of technology and ensuring qualifications equip young people with the skills to succeed post-18”

I only had five minutes, so not a huge amount of time to reflect on the challenges and possibilities. To think a year ago I would have had to travel to London by train, find the venue and then join the panel in-person. Today, I just switched on the webcam and there I was, did my presentation and then answered a few questions. I didn’t use slides, as there wasn’t always a need to use slides in these kinds of panel sessions and at an in-person event I wouldn’t have used slides.

Of course at a physical in-person event they would have provided lunch, which would then give delegates an opportunity to come and chat about what I had been talking about. That didn’t happen this time. I would say that though using Twitter as a digital back channel at physical in-person events does sometimes work, but people have to be using the Twitter. At edtech events I find a fair few people are , at other kinds of events, not so much.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

I liked this post from the Independent: I’m tired of hearing that universities are closed – it simply isn’t true

Lecturers are doing all they can during the pandemic to support the myriad different ways in which students learn

It’s not as though the physical campuses are closed, they are open for those courses which require a practical element.

Then again schools are not closed, they are open for the children of key workers, as well as vulnerable children, and staff are working with them and delivering remote teaching to the children at home.

Yes the experience is variable across the country, even across a school, but to keep saying they are closed, doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Lens
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

On Thursday I had a really good discussion with a university about digital strategy. How important it is aligned to the main university strategy, but also how it enables that strategy and other strategies as well. If you are in charge of a strategy, how does it enable others, and how do others enable yours?

At the end of the week I was involved in the HEDG meeting and did a presentation on Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme and where Jisc is going next. It was good meeting and the presentation seemed to hit the spot.

I had a planning meeting about a session we’re doing with Advance HE on digital leadership which looks like it will be a really good session.

Looked at the presentation I am doing next week at Digifest on the future of digital leadership, what it is and where we are potentially going.

Favourite HE story of the week was Campus capers, 1970 style from Wonkhe.

Strange things sometimes happen in universities and we’ve reported plenty of them here over the years. From hauntings and strange happenings to animal action and of course true crime events on campus. But this event which recently caught my eye is one of the oddest I’ve noticed lately. It all happened just over half a century ago at Keele University. Those were turbulent times as the world transitioned out of the end of the heady 60s era into a very different decade.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Pedagogy first – Weeknote #104 – 26th February 2021

calendar
Image by Amber Avalona from Pixabay

The end of this week marks my second year as Jisc’s Head of Higher Education. I have spent nearly 50% of this job in lockdown. I have also been writing weekly weeknotes for all that time as well.

Had a fair few meetings this week with universities talking about strategy, leadership as well as teaching and learning.

I had a Diversity and Inclusion workshop with the team. We were asked a few questions, but this was my response to: What do you think is the top priority for us that we need to work on?

Recognition that excluded groups don’t have the same advantages and privileges that others have. This has an impact on background, qualifications, experience and needs as an employee. We need to be creative and supportive in bringing excluded groups into the talent pool, but also recognise that recruitment is only part of the issue. Working practices, culture and expectations are there too. Society isn’t fair, we need to be not just equitable but also positive in what we will do.

I ran an online workshop for the current teaching and learning discovery project I am working on. I asked the question, what do we mean by blended learning, well that led to a really interesting discussion.

I do find online workshops quite challenging, and though there are tools out there, such as Miro, that can help, when you don’t know what expertise people have with those kinds of tools, I usually try and avoid using them. Simply put, as a result you spend more time trying to help people to use the tool, and those that can’t get into it, don’t have the opportunity to engage with the actual exercise.

Space
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thursday saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.

Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all. I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.

I wrote some more on this on my blog.

I also enjoyed reading David Kernohan’s thoughts on the report.

I did another post about the report on the definition of high quality teaching and how it relates to the use of video.

I have been reading the document and overall yes I do welcome the report, I think it has covered the background and situation on the response to the pandemic well.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Friday afternoon I attended the Intelligent Campus Community Event. Since I left the project two years ago, a RUGIT sub-group have taken over the organisation of the event, which is great. It was quite interesting to re-immerse myself into that space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Went out of the window – Weeknote #103 – 19th February 2021

Brean Down
Brean Down, James Clay

It was half term, so my children were at home. Well they were at home last week as well, so not a huge change in the house this week, well less concerns about home schooling!

I did think about taking some leave, but with nowhere to go and not much enthusiasm in the household for doing stuff I like doing, I decided to try and have a meeting free week. I booked out my diary and at the start of the week I had just two meetings booked in. By the end of the week after a lot of different things happened, so I had about fifteen meetings in the end. My hope for no meetings went out of the window.

I did enjoy this blog post on misunderstanding excellence, which explored the concept that excellence of an organisation is not dependent on the excellence of its parts.

If we are as an organisation excellent at what we care about but have a clunky part of the infrastructure, there are only so many conclusions you can reach about that infrastructure.

  1. Making our infrastructure excellent would lead to an order of magnitude improvement on an already excellent system.
  2. The clunky infrastructure IS PART OF the overall excellence.
  3. The clunkiness or otherwise of the infrastructure makes little difference to the excellence of the organisation.

I would suggest the first of these is just silly to suggest, however much the consultants would suggest otherwise. If the second is true it is imperative we do nothing to “improve” our infrastructure. If the third is true, it doesn’t matter.

I think reflecting on the article is that we don’t know what excellence is.

Knightstone Island
Knightstone Island, James Clay

The first half of the week was dominated by finalising the draft of the Jisc HE Strategy which will be launched the week of Digifest. We have been creating a document for externals senior HE stakeholders on how Jisc can and could support the HE sector over the next three years and beyond to 2030.

I agreed with this tweet by Matt Lingard on the scheduling of webinars.

If these webinars are important for the work we do in Higher Education then don’t make them during lunchtimes. People need a break from their screens at some point in the day. With the lockdown this is even more important for people’s wellbeing. So if you are thinking about when to run a webinar, don’t run it at lunchtime!

magnifying glass
Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

I had a blog post published on the Advance HE blog, Looking through the digital lens, in which I reflect on how we may want to start to look through a digital lens on our strategic priorities.

Knowing that digital has been critical to dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, the question now remains: how and what role will digital play in the post-pandemic strategic priorities of the university?  Continue reading Went out of the window – Weeknote #103 – 19th February 2021

No snow – Weeknote #102 – 12th February 2021

Well no snow again… everyone else seems to have had it.

Got bogged down into internal systems and processes this week, something which I have been avoiding in my new role, well I say new role, I have been doing this job for nearly two years now. In my old role I would have to deal with contracts and suppliers, not so much as Head of HE. However with working with universities on digital strategy, digital leadership and blended learning, means I need to immerse myself back into these systems.

Did a fair amount of work on future visions this week.

I think this is an interesting concept for future online events. The concept is to record some keynote videos that can be made available for online conferences. Reminded me of how some have used TED talks in the past. However there is a difference between YouTube or Netflix and an online conference.  How do you add value to an event so that it is more than just streamed video? How do you facilitate social interactions, networking, discussion and also how do you encourage this?

Had an interesting and useful discussion on assessment this week with colleagues from the UK and Australia. The key challenges the HE sector have faced over the pandemic include: maintaining academic standards and quality as assessment is transformed, student wellbeing and engagement in regard to assessment, the skills and capabilities of staff to assess online, and how to transform at scale and at pace. There are still issues with assessing within in vocational and practical qualifications, There are challenges with PSRBs and Professional Certification.

These are the main challenges and pain points that arose from our research back in April and more recently, it is not an exclusive list and is potentially going to change as universities move again through the assessment process and learn new lessons on what they can and can not do.

  • Maintaining the academic standard and quality as required by internal and external regulations, as they translate and convert existing practice into online modes.
  • Ensuring staff have the necessary digital skills and capabilities to successfully deliver online assessment, across the assessment lifecycle. Each step of the lifecycle will require different skills to deliver.
  • Transform multiple modes of assessment to online versions at scale and at pace. Many universities have experience of designing and delivering online assessment, however they will not have done this at scale or transformed at the pace required.
  • Maintain student engagement through the next few weeks and through the assessment process, as they continue to socially isolate and study remotely.
  • Ensure student wellbeing during a time of crisis remotely and consider the impact of online assessment on wellbeing as an extra pressure and source of stress.
  • What technologies are out there that could be used to design, deliver and support online assessment? Which technologies should we be using?
  • What are other universities doing with online assessment? What best practice is out there? Who is doing it well? How do we compare?

My top tweet this week was this one.

It didn’t pitch! – Weeknote #101 – 5th February 2021

We had snow at the weekend, but it didn’t pitch.

I had a week of meetings which was exhausting and quite tiring. Spent a lot of the week working on Jisc’s HE Teaching and Learning Strategy. I had meetings with key stakeholders within Jisc, as well as digging though university needs and ambitions.

lens
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I wrote a blog post for Advance HE on digital leadership, which will be published in a couple of weeks. It was based around the concept of the digital lens.

A strategic digital lens allows universities to better understand how digital and technology can enable them to achieve their core strategic priorities. It can help inform staff how they will use digital in their work to meet the institutional priorities.

I blogged a few years ago on the evolution of this concept within my work in Jisc.

magnifying glass
Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

Lawrie published a blog post, Stop normalising pandemic practices! There are some out there who think that what we are doing is what we want to do when the pandemic ends. However Lawrie reflected “I do want people to remember that pandemic technology practices don’t have to be everyday practices when we are out of this.”

What we are doing now is not normal and I don’t think we will be going back to what we had before.

We are reviewing the concept of the Technical Career Pathway within Jisc, I worked on the Learning Technologist pathway, but we’ve had little take up, but I think one key factor has been we don’t really employ dedicated learning technologists. I had a meeting this week to review on what we might need to do in the future.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

We have been reviewing Data Matters 2021, which was a charged for online event. Some individuals  have been challenging the concept of charging for online events, but would be happy to pay for an in-person event. Despite being online there are costs in organising and running online events. Having said that do we need to have events, could we achieve the same impact via different channels or medium? There are other online channels that could be used instead of an online event using a dedicated platform. An online event which is mainly about the transmission of content, probably shouldn’t exist, just use a YouTube channel! My experiences of the Jisc e-Learning Conferences back in the late 2000s was that these events could be (and were) highly engaging and interactive. There was conversations and discussions, as well as presentations. These events were value for money and people, though questioned the fee, did feel they were value for money. People don’t always value free events.

Had a fair few meetings with universities this week talking about blended learning, digital strategy and embedding digital practice across an organisation.

My top tweet this week was this one.