Category Archives: weeknotes

Shorter – Weeknote #73 – 24th July 2020

A shorter week as I was on leave for a couple of days.

Over the weekend I published the thinking and an expanded textual version of my  presentation to the University of Hertfordshire, where I talked about the possibilities of technology, and the ethical, privacy and legal aspects of said technology.

Monday saw my end of year review meeting. These weeknotes have been useful in remembering what I have been doing and where. Blogging not just weeknotes, but also about events I have attended or presented at also helps in preparing for these kinds of things. Even if you don’t publish them as I do, maintaining some kind of record over the year helps with preparation for reviews.

tree trunk
Image by Picography from Pixabay

I am working with colleagues on the Learning and Teaching Reimagined project. We are looking at undertaking various activities, as well as publishing some definitive guides for leaders in relevant areas.

One of the key aspects, which we are ensuring is recognising that though the technological challenges and issues do need to be addressed and resolved, one of the core issues is looking at the pedagogy in using technology to deliver learning and teaching, remotely and online. As demonstrated with my series on translation, it is often easier to translate existing physical face to face practice into online version, but this loses the nuances of that physical delivery, whilst ignoring the affordances that online and digital can provide.

exam
Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay

I found this opinion article on the Guardian on facial recognition interesting and relevant.

As students sit their exams during the pandemic, universities have turned to digital proctoring services. They range from human monitoring via webcams to remote access software enabling the takeover of a student’s browser. Others use artificial intelligence (AI) to flag body language and background noise that might point to cheating.

In my work on assessment I did research and look at digital proctoring. Most universities realised that the technology, despite the protestations of the companies involved, was unfair and could negatively impact on wellbeing. There were also concerns about the validity of such proctoring. Universities have also recognised that not every student was in a space, have the connection or the right kind of device to enable them to participate in said remote exams.

I wrote up my thoughts in this blog post.

Someone shared this excellent XKCD comic on the Twitter.

XKCD have a wonderful perspective of some of the key issues of the day and this diagram looking at the risks of Covid-19 along with risks of non-Covid-19 activities did raise a smile in me.

My top tweet this week was this one.

What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Last Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. There was some really nice feedback from delegates at the conference.

Really hard to gauge feedback when delivering via Teams and all I can see is my Powerpoint presentation screen. Twitter at least gives me some insight to how it was received.

It would appear that my blog post on the main Jisc website was picked up by academics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  Continue reading What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Communicating with impact – Weeknote #71 – 10th July 2020

Early in the week I was preparing for my presentation on Friday, as well as working on some more future vignettes.

I spent two days this week doing CPD on “communicating with impact”. Though I have spent over twenty five years presenting, I still think there are things you can learn and unlearn as well.

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Jisc made the news having helped UK universities comply with China internet limits for their international students who are unable or unwilling to travel to the UK.

UK universities are testing a new online teaching link for students in China – which will require course materials to comply with Chinese restrictions on the internet.

The pilot project involves four Russell Group universities – King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, York and Southampton – and is run by JISC, formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, which provides digital services for UK universities.

BBC hasn’t quite caught up that JISC is now Jisc.

Despite hearing some anecdotal evidence to the contrary, it was interesting to read in the Guardian that  UK universities receive record number of applications in lockdown.

A record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to go to university, with numbers rising significantly during lockdown, according to the university admissions service UCAS.

We are seeing a political shift in how central Government view the university sector.

Government to scrap 50% of young to university target

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is to scrap a commitment to get 50% of England’s young people into university, which was reached for the first time last year.

He is also promising a German-style further education system with a focus on higher technical qualifications.

Tony Blair set the target over 20 years ago to boost social mobility.

University campus
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. Originally when planned I would have travelled over to Hatfield to deliver the conference in person. With everything that has happened since March, I did my presentation via Teams. My presentation was on learning analytics and ethics.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Going local – Weeknote #70 – 3rd July 2020

A shorter week for me, as I took some time off for family business, well a birthday.

The Guardian reported on the Universities Minister, lambasting English universities for letting down students.

The 20-year crusade to get more young people into higher education appears at an end, after the universities minister accused England’s universities of “taking advantage” of students with dumbed-down courses that left them saddled with debt.

In a significant shift in policy, Michelle Donelan declared it was time to “think again” about the government’s use of higher education to boost social mobility.

Though wasn’t her government in charge for half of that time? What it appears this will mean is that courses which result in high paying jobs will take priority over those that don’t.

I have always felt that education was so much more than getting qualifications and as a result getting highly paid jobs. Some courses are useful to society, but not from a financial perspective. The question is though who pays for those courses, is it government or someone else?

I have been working on some vignettes about the future. They provide ideas, concept and inspiration on the future of higher education. They are not detailed plans of what is going to happen, but will stimulate discussion amongst leaders, managers and staff in universities on what might happen and what could happen.

Here is an early example:

The localised university

We have become so accustomed to young people leaving home to go off to university that the concept of not leaving home to participate in higher education, though common to many, was seen as a somewhat alien concept.

However with the cost of travel and housing rising, as well as concerns about climate change and the impact of travel and commuting on the environment. Many universities decided to take the university to the community.

Some of the delivery would be done individually online, it was also apparent that the connectedness and social aspects of learning would require students coming together.

In small towns across the country, groups of students would come together to learn. Even though the teaching was delivered remotely, the learning was done together. Core aspects of the course would be delivered to larger groups, whilst more specialised teaching would be delivered to smaller cohorts or in some cases individually. The university would either build, convert or hire spaces for teaching and would use the internet to deliver live high quality video to groups of students from subject experts from across the country and in some cases globally.

The students would be supported in person and locally, by skilled facilitators who would ensure that the students would get the appropriate help as and when required.

Content would be delivered digitally, using online resources as required, or even 3D printing of physical objects in the home.

Specialist and practical subjects would be delivered at regional hubs that could be used by students from any university. This would mitigate the need to travel regularly or commute to a campus everyday.

It became apparent early on that much of student support could be delivered remotely, however local specialist support providers working for multiple universities could easily work with students in their catchment area.

Some bemoaned the decline of the “student experience” on campus, but what was discovered early on, in the same way has had happened on physical university campuses in the past, students would, using social networking, create their own local groups and societies, and then would arrange their own social and networking events. Some of these would be online, by many would happen at local social spaces.

I have been on different vignettes in order to make people think, inspire and stimulate discussion. Continue reading Going local – Weeknote #70 – 3rd July 2020

They think it’s all over… – Weeknote #69 – 26th June 2020

typewriter
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

So what do you understand by the term blended learning? What about an online course? A hybrid programme? Could you provide a clear explanation of what student wellbeing is? At the end of last week I published a blog post on language.

Last week I delivered two presentations, one was a planned presentation for a QAA workshop, the other, well it wasn’t supposed to be a presentation, but due to a lack of response from the audience in the networking session I was in, I quickly cobbled together a presentation based on the slides I had used for the QAA.

I pulled together the idea into a single blog post. It is a combination and an expansion of the presentations I delivered about my thoughts of what happened, what then happened, what we need to think about and what we could do.

So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced.  My question is this, where (physically) are those universities expecting their students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well. This was the question I asked in another blog post I published this week. Though as the week went on we saw the government start to ease the lockdown restrictions. I suspect we will see some (or even most) universities follow suit.

Dave White

That Dave White (who also became ALT President this week) blogged about the lecture paradox which reminds me of his eventedness talk at ALT-C ten years ago. Continue reading They think it’s all over… – Weeknote #69 – 26th June 2020

Maintaining the quality – Weeknote #68 – 19th June 2020

I spent the best part of Monday preparing, planning and rehearsing for the  QAA online workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment I am participating in.

An article I write was published in University Business this week. Regular readers of the blog will realise that this was a reworked (and polished) version of a blog post I published a few weeks back.

Throughout the pandemic, universities have done their utmost to make sure continuity of learning has been maintained as much as possible, and the pace at which the sector has moved is amazing. But now that the initial period of response is coming to a close, and universities are starting to look at more long-term options, a consideration of online pedagogy and strategy will be important.

On Tuesday I had another article published, this time in The PIE News.

As coronavirus turns the traditional university experience upside down, changing the ways we design and deliver teaching, are contact hours still a valuable mark of quality?

I spent most of the day in my Senior TEL Group meeting where we discussed the group’s current challenges and what potentially kind of support from Jisc they need. Issues that did arise included workload planning, curriculum scheduling and timetabling.

conference
Image by Spencer Garner from Pixabay

On Wednesday, UUK published the results of a survey on how universities will deliver teaching and learning this autumn.

97% of universities surveyed confirmed that they will provide in-person teaching at the start of term this year, with 78 universities (87%), also stating that they will offer in-person social opportunities to students, including outside events and sporting activities, all in line with government and public health guidance.

microphones
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Thursday I did two online presentations, one was 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.

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 also ran a session at Jisc’s Connect Morewhich I have called What of the future?My session was 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? This was a challenging session, despite having 80+ people in the Zoom session, there wasn’t many contributions from the delegates. I am not sure if it was my session, or the fact that it was the last session of the day, or the platform (we were using the Zoom webinar platform) didn’t necessarily facilitate engagement that well. In the end I did a quick presentation about my thinking of what the short term future means for universities and colleges.

I have been thinking following conversations earlier this week about scheduling of hybrid and blended programmes on a socially distanced campus.

So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced. Some parts will be delivered online through tools such as Zoom, Teams and the VLE. Some will be asynchronous, but some won’t.

My question is this, where (physically) are you expecting your students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well.

Imagine a commuter student (or a student who lives some distance from the university) who has arrived on campus for a physical face to face seminar and then needs to attend an online session. Where are they expected to do that? If they are to be on campus, where would they go? Would they know where they could go? Are they expected to go “home”?

My top tweet this week was this one.

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. Continue reading Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

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