Category Archives: weeknotes

Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.

Making that move from the radio…

Making that move from the radio…

If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.

I had an article published on the Media FHE Blog. Continue reading Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

I want to be on television – Weeknote #63 – 15th May 2020

It was a nice long weekend, spoilt by somewhat confusing messages from the government released on Sunday night.

Though universities have more choice, FE Colleges are expected to re-open from 1st June for Year 12 learners, whilst maintaining social distancing.

I tried out the new BBC backgrounds…

I also (as everyone else is) posted some Zoom backgrounds of Weston-super-Mare to my other blog.

So if you are looking for some backgrounds for your Zoom and Teams calls, then here are some lovely pictures of the beach and pier at Weston-super-Mare that I have taken over the years.

Continue reading I want to be on television – Weeknote #63 – 15th May 2020

Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.

The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.

University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.

We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.

It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.

We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.

There was massive disappointment across the sector to the news that the government were not going to bailout the university sector or agree to the UUK plan. Continue reading Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

Adapting – Weeknote #61 – 1st May 2020

I spent some of Monday reflecting on an article in the Guardian at the weekend.

No campus lectures and shut student bars: UK universities’ £1bn struggle to move online

UK universities need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to deliver degrees online, with warnings that many are unprepared to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students’ education.

It has contributions from the likes of Martin Weller, Neil Morris and Diana Laurillard. It got me thinking, that we know good online learning takes time and money, however we don’t really have the time (and probably not the money either), so the question is, what can we do, what will have the most impact, and what can we also do to reduce the problems we face in moving online?

Of course we have moved to remote delivery, rather than full online learning. Even in September it probably will be a mix of delivery modes, you could even call it a blend of learning (sounds familiar) .

Reflecting on this, if every UK university created one excellent online degree between now and September (certainly possible) and then all universities shared their models/designs/content then we could be in better position than we are now, or even do a series of online modules that could be used by other universities.

Yes there are problems, issues and challenges, but can we afford to not do something. Sharing something, even small, has to be better than not sharing at all. So is this possible?  What needs to be in place to make this happen? What do we need to do to ensure it could work? What could you do to make this a success?

Jisc are hoping to run their Connect More events this year and I have been involved in a couple of early planning meetings. I was reminded of the article I contributed to about moving events online.

I spent part of the week (as I do now) collating voices from higher education about their needs and challenges across the current landscape, but also down the line for the next academic year.

Continue reading Adapting – Weeknote #61 – 1st May 2020

Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Having moved down into assessment over the last few weeks, I am now looking at teaching online and student wellbeing (and engagement).

We know that the move to teaching online was very much done quickly and rapidly, with little time for planning. Platforms needed to be scaled up to widespread use and most academics moved to translate their existing practice into remote delivery. This wasn’t online teaching, this was teaching delivered remotely during a time of crisis.

The Easter break gave a bit of breathing room, but even then there wasn’t much time for planning and preparation, so even now much of the teaching will be a response to the lockdown rather than  a well thought out planned online course.

Thinking further ahead though, with the potential restrictions continuing, institutions will need to plan a responsive curriculum model that takes into account possible lockdown, restrictions, as well as some kind of normality.

I was involved in a meeting discussing the content needs of Further Education, though my role is Higher Education, I am working on some responses to Covid-19 and content for teachers is one of those areas. What content do teachers need? Do they in fact need good online content? Who will provide that content? How will do the quality assurance? Do we even need quality assurance? And where does this content live? Continue reading Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Challenging – Weeknote #59 – 17th April 2020

A shorter week this week, as we had Easter Monday, of course with the lockdown I didn’t go anywhere on the long weekend and I am not going off to the office this week… this could result in an easy blurring of home and work. Though I generally am less strict during the working week, I kept the entire weekend free of work to have a decent break away. Though reading the news some relevant stuff does bubble to the surface such as this report from The Guardian on the potential drop in income universities will suffer as foreign students drop out.

Some universities are already expecting to lose more than £100m as foreign students cancel their studies, with warnings that the impact of coronavirus will be “like a tsunami hitting the sector”.

Several organisations are now planning for a 80-100% reduction in their foreign student numbers this year, with prestigious names said to be among those most affected. The sector is already making a plea to the government for a cash injection amounting to billions of pounds to help it through the crisis, as it is hit by a drop in international student numbers, accommodation deals and conference income.

There are also concerns that many domestic students will defer their entry for a year, if the first term in September will be online as it is now. I am wondering how many prospective students will defer their entry for a year as they wouldn’t want to miss the physical aspect of attending university. Similarly will there be first and second year undergraduates who will take a gap year.

We are starting to see the potential impact of this, as some universities are looking at delaying the start of term, whilst others are planning for online delivery.

Durham University is proposing online-only degrees as part of a radical restructuring process, the Palatinate reveals.

Confidential documents seen by Palatinate show that the University is planning “a radical restructure” of the Durham curriculum in order to permanently put online resources at the core of its educational offer, in response to the Covid-19 crisis and other ongoing changes in both national and international Higher Education.

The proposals seek to “invert Durham’s traditional educational model”, which revolves around residential study, replacing it with one that puts “online resources at the core enabling us to provide education at a distance.”

We don’t know for sure when the lockdown will be lifted, or what measures will stay in place, or even if they are lifted, whether they may come back down again, if there is a second or even a third wave of coronavirus infections. So it makes sense for universities to plan for online and remote delivery, something which is not the emergency models they have had to put in place right now.

It looks like the TEF has been indefinitely postponed.

I spent a lot of time this week discussing assessment and the challenges moving to online assessment. Of course assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning, so things you do for assessment need to be incorporated into the teaching and learning.

There are many challenges that the higher education sector faces with regard to assessment, but through my research, interviews and a landscape study, these challenges emerged as key to the sector.

Student engagement – Maintain student engagement through the next few weeks and through the assessment process, as they continue to socially isolate and study remotely.

Translating and transforming to online assessment at scale and at pace – 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.

Ensuring academic standards and quality when moving to online assessment – Maintaining the academic standard and quality as required by internal and external regulations, as they translate and convert existing practice into online modes.

Online assessment dashboards and benchmarking. – What are other universities doing with online assessment? What best practice is out there? Which universities are doing it well? How do universities compare? What do universities know about themselves?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Did I predict the virus? – Weeknote #58 – 10th April 2020

This week I have spent a lot of time looking at assessment, but also reflecting on the Plymouth e-learning conference where ten years ago I chaired a debate about closing the physical campus in times of crisis and disruption.

It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

Bunker

I was supposed to be on leave this week, we were heading off to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

I saw on Monday that the OfS on Friday had published new guidance on academic standards and quality.

There is recognition that in these challenging times that maintaining quality will be difficult. Continue reading Did I predict the virus? – Weeknote #58 – 10th April 2020

Merged – Weeknote #57 – 3rd April 2020

Roads

So it would appear after discussions last week that I am going to be leading a taskforce.

I have spent a fair amount of week looking at how universities are dealing with assessment it’s a varied world out there.

I also spent much of the week in calls and conversations.

The previous week I had five such calls in my calendar, though I know I did more than that. This week I had nineteen in addition to ad hoc conversations with people.

Normally in a weeknote I would discuss the different places I had been and what I was doing each day. In this locked down environment I am finding the days are merging into one blur of activity. My weeknotes may start to reflect that.

Great cartoon from XKCD on Covid-19.

Pathogen Resistance

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jack Schofield, one the real greats of tech journalisim.

This is so true and reminded me of those heady days not just in the 1990s but also in the early days of social media.

I have been reminded today of this blog post I write some time ago.

Starting with solutions is not necessarily the best place to start.

Dig a little deeper to identify the real problem.

It was this blog post from Chris Thomson on innovation reminded me of this.

The pressure is there to find innovative solutions to the various problems this presents us with. Because we are in a crisis and the stakes are high there must be a temptation to go for the low hanging fruit, to innovate in ways where we can tackle fix the symptoms instead of addressing the conditions that brought them about in the first place.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Dunes
Over the weekend we went to Brean Sands, won’t be going back for a while….

The office was still closed and Jisc had asked all staff to not to travel for work. It certainly felt like all the days were merging into a muddle of days. Even though I work from home a lot compared to others, I still had quite a bit of structure to my week, being out and about at least once a week if not more.

Last week I was supposed to be in London three times for example…. The week before I was in London for one day and Birmingham for two. This week, all at home….

This was also the day that all the schools were closed and as might be expected, school online learning services such as Doddle and Hegarty are not really coping with the demand for their services. Creating extra stress during these stressful times. We also need alternatives.

There was considerable strain on these services, which meant that I suspect a lot of children gave up and may not even try again.

I had a meeting discussing the Education 4.0 roadmap that I have been working on, this meeting was booked weeks ago, I was going to to Manchester to do this face to face, but of course now it was done online via Teams. Continue reading Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020