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.

Pausing for thought

Just a thought, a one hour lecture paused six times, isn’t this the same as six ten minute lectures?

Gravity AssistYesterday 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 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.

However moving forward, it misses many opportunities to fully exploit the affordances of digital.

An example on page 42

We heard that to create high-quality digital teaching and learning, it is important not simply to replicate what happens in an in-person setting or transpose materials designed for in-person delivery to a digital environment. For example, an hour-long in-person lecture should not simply be recorded; rather, it needs to be broken down into more manageable chunks. In other words, teachers need to reconsider how they approach teaching in a digital environment.

Why does it need to be broken down? Has no one heard of the pause button?

A one hour lecture paused six times, is the same as six ten minute lectures.

How is six ten minute lectures better quality than a one hour lecture paused six times?

video camera
Image by Robert Lischka from Pixabay

I wrote this back in September following a conversation with a lecturer about this very issue, who like me couldn’t work out why they needed to chunk their lectures.

Doing a 60 minute (physical) face to face lecture is one thing, generally most people will pause through their lecture to ask questions, respond to questions, show a video clip, take a poll, etc…

Doing a 60 minute live online lecture, using a tool like Zoom or Teams, is another thing. Along with pauses and polls as with a physical face to face lecture you can also have live chat alongside the lecture, though it can help to have someone else to review the chat and help with responses.

Doing a 60 minute recording of a lecture is not quite the same thing as a physical face to face lecture, nor is it a live online lecture.

There is a school of thought which says that listening to a live lecture is not the same thing as watching a recording of a lecture and as a result that rather than record a 60 minute lecture, you should break it down into three 20 minute or four 15 minute recordings. This will make it better for the students.

For me this assumes that students are all similar in their attention span and motivation, and as a result would not sit through a 60 minute lecture recording. Some will relish sitting down for an hour and watching the lecture, making notes, etc… For those that don’t, well there is something called the pause button.

With a recording you don’t need to break it down into shorter recordings, as students can press the pause button.

remote control
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

Though I think a 60 minute monologue is actually something you can do, why do it all the time? You could, for other sessions do different things, such as a record a lecture in the style of a television broadcast or a radio programme.

If you were starting afresh, there is something about breaking an online lecture down into more sections and intersperse them with questions, chat and polls, just as you would with a 60 minute physical face to face lecture. If you have the lecture recordings already, or have the lecture materials prepared, then I would record the 60 minutes and let the students choose when to use the pause button.

The reality is that if you want to create high quality digital teaching and learning, you need to start from the beginning with what the learning outcomes will. Chunking your existing processes doesn’t result in a higher quality experience, it merely translates what you did before, but in a way which is not as good but in a digital format. It loses all the nuances of what made that physical in-person session so good and has none of the affordances that digital could bring to the student experience.

Probably the best way of thinking about this, is this is a first stage, the next stage is making it happen.

Ground control to Major Tom

New Horizons
This artist’s concept shows NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. (Image credit: Southwest Research Institute)

Today 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.

Gravity Assist

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.

Ten years ago I wrote this post.

It’s not always about the technology, however in order to utilise technology effectively and efficiently, it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. How else are they going to apply the use of technological solutions to learning problems? Most practitioners are more than aware of the learning problems they and their learners face, what they need are solutions to those problems.

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.

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.

Done a ton of these now… – Weeknote #100 – 29th January 2021

Pile of papers
Image by athree23 from Pixabay

So I have made it to a hundred weeknotes. Wasn’t sure if I could keep it up and some are better and more informative than others. The lockdown has resulted in them being less of a travelogue. Sometimes when writing them I would realise that what I was writing would be better as a blog post. They certainly are for me, the stats on them are quite low and there are many more popular posts on the blog.

iPad
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Tuesday and Wednesday was Data Matters 2021, an online version of a conference which I did actually start planning back in 2019. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021. We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online. The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future. I attended a lot of the sessions and did the final closing statement as well. It was well attended and as a paid for event was the first in modern Jisc as a paid virtual conference.

laptop and notebook
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Did some planning as well this week, haven’t planned a project for a while, but it was quite easy to get back onto the Confluence Jira bandwagon for this. I have to say I use these tools for my individual work planning, but this was the first time in ages that I was doing this for a team.

Even though all my meetings these days are online meetings I found this article by Atlassian on better meetings useful and interesting.

Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.

I posted some thoughts on meetings on my tech blog.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Though this article in The Guardian was published at the beginning of January I only saw it this week.

Fears over the impact of coronavirus are fuelling a longer-term trend towards studying nearer home.

More final-year pupils than ever before are applying to local universities so that they can study closer to home, amid concerns that the impact of the pandemic may extend into the next academic year.

This echoes one of the future visions on the hyperlocal university I wrote for Learning & Teaching Reimagined.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Inauguration – Weeknote #99 – 22nd January 2021

99 Flake
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

I have been working on proposals this week, which is always a challenging activity for me, as I need to be concise and succinct, whilst my default when it comes to writing is to be extended and I make extensive use of redundant terms.

In researching some news and links for a presentation on digital poverty I discovered this blog post by Daniel Stanford from March on low bandwidth teaching, which resonated with some of my thinking.  I had the day before published a blog post on my experiences in using consumer technology for teaching and learning, which looked at low bandwidth and synchronous teaching.

In the post I reflected that the key issue is rethinking the curriculum and the pedagogy. We have designed courses for in-person face to face teaching. Most of the time this has been converted (or translated) into a remote delivery format. It has not been converted to reflect the opportunities that online pedagogy can bring to the table. Even if it has then often the mobile pedagogy isn’t even thought about. Teaching and learning remotely is one thing, online teaching and learning is another, and mobile teaching and learning is different again. The solution appears to be a combination of redesigning the curriculum, to be a combination of low bandwidth, asynchronous type activities, alongside traditional live streaming, with option to deliver content to learners to access on their devices at a time and place to suit them.

Understanding where your learners are and how they will access teaching and on what device and connection is critical when it comes to successful curriculum design.

Daniel illustrated this idea of Bandwidth versus Immediacy through the following graphic.

Wonkhe on a similar note published this article on the same kind of subject.

Asynchronous learning gives students the chance to treat modules like box sets, bingeing or skipping as they see fit. Tom Lowe wonders what this might mean for learning.

I read this by Peter Bryant, which was published last week, on the snapback. He reflects on the changes that the pandemic has brought into higher education, but wonder what would happen when we can go back to in-person face to face teaching?

Whilst all these changes were borne out of the pandemic, would I want to go back to large didactic lectures, social isolation, mass exams and tutorials driven by repetition and memorisation? Firstly, that was never the exclusive way we taught, so many colleagues were doing amazing, innovative social pedagogies before and during the pandemic. But across the sector I reckon face to face lecture/tutorial/exam was a pretty dominant pathway for learning pre-pandemic. So, what happens when we can do those things again, face to face? What happens when we don’t have to worry about Zoom bombing, invasive proctoring solutions and the impersonality of online learning? Will we learn from this mess and value the ‘human interaction’ that a two-hour lecture using PowerPoint or a three-hour handwritten exam affords us?

Jisc offices in Bristol, December 2019
Jisc offices in Bristol, December 2019

With new safety protocols prompting design changes, traditional office spaces may be a thing of the past and this was explored in this article in The Guardian.

The pandemic has shown us that work can go on without a workplace. If it can be done online, it can be done from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. At the same time, however, the move to remote work has revealed the value of the workplace, as many employees hanker to return to the office. In light of these two opposing trends, what might the office of the future actually look like?

Jisc offices in Bristol, December 2019
Jisc offices in Bristol, December 2019

I had my mid-year review this week, and as with other reviews, these weeknotes have been useful in referencing some of my work. Seemed to go okay, which is nice. We reviewed my objectives, deleted a couple and added some more.

I had to write some notes for the Data Matters Conference, these I edited and published as an article on my blog.

Wednesday saw the inauguration of a new US President and hopefully a more positive future.

Private Eye Cover

In 2018, the government launched a review of post-18 education and funding, with the aim of ensuring that post-18 education gives everyone a genuine choice between high quality technical and academic routes, that students and taxpayers are getting value for money, and that employers can access the skilled workforce they need. This week the Government published a paper, that sets out an interim conclusion of the review, which responds to some of the key recommendations of the report of the independent panel led by Dr Philip Augar.

Coventry in January 2018

On Thursday I spent most of the day judging the University of Coventry Post-Graduate Researcher of the Year award. This did mean spending most of the day on Zoom. Quite exhausting, but quite a rewarding process. There were eight finalists, and each had to prepare a written statement, deliver a presentation and be interviewed. Challenging for this at the best of times, but more so with everything happening on Zoom. Hats off to Jennifer and Heather for some excellent organisation of the event, which made my contributions much easier to do.

discarded mask
Image by Roksana Helscher from Pixabay

It’s sobering to think that this week saw the highest daily death rate recorded from Covid. In the last seven days, 8565 people have died within 28 days of positive Covid test. On Wednesday we saw 1820 deaths. Putting that into perspective, that is more than 50% of the total deaths in The Troubles in Northern Ireland over thirty years! It is more deaths than the number of people who died on the Titanic in 1912. These are troubling times and it looks like it will be some time before we can think that the pandemic is over.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Enabling data certainty

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Data Matters 2021 is happening next week and it isn’t too late to book your place at the conference. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021.

We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online.

The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future.

The UK education sector is moving towards an uncertain future. The sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of industry 4.0 and student expectations. With COVID-19 having such a huge impact on the operation of the higher education sector now and in the foreseeable future, the entire student experience has been and will be disrupted by the restrictions in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. This has impacted on the use of formal and informal learning spaces, as well as an increasing reliance on online platforms and digital content.

The sector is facing real challenges in delivering a quality student experience during a time of uncertainty. There are difficulties in supporting students who are learning remotely and online, away from campus. There will be further challenges as students return to campus as lockdown eases, vaccine has an impact on infection rates and universities move from a remote model of delivery to a blended model that needs to reflect what enhances and improves the learning experience.

Universities will want to understand where, what and how their students are learning and what interventions they can make that will have a positive impact, and add certainty to the student experience in the face of uncertainty. They will also want to avoid acting unethically and within the legal constraints of GDPR.

The pandemic and resulting lockdown has also impacted on student recruitment, domestic as well as international. Universities have a responsibility to support all students to thrive and achieve, and it is increasingly recognised that students’ experiences are very different depending on a large number of factors, including background and personal circumstances, type and subject of their course. The mental health and wellbeing of students is an increasing concern for universities and sector bodies.

The role of data, analytics, data modelling, predictive analytics and visualisation will be a core aspect of this uncertain future, but the uncertainty will bring new challenges for the sector in how they utilise the potential of data. Public scepticism about algorithms and data use is creating new ethical and legal challenges in the gathering, processing and interpretation of data.

Digital is core to the UK’s higher education sector, enhancing and creating efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience and supporting staff in delivering excellence.

Book your place on the Data Matters 2021 Conference.

Also see this blog post by me on the Jisc website.

DVD pedagogy in a time of digital poverty

DVD
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

The challenges of digital poverty are making the news, with demands to ensure students have access to devices and connections. What isn’t making the news so much is demands to rethink the curriculum design and delivery so that it is less reliant on high end devices and good broadband!

Could we deliver content and learning via an USB stick or even on DVD?

This tweet by Donald Clark of a suggestion by Leon Cych to use USB flashdrives, reminded me of a presentation I delivered fifteen years ago.

Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.

I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning.

I also did a fair amount of work reflecting on how to convert learning content (from the VLE) to work on a range of devices from the PlayStation Portable (PSP), iPods, mp3 players, as well as devices that usually sat under the television, such as DVD players and media streaming devices.

So for an online conference I prepared a presentation on this subject.

Continue reading DVD pedagogy in a time of digital poverty

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…