Weeknote #136 – 8th October 2021

I was off sick with covid. I had worked Monday, but the rest of the week I was not very well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

 

I haz no petrol – Weeknote #135 – 1st October 2021

petrol pump
Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

Well the end of last week kicked off with a petrol crisis so had to rethink my planning for travelling for next week. Though there was plenty of supply local to me, I was a little wary of travelling north in case there were ongoing shortages there.

What was noticeable was how little (visual) impact this was having on universities and colleges. If this fuel crisis had happened before covid, I would have suspected (as happened with snow) that university campuses would have closed and teaching would have been cancelled. However these days with flexible working in place for many, it was just as easy to work from home and use the tools we have been accustomed to, to teach, have meetings, discuss, collaborate and so on. Lack of fuel rarely came up in conversations I was having over the week, for many it was a worry, but it wasn’t a big issue unless they actually needed to travel.

Like last week, most of the week was spent reading, analysing and writing.

Had a meeting about digital leadership. I spoke about the work I had done in this area over the years I have been at Jisc. As well as working on designing and developing the Digital Leadership Programme with Lawrie, we have also written and spoken about digital leadership at different events and conferences. More recently I have also delivered digital leadership consultancy to various universities. One thing that is often missed is the connection between leadership and strategy.

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Had a meeting about thought leadership, I actually don’t like the phrase and would not consider myself to be a (so-called) thought leader! However it is a term we use in Jisc and as a result I often have conversations and meetings about thought leadership.

Digging into this a little deeper, in Jisc’s strategy, we do thought leadership, because it is a critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.

A critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.

It should be noted that many in the sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership.  Universities have said a thought leader is more likely to be perceived as an individual than an organisation. Universities are more likely to look to other universities, peers and colleagues for thought leadership than a member body, company or organisation (like Jisc).

However if you ask universities about the actual content that is produced by Jisc that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, universities will often ask for specific people within Jisc, who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring. So though internally in Jisc we may call is thought leadership, the reality is that universities are looking to Jisc for inspiration, and we know that our articles, blog posts, guides are helping universities and colleges to transform. In our recent surveys respondents agreed we provide trusted advice and practical assistance to support their needs.

I have been contributing to the themes for next year’s Digifest conference, not sure how much of what I have said has added.

Leeds Business School Active Learning Studio
Leeds Business School Active Learning Studio

Was part of a panel for the SCONUL webinar on Blended Learning and the Shape and Design of Library Services. I spent my five minutes (rapidly) talking about the transition from in-person to emergency remote delivery, and that much of this was translation rather than transformation. Moving forward with the delivery of library services, we may want to think about as we move to online and digital models, what do we translate and what do we transform?

Still can’t get my head around the fact that the film That Thing You Do! Is twenty five years old now… twenty five years…

My top tweet this week was this one.

Making the time – Weeknote #134 – 24th September 2021

Like last week, most of the week was spent reading, analysing and writing.

I keep having conversations about hybrid teaching and in some cases hybrid working. Having partaken in hybrid meetings (a lot) before the pandemic, my overall opinion is to avoid them. Just have everyone in the room, or have everyone online. Avoid going hybrid with a mix if you can.

With the BBC reporting that new staff are to gain day one right to request flexible working many universities I am talking to are talking about flexible hybrid working.

Hybrid flexible working sounds all right in practice, but unless challenged and planned, what you may find is that all your staff want to work from home on Mondays and Fridays and come onto campus for the middle three days. As a result your campus is dead quiet at the ends of the week, with loads of room and free spaces, whilst it becomes more cramped and busy in the middle three days. Combine that with possible thinking, well as staff are only in 60% of the week we can sell off 40% of our office space and you start to realise that flexible, doesn’t necessarily mean a free for all.

Finished and published this week was the report from a workshop I worked on with the University of Cumbria and Advance HE.

Supporting Student Transitions into HE was an excellent event in which many generously shared viewpoints and challenges and having such a variety of institutions and roles added to the richness of the content. A little later than expected, we have published a resource pack we have created as an output from the event. We hope you find is useful in drawing up plans for the new start of term in September and/or January.

The pandemic forced a swift move to online learning in March 2020 which for many was the first experience of teaching and/or learning in the virtual environment. The sector news focussed in the educational aspect of the move in that initial phase reporting on concerns of quality, parity and applauding the pace of change with the digital skills agenda. The announcement of further lockdowns meant the initial, emergency, move now needed to be re-shaped into a more considered response that would potentially lead to sustained change across the sector.

watch
Image by Yogendra Singh from Pixabay

Wrote a blog post about time and online delivery.

When it comes to designing an online module or an in-person module with online elements, we can design the online aspects without the physical, geographical and chronological constraints of an in-person session.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lost in translation: time

clock
Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

Thomas Hardy

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

One of the things we noticed when the pandemic struck and lockdown happened, was as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version.

The two hour physical in-person lecture became a two hour online lecture.

Why was the online lecture two hours?

Well in the timetable it was two hours!

Why is it two hours on the timetable?

Well we only have the room for two hours.

But online you don’t need a physical room?

But the programme validation said we need to have a certain number of hours and the term is a number of weeks, the end result was two hours a week. That was in the timetable and that’s how long we have the room for. Someone else has the room before and after my session.

The thing is translating practice online doesn’t really work. You lose the nuances of what made the in-person experience so great and you don’t take the advantage of the affordances of what digital can bring.

There is no physical constraint on why an online two hour lecture needs to be two hours.

There may be (actual) timetabling constraints if the two hours is delivered live online, the students may need to attend another live online session. However this may not always be the case and certainly isn’t if the session is recorded in advance.

When it comes to designing an online module or an in-person module with online elements, we can design the online aspects without the physical, geographical and chronological constraints of an in-person session.

This means sessions can be designed to fit the topic, rather than fitting the topic to the session.

It means you can do longer sessions, or shorter sessions. 

Sessions no longer need to be weekly (as in you only have the room once a week). You can front load the delivery when delivering online, taking advantage of asynchronous recordings for example.

The real challenges here are more cultural and process, than technical or physical.

Was the module validation process designed for in-person modules? Can it be redesigned for mixed (blended) or online delivery?

Does the academic have the necessary skills to design an irregular model of delivery based around the topic and content rather than the availability of a specific room at a specific time once a week?

What about student expectations? Will they find an asynchronous, irregular timetable too much to handle?

Time is not a constraint, we are.

Supporting student transition to HE in a covid context

Published this week was the report from a workshop I worked on with the University of Cumbria and Advance HE.

The pandemic forced a swift move to online learning in March 2020 which for many was the first experience of teaching and/or learning in the virtual environment. The sector news focussed in the educational aspect of the move in that initial phase reporting on concerns of quality, parity and applauding the pace of change with the digital skills agenda. The announcement of further lockdowns meant the initial, emergency, move now needed to be re-shaped into a more considered response that would potentially lead to sustained change across the sector.

Supporting Student Transitions into HE was an excellent event in which many generously shared viewpoints and challenges and having such a variety of institutions and roles added to the richness of the content. A little later than expected, we have published a resource pack we have created as an output from the event. We hope you find is useful in drawing up plans for the new start of term in September and/or January.

Staff conference time – Weeknote #133 – 17th September 2021

Brean Down

I spent much of the week working from home.

Most of the week was spent reading, analysing and writing.

Guardian published this article: Awaiting a ‘tsunami of Covid’: UK lecturers fear students’ return.

Dr Stephanie Coen, assistant professor in health geography at Nottingham University, is eager to get back to teaching in person. But she fears that with students not required to wear masks when classes start in a few weeks, squeezing them like “sardines” into her tiny room for seminars will be unsafe.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised if we see a repeat of what we saw last September when students returned to university. Though the numbers initially back then weren’t high they did start to rise as term continued. What will happen now, we don’t really know.

This tweet from Alejandro Armellini resonated with me.

It was a thread of tweets about the importance of being pedagogically critical of new ways of delivery such as hybrid. Ale has actually done hybrid and brings that experience and perspective to his views.

Lawrie posted a really good blog post this week: We need to stop designing curricula with “white able males” as the default setting, based on a presentation he gave about the research he has been doing.

The pandemic has also shown us that we do not have to do anything special for the people for whom institutions and systems have been built. Our white male able students are going to be fine, they are the default category of person higher education is already built for..  It is ok–I would argue it is necessary– to start saying to ourselves “my starting point for designing this curriculum, this system, this process, will be to serve those students who are disadvantaged, who are disabled by our institutions.

Clifford's Tower in York
Clifford’s Tower in York by James Clay CC BY-NC 2.0

I went to York so this story was interesting for me: University of York offers students accommodation – in Hull.

The University of York is offering students housing an hour’s drive away in Hull due to a shortage of accommodation. The crisis has been sparked by an over-subscription on the university’s courses which has created a surge in demand for student housing.

This kind of situation is one reason why universities might want to consider a more flexible curriculum which takes advantages of the affordances of online and digital so that students don’t have to spent two to three hours commuting to campus five days a week. Though I imagine that students might actually want to go to campus (and the city) as they applied to York not Hull. I went to York as much for the city as for the course.

Thinking that this mobile telephony would never catch on….

Michael Rodd makes a call with an experimental cordless mobile phone.  It’s 1979 and time for the telephone to go mobile. In this report from a longer programme, Michael Rodd examines a British prototype for a cordless telephone that allows the user to make calls from anywhere. Also included at the end of this item is a rather nice out-take as Rodd also experiences the first mobile wrong number.

I do recall watching this when it was broadcast.

Of course we don’t really use our phones as phones these days, the mini computer we have in our pockets is now used for way more than just making calls.

Thursday I was off to Birmingham for our all staff conference.

This was my second in-person event in a week. I drove to Birmingham, parked my car. I parked at Five Ways. In the past when I parked there I would generally have to park on the roof, this time I could have parked on level 1, though as there was more room I parked on level 2. I walked to the ICC and showed my covid pass and I was into the event. There were nearly 500 Jisc staff in the event.

This was the final day for Paul Feldman as CEO and the first day for Heidi Fraser-Krauss our new CEO.

The day mainly consisted of talks with Q&A. There was some group work, but overall probably about 30 minutes worth, a missed opportunity I think, but it’s always challenging to design a programme such as this for 500 people. What was nice was the time to connect with people, though we obviously talk a lot through Teams and Zoom, there is something different about meeting in-person.

Friday I had a chat with some consultants about some possible work, and we also discussed the Intelligent Campus concept as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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