Tag Archives: blended learning

More connecting – Weeknote #166 – 6th May 2022

The early spring bank holiday meant a shorter working week for me.

Most of the week was being involved in Jisc’s Connect More 2022 event. I was chair for one day and a virtual host for another day. I wasn’t presenting as this was very much a practitioner focused event.

Some great and inspiring sessions.

Politics against entered the debate about in-person teaching and blended learning.

Universities could be fined for failing to return to in-person teaching, minister warns

Michelle Donelan has warned that if universities fail to return to face-to-face teaching, they may face large penalties. The universities minister told The Mail on Sunday she plans to “put boots on the ground” and send teams of inspectors to check staff attendance rates at campuses across the UK. Where universities don’t meet the required standards, they could “potentially be fined…

Helpful rhetoric? No, of course not.

Was involved in a few discussions about how students wanted to return to campus, but not necessarily to attend lectures.

Friday I went to the office in Bristol. It was quite busy compared the last time I was there.

The sector still appears to be reflecting on the concept of hybrid (or hyflex) teaching I read the following summary of ‘Hybrid Teaching and Learning in HE: a futuristic model or a realistic model for the future?’ was a question addressed at a workshop held by the University of Nottingham in early 2022, when universities were ready to turn the pandemic corner. More than 150 participants from around the globe were brought together to share their practice and learn from a community of academic and technical colleagues who had experienced hybrid teaching.

clocks
Photo by Ahmad Ossayli on Unsplash

I published a blog post on time. Do you have enough time to read it?

Though I have written about time lots of times over time (well at least the last twenty years); across the sector we are still discussing that we need to provide academics and practitioners with more time. There are still many voices out there, saying that the challenge with engaging practitioners with learning technologies is about providing them with time The trouble with talking about time, is that it is a somewhat simplistic perspective over what is a complex and challenging issue.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Getting it wrong – Weeknote #160 – 25th March 2022

I spent the week working from home, there was a combination of factors which influenced this decision, from home-schooling, builders, and plumbers. Next week I am in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference.

I spent some of the week working on a new sector group that can provide feedback to Jisc. This group will advise on Jisc’s strategic direction in the support of learning, teaching and assessment, and the student experience in higher education, and help to inform and shape the implementation of the HE sector strategy:

  • Advising on the current state of play and future direction of learning, teaching and assessment in the HE sector
  • Reflecting the views and user needs of senior managers in learning, teaching and student experience, as Jisc members and stakeholders
  • Helping to define the kinds of (digital) products, services, support, and sector engagement/advocacy which will be most beneficial to universities.

The Office for Students (OfS) launched their new strategy targeting quality and standards.

The OfS’s work on quality and standards aims to ensure that students receive a high quality academic experience which improves their knowledge and skills. Much provision in the English higher education sector is excellent – the focus of the OfS will be on challenging provision that falls short, and taking action as needed. On access and participation work, the OfS will encourage higher education providers to work in partnership with schools to raise attainment. These two areas of focus are mutually reinforcing, with effective regulation of quality helping to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the support they need to succeed in and beyond higher education.

From my perspective in supporting the OfS strategy is how digital and technology can support improving the quality of the student experience and widen participation in higher education.

OfS has also commissioned a report on the quality and impact of blended learning. I found this Wonkhe articleinteresting on how David Kernohan still hasn’t got over the last one

A notably independent review chair has been asked to produce a report drawing on evidence from the sector and from the wider literature. Because we need to know what “good” looks like in this mode of provision, so the regulator can ensure students are getting value for their fees.

David reminds us that a year ago the OfS published Gravity Assist.

Gravity Assist

Michael Barber could cite literature suggesting that blended learning may lead to better learning outcomes than in person alone, but as far as the national conversation is concerned this is now a deliberate ploy by universities to educate students on the cheap.

David continues…

Enter Susan Orr. Shortly to take up a Pro Vice Chancellor role at De Montfort University, and a creative arts educator and researcher of some repute, she – alongside an expert panel with membership yet to be determined – will report in the summer on: concerns that the poor quality of the online experience for some students during the pandemic has undermined the positive potential of mixing in-person and online course delivery

David’s conclusion is that Michael Barber must have got it wrong.

Campus
Image by Edgar Winkler from Pixabay

I had a meeting about updating the Jisc guide to the intelligent campus. We originally published the guide in 2017. This was at the time well received by the sector and continues to be the core guidance in this space. Since then, universities across the UK have been exploring how they can make their campuses smarter and intelligent.

Dr Kris Bloomfield (at the time CIO Durham) said of the guide This is an outstanding piece of work and massive kudos is due to those that contributed to the development and publication of this document.

As well as the guide there were numerous use cases that showed how the higher education sector could benefit from the intelligent campus concept.

Though I changed roles in March 2019, I have been talking about the intelligent campus space at various events. In July 2021 I spoke at the QAA conference with a presentation entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses? Last month I spoke at The Future of the Higher Education Estateonline event.

Obviously the covid pandemic had a huge impact on the university campus and how it was and will be used in the future. In last few years I have written some more posts about that aspect.

Intelligent Campus and coronavirus planning was a blog post on how the concept of the Intelligent Campus could help universities in their planning. I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially more helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.

The Intelligent Learning Space was a post based on my experiences on the Intelligent Campus project. As we design learning spaces, we can add sensors and mechanisms to collect data on the use of those learning spaces. It then how we analyse and use that data that allows those spaces to be initially smart and then intelligent.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Since the guide was published, there have been many changes to the landscape, as well as the covid-19 pandemic, there have been advances in smart campus technologies, and a new range of use cases.  We know from sector intelligence, member voice and Learning and Teaching Reimagined that the future of the campus is an important component when it comes to digital transformation. This has shown the need for Jisc to update their advice and guidance in this area.

This work would:

  • update the guide to reflect current thinking
  • add additional case studies from current practice
group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I expanded on my previous post on personalisation by looking at Jisc’s sector strategy perspective of personalisationand what Jisc may do in this space. So why is this space important to the sector? When we developed the HE strategy, we listened to what the sector was saying, what it was telling us, what we saw, and we also looked at the wider sector context, the regulatory space, the political space and importantly the student voice in all this.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Transforming – Weeknote #159 – 18th March 2022

According to a study museum visits do not improve GCSE results.

A family trip to the theatre or an afternoon at a museum may be a fun day out, but new research suggests that such cultural outings will not actually help children secure higher grades.

I love the implication that the only reason to do some cultural stuff is to secure higher grades at GCSE. Sometimes we as a family do stuff because it is fun, enjoyable or makes you think. A couple of weeks back we went to London for a day out, my daughter and I headed to the British Museum to see the Greek galleries. She had been reading the Percy Jackson series and now has a serious interest in Greek mythology. We both really enjoyed viewing the exhibits and reading the background and history of the different things we saw. Will this help her secure higher grades? To be honest we weren’t thinking or worrying about that. It was a great day out.

So how was your week? Mine, well I upset Spain with a photograph of the dish I cooked on Saturday night.

After a busy week travelling I was working from home on Monday. I finished my blog post on transformation, this is an area where I have been presenting and discussing and I wanted in this post to finalise some of my thinking on (digital) transformation.

Well, I have been thinking about what we understand mean by digital transformation and in some discussions, I have been using different kinds of explanations to explore what I see and understand digital transformation is.

In the post I went through the possible digital transformation of requesting and approving leave.

Tuesday though I was back to our Bristol office, for various things. Bristol Temple Meads that morning was full of Peaky Blinders types, suits and flat caps, all on their way (probably) to the Cheltenham Races. If Digifest (which was last week) was the same week as the Cheltenham Races, I would avoid the trains and drive to Birmingham. When I worked at Gloucestershire College, I would avoid our Cheltenham campus those weeks as well. Mainly as the trains were usually full and crowded of very drunk people out to have a good day, and it usually wasn’t even 9am!

I did some work on presentation formats for some ideas we are working on for online events and thought leadership content. Too often when it comes to online presentations, we see talking slides or talking heads. I have been reflecting and thinking about how we can be more creative, more innovative in the ways in which we deliver content during events or on the website. A lot of my thinking is based on the translation posts I did during the pandemic.

Thursday, I ventured back to the Bristol office again. It was much busier today with a couple of teams doing a co-location day. We also had a coffee and cake morning for charity.

The OfS are to launch a review of blended learning.

The Office for Students (OfS) has today launched a review of blended learning, amidst concerns that the poor quality of the online experience for some students during the pandemic has undermined the positive potential of mixing in-person and online course delivery.

It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the review in the summer.

Having defined the success criteria of our HE sector strategy I started detailing what this meant for one of our ambition statements and what Jisc could potentially do in this space to achieve the strategic aspiration.

I also started working on a second communication plan for the strategy. We did one last summer, but listening and talking to staff across the organisation, we have felt that we need to do more work to explore, explain and reflect on the HE sector strategy to the rest of the organisation. One challenge I am facing is what do we even mean by strategy?

butterfly
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

I did another blog post on transformation, this one was on the nature of transformation.

In the world around us the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies is a marvel of nature. Though technically referred to as metamorphosis rather than transformation, the process for butterflies (and all insects) involves a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change. This got me thinking about digital transformation in organisations.

HEPI and QAA published a new report that unpacks the meaning of quality in a complex and rapidly changing higher education sector.

Quality is a slippery term, not least because it is in part practical, in part philosophical and (almost) always relative. Yet it underpins higher education provision and is central to policy debate and regulatory approaches across the UK. So how do we define quality? An understanding of the different mechanisms at play can provide context to the debate.

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.

What, still no slides? – Weeknote #123 – 9th July 2021

beach ball
Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

Slightly disappointed to see that the Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death is to become a black screen of death. Not that I see it that much these days as I usually have the spinning beachball of death on my Mac.

Actually my iMac fusion drive died at the weekend, luckily no data loss, but frustrating all the same. Attempts to fix it through software failed so I booked it in for a repair with the Apple Store.

After dropping off my iMac for its repair I headed into our Bristol office at Portwall Lane.

We had a review meeting about our Leeds programme and there was some good and interesting feedback.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

The BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.

A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.

What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.

Later there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’

UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.

Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding  of key terms such as blended learning.

Lake District
Cumbria by James Clay

On Wednesday I delivered the keynote at the University of Cumbria Annual Learning & Teaching Fest 2021. My presentation, Moving from Translation to Transformation, was delivered without slides and was similar to the one I delivered at LJMU last week.

James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.

I did another session for Leeds on digital leadership which went down well. We covered digital capability and was a chance to bring back Boaty McBoatFace and discuss what we understand by the term digital capability, once more a shared understanding is critical in ensuring that everyone knows what you are trying to do when you build capability (in that it is more than skills and more than just training).

In the afternoon I had a really useful and interesting meeting about the production of training materials and the cultural differences of teaching through the medium of Welsh.

Jisc's Portwall Lane Office, Bristol
Jisc’s Portwall Lane Office, Bristol

Thursday I was in the office. I didn’t have any in-person meetings, but have started the process of using the office more, in the main for a change of scenery, meeting people and generally changing my routine. With the school holidays imminent I will probably be spending more time in the office. I have also planned my first trip to the London office for an in-person meeting.

Friday I was working from home, another session for Leeds and some discussion on strategy and targets in the afternoon.

My top tweet this week was this one.

No, no, no, yes, no, maybe

Earlier this week the BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.

A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.

What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.

Today there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’

UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.

Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding  of key terms such as blended learning. Many now think of the emergency response and shift to remote delivery was blended learning, or even online learning. The reality was that this was remote delivery. Blended learning is something different, as is (good) online learning.

What, no slides? – Weeknote #122 – 2nd July 2021

raining
Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay

Monday I was planning to head into the office, but with the rain coming down and a risk of thunderstorms, I decided to work from home. I do like going into the office, but without the discipline of formal in-person meetings, the incentive isn’t really there. I am trying to go in about twice a week, but at least one. I do like the change in routine and scenery and that I think is what is important.

Started to plan a presentation that I am delivering on Wednesday, but in the end decided that I would deliver it without slides. Not that I don’t like using slides, I think in the context of online conferences, that sometimes a no slide approach is different to what others are doing so adds variety to the online format.

Wednesday I was again delivering a session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It went well, but was clear somethings work well online and somethings didn’t.

Later that day I delivered a presentation at the Active Blended Learning Conference 2021.

Moving from Translation to Transformation

One of the things we have noticed back in March 2020 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 merely translating their usual practice to an online version. David White writing about his experiences at UAL, called it practice mirroring. “So in the move to online teaching our initial instinct is to preserve Contact Hours by mirroring what would have been face-to-face sessions with webinar style sessions. What this looks like is exhausting 3-4 hour online sessions which must be almost impossible to stay engaged with.” We have been interviewing students and staff about their experiences across the pandemic and what practices have worked and what hasn’t worked. As part of Jisc’s work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period we 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 and students. In this session James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.

I decided not to use any slides, and just talk to the screen.

Though I think I might have spoken a little too fast.

Later I was involved in a marketing strategy meeting.

On Thursday I had planned to go to the office, but due to the need to collect something, and the fact that I had no in-person meetings, decided to work from home instead.

Friday I was again delivering a session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It was a repeat of Wednesday, the exercise that didn’t work well on that day I removed for Friday’s session.

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

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.

No festive meals this week – Weeknote #94 – 18th December 2020

Mud Dock Cafe

My last week in the office. In so called normal times this would be a week of festive meals, socialising and last minute Christmas shopping. I spent most of the week sitting at my desk in my home office working.

It was also a time to start finishing things off and avoiding starting anything new. A lot of people seem to use this week to clear their desk and as a result you end up with a lot to do. I both try and avoid doing that to other people and try to ensure it doesn’t happen to me. I think as I get to the end of the week I was quite successful in doing that. Despite doing all that as a result of a meeting on Friday last week I spent the best part of this week working on a blended learning proposal.

Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay
Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

We did a briefing for the Jisc Account Managers on the new consultancy service that I am co-developing at Jisc. Positive feedback about the service which was then followed up by a few calls as well.

I also with our external consultant finalised the themes for the new higher education strategy for Jisc. This should be published in early 2021.

My top tweet this week was this one.