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.
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.
The US election continues to dominate Twitter though seeing less of it on the mainstream news. Saw a number of people on Twitter claiming to have won the election!
Five years ago this week myself and Lawrie were delivering the second residential of the pilot for the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme at the Holland House Hotel in the heart of Bristol. We had spent four days delivering that week. We also had some great cakes and pastries.
Even the coffee was nice. We learnt a lot from the process and spent the next few months iterating the programme, dropping and adding stuff based on the feedback we had from the pilot delegates.
Less than a year later we delivered the programme to paying delegates in Loughborough, again we reviewed what we did and adapted the programme again, before delivering to groups in Manchester, Belfast and Leicester.
Made my first visit to a cinema at the weekend, which was nice, I went to see The Empire Strikes Back which was amazing to see on the big screen, I never saw this at the cinema in 1980, so it was nice to see it where it was meant to be seen.
But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.
The student experience this year will not be like it was last year. I still think one of the challenges will be the potential chance of a second wave of infection and another full lockdown, but the more likely challenge will be a local lockdown. Universities will need to plan for that kind of eventuality, these local lockdowns are likely to be weeks rather than months. Will courses have the flexibility to be able to respond and change as the local situation changes? That kind of planning is challenging enough with the added challenge of planning a curriculum that needs to take the requirements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus through bubbles and social distancing. As discussed before the real challenge is the uncertainty out there.
The next online session within learning and teaching reimagined will explore how you can encourage digital innovation across the learning and teaching spectrum, providing the opportunity to share examples of good and emerging practice in facilitating, developing and mainstreaming digital innovation.
Share and discuss thoughts and ideas on practical steps to encourage innovation in learning and teaching through the use of digital technologies and share exemplars of what has been working within the institutional environment.
I published another blog post in my translation series, this time on community and the challenges in translating the process of community building amongst student cohorts that usually occurs when they start a course, which may not happen if part or substantial parts of a course are delivered online. Back in March I wrote a blog post on building communities.
I wrote a short piece for our media team on approaches to blended learning.
I was on leave on Thursday, though I didn’t miss the huge uproar about the A Level results.
There is anger among schools, colleges and students, after nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded on Thursday were lower than teachers’ predictions.
How did France grade its Covid-19 impacted students? They took the average of first and second term marks, always rounding “up” and creating 10 000 extra university places. No negative algorithms were used.
The BBC published a couple of pieces this week about how university could be for new students this year.
With A-levels results day out of the way, students across the UK will have a better idea of their future plans. But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.
There are 137 universities in the UK, and 89 out of 92 of those which replied to a Universities UK survey will provide some in-person teaching next term. This will be part of a “blended approach” to teaching and learning, with many universities announcing that lectures will be given online.
So what do you understand by the term blended learning? What about an online course? A hybrid programme? Could you provide a clear explanation of what student wellbeing is? At the end of last week I published a blog post on language.
Last week I delivered two presentations, one was a planned presentation for a QAA workshop, the other, well it wasn’t supposed to be a presentation, but due to a lack of response from the audience in the networking session I was in, I quickly cobbled together a presentation based on the slides I had used for the QAA.
I pulled together the idea into a single blog post. It is a combination and an expansion of the presentations I delivered about my thoughts of what happened, what then happened, what we need to think about and what we could do.
So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced. My question is this, where (physically) are those universities expecting their students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well. This was the question I asked in another blog post I published this week. Though as the week went on we saw the government start to ease the lockdown restrictions. I suspect we will see some (or even most) universities follow suit.
So what do you understand by the term blended learning? What about an online course? A hybrid programme? Could you provide a clear explanation of what student wellbeing is?
In recent conversations, it has become more and more apparent that we are using a range of terminology across the sector and we don’t necessarily have a shared understanding of what we mean when we say phrases or words.
This was something we covered in early incarnations of the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme, when we discussed how something like “The Digital University” could mean very different things to different people within a university. For some people it could mean to them a university which maximises the use of digital technologies, or digital by default. Other people could see digital as equating to online, so a virtual (digital) university where students learn online.
It’s a similar challenge with terms like hybrid or online or blended.
I published a blog post about hybrid courses back in May, my definition was very much about a programme of study which would react and respond to the changing environment.
With a hybrid course, some sessions are physical face to face sessions. There are live online sessions and there are asynchronous online sessions. In addition there could be asynchronous offline sessions as well. You may not want to be online all the time!
Some sessions could be easily switched from one format to another. So if there is a change in lockdown restrictions (tightening or easing) then sessions can move to or from online or a physical location.
Listening to a conversation someone was talking about hybrid courses as a mix between online and face to face, but didn’t mention the responsiveness or the potential flexibility.
Without a shared understanding we know that this can result in confusion, mixed messaging, with the differences in course design and delivery, as well as problems with student expectations.
So what can we do about this?
There are glossaries out there that can help, especially for a sector wide shared understanding.
The key with language is never assume that people will have the same understanding of the terms used that you have. Explanations of what terms means in documents and planning processes will ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of those terms.
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.
It was Monday, so as well as having a few online meetings, responding to e-mails, I was also writing stuff too. There was an interesting discussion on the Twitter about the term blended learning. Started off by this tweet from Peter Bryant.
I am finding the notion of blended learning to be increasingly problematic. Its like saying the drink has to be a milkshake because it blends fruit and milk. So, it must be good. But do you want o need a milkshake? What do you get out of drinking this blended masterpiece? #EDEN19
I do agree with the sentiment of Peter’s tweet that the assumption blended is somehow better than other kinds of learning is flawed.
Reflecting on this more I thought about it, I realised that we’ve always had “blended” learning.
I posted my response to his tweet.
Hasn't learning always been "blended"? In the olden days (well when I was at University) we had blended learning. We had big lectures, small discussions, working in the library, in groups, individually, working remotely, working in coffee places (well it was tea shops and pubs).
There are many ways to deliver learning (is that even a thing, can you even deliver learning) and ways for people to learn. My experience is that people like to learn in different ways and in different contexts depending on what they are learning, how they are learning, with whom they are learning, the topic, the subject and even the outcome of that learning and how it will be assessed. Don’t fall into the trap of learning styles, thinking that each individual has an individual way of learning, as the way in which people learn varies all the time and what works one day, may not work for them the following day. Sometimes your don’t even have a choice about certain aspects, as in I have to attend that compulsory lecture regardless of how I actually feel about it and the subject.
The difference today is that certain technologies can add, enhance and improve on those blended experiences.If I watched a video on a Betamax tape to help my understanding, is watching an online video hugely different?
Since writing that tweet, I realise that the control aspect is both enhanced and diminished by the advances in technology.
We want to “measure” learning by using tools such as the VLE, whilst students can subvert that control by using tools such as WhatsApp or historically Facebook groups (are Facebook groups still a thing these days?).
So what do you think? Is blended learning new or has it always been here?
Tuesday I was back in London, it was warm and sunny and we had blue skies, alas as the day went on it started to rain. I was in London for an event by London Higher on research they had undertaken on commuting students, and the impact of commuting on student outcomes and wellbeing.
I made a sketch note of the event.
These sketch notes are mainly for my benefit, as they collate and coalesce my thoughts from the event.
The event took place at the BT Tower and I did initially think we would be at the top of the tower, alas it wasn’t meant to be, the event took place in a room on the ground floor. I was close, but not close enough.
In between meetings I went to a new coffee place and enjoyed a flat white as I caught up with my correspondence.
In the afternoon I was off to the RVC for a meeting with an old friend to discuss learning and teaching in higher education and her thoughts about what Jisc can do in this space.
The end of the week saw me once more off to London, this time for a meeting with officials from the DfE. It was really nice and sunny compared to Tuesday.
Oh had more coffee as well…
My top tweet this week was this one.
That @DavidOlusoga brushed past me at Paddington, I hope he managed to catch his train, as he appeared to be in a real rush.
I was thinking the other day that I don’t have enough readers of the blog and insufficient engagement.
So the solution has to be that the name of the blog isn’t right. First idea would be change the name from “elearning stuff” to “blended learning stuff”.
Then again maybe I could choose “e-pedagogy stuff” or what a about “threaded learning stuff”. How about “hybrid pedagogy stuff”?
Do you think that changing the name will significantly increase readership and engagement on the blog?
If I want more readers and more engagement, then maybe, just maybe I should think more about the content I write, the style, the questions I ask, the quality of the writing, the frequency of posting and so on…
So when we start thinking that the problem with the embedding of digital and learning technologies, is the name that we use, such as blended learning or e-learning the problem, then we probably have a bigger issue.
If staff aren’t engaging with digital and learning technologies as part of their continuing professional development, then changing the term we use will have some impact, but not significant. It may encourage some to participate, but it may confuse others. However the language we use, though can be powerful in some contexts, is not the reason why people decide not to engage with digital.
It’s like the reason that people often say about lack of time, when the solution is not about providing more time, but is about setting and managing priorities. It really comes back to the reasons why people choose to engage or not and the reasons they give.
If you are having challenges in engaging staff in the use of digital and learning technologies and thinking that changing the “name” we use is the solution, i would suggest you may actually want to spend the time and effort thinking about your approaches and the methodology you are using.
Of course the real reason people choose to change the language, is that it is much easier to do that, then actually deal with people!
What do you think, we now language is important, but is the problem the terms we use or is it something else?
news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…