Tag Archives: bristol

Phasing in and out – Weeknote #142 – 19th November 2021

So this was my first full week back at work. Well I say that, but due to having to use a fair amount of leave  carried over from last year, I only worked three days this week. Still recovering from Covid this was actually a blessing as it meant I didn’t need to exhaust myself out.

I am spending time catching up with what’s been happening while I was off sick.

I went to the office on Monday, it was quite quiet. I am still phasing back into work (not quite a phased return, but certainly a slow return).

I worked from home on Tuesday and spent much of the day reading and writing.

I also headed to Bristol on Wednesday. I went in later and then met an old colleagues for drink after work, which was nice.

I wrote a few thought pieces this week.

I put down a few thoughts about transformation.

Success in digital teaching and learning is much about understanding about what is required for transformation to take advantage of the affordances and opportunities that digital can offer and not about taking what works in-person and making digital copies of existing practices.

I have written quite a bit about transformation and translation, but this post was more about the reasons why we more often just copy rather than transform.

The first Polish language dictionary (published 1746) included definitions such as: “Horse: Everyone knows what a horse is.”

One thing I have noticed working in further and higher education, is the assumption that everyone assumes that everyone knows what terms mean. The reality is that often there isn’t a shared understanding of key terms such as, digital transformation, digital university, online learning, blended learning, hybrid learning and so on…

I wrote another post about this shared understanding and working towards a clear (and shared) understanding.

The definition doesn’t need to be definitive, but the relevant stakeholders need to have clarity and a shared understanding of that definition.

At the beginning of the week I wrote some thoughts about student cameras.

During the pandemic there was a widespread culture of “cameras off” by students. As part of research we did,  in interviews, this was commented on by both staff and students. Staff felt that often they were talking to a blank screen as all the students had their cameras off and unlike in an in-person session they couldn’t see and read the students’ reaction to their lecture.

Though as the pandemic recedes (I know), maybe this becomes less of an issue for universities, but certainly going forward if universities are going to take advantage of the affordances of online and blended learning, the issue of cameras does need to be addressed.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Equity of experience – Weeknote #130 – 27th August 2021

A shorter week as I was on leave for a couple of days this week.

Spent the weekend in London, visiting relatives and seeing places. Really impressed with the eduroam availability at Kew Gardens. I wasn’t actually expecting there to be eduroam, I wasn’t even expecting there to be wifi. However using the phone to take photographs, I realised that I was connected to wifi and eduroam. It struck me how seamless and transparent the experience was for me, compared the recent experiences of connecting to hotel and train wifi.

I also bumped into Rod Stewart as one does…

As might be expected in the middle of August, lots of people on leave, taking breaks, as a result very few meetings and e-mails.

We did have a thought leadership meeting on Wednesday and we discussed dual-mode or hybrid teaching. I asked the internal group at Jisc what their definition of hybrid teaching was and as expected there was little consensus and a range of definitions.

Firstly, what is it? Well Durham has a nice definition.

At its best, dual-mode teaching combines the face-to-face and online experience into one cohesive whole. It keeps the class together, providing a shared learning experience that works for students who are on campus and those joining remotely at the same time. It allows you to include and draw on the full diversity of your students and their experiences to date.

They add though…

The challenge is to provide an equitable experience, to engage with the people in the room and those joining remotely, using spaces and technologies that were not designed for this.

That final thought is really what we need to think about, the equity of experience. This is challenging to do at the best of times when doing separately, doing is synchronously in-person and online is really, really challenging. A simple solution is that that the lecturer or presenter is online and the students can either be together in-person, or online. Together could be small groups or one large group. You certainly then get the equity of experience.

Thursday I was in the Bristol office, we had a wash-up meeting about the last year. It reminded me how different in-person meetings can be compared to the Zoom calls we’ve had over the last 18 months. I do miss the online chat that you have in online meetings when meeting in-person, but having had so many Zoom and Teams calls, to do an in-person meeting was a real refreshing change.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Having an impact – Weeknote #129 – 20th August 2021

Well after a week of working in London, Monday with everyone out and about, I had the house to myself so I worked from home. It was also another shorter week as I was on leave on the Friday.

Plan to ban phones from classrooms is out of touch, say UK school leaders in an article on the Guardian.

School and college leaders have condemned the government’s plan to ban mobile phones from classrooms as outdated and out of touch, arguing that schools should be allowed to decide on appropriate rules.

My children’s secondary school have banned the use of mobile phones for some time now. Children are allowed to take phones to and from school, but at school they need to be turned off and put away. One of the challenges is that during the lockdown and forced periods of self-isolation, many young people used their phones to stay in touch and keep in contact with friends. There was a certain amount of reliance on them, so much so, that they became important for wellbeing as much as for communication, games, and distraction.

iphone
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Back in 2008 when I was working on MoLeNET (Mobile Learning Network) projects the issue of mobile phone bans came up quite often. I was often an advocate about instead of banning phones, think about how they could be utilised for teaching and learning. Today mobile phones are actually much more than phones, they are computers and internet devices. You can do so much more on them then the kinds of phones people had in 2008 (the iPhone was only a year old back then). I personally think a ban misses the point, yes, they can be a distraction, but we need to think about behaviour and engagement as well and how the pandemic has changed how people use their mobile devices.

Wednesday, I headed to the office in Bristol. This was not my first visit to the office, but the first since further restrictions were lifted. The office is now fully open, so we can work on all floors and don’t need to worry about booking desks. It was nice to have a much busier workplace than on previous visits to the office (and compared to last week when I was the only person in the London office).

I also made the decision to catch the train to work, rather than use my car. The train (the first off-peak service) was quite crowded, but then it was only two carriages. There is quite a bit of engineering work happening at Bristol Temple Meads over the summer, so there have been cancellations, rail replacement buses and signalling problems. My train in the end, was only a few minutes late.

Headed up to the third floor of the office. I was joined by some old colleagues from what was Futures within Jisc and had a really good chat. It had been over eighteen months since we had met in-person and in one case I had only met the person online. It reminded me of both the advantages and disadvantages of going to the office. I like the in-person interaction but can be disruptive if you have stuff to do.

The air conditioning was getting to me, so I hid in a meeting room and turned the heating up.

I caught the train home from Bristol Temple Meads (half of which was closed off).

Had a few ad hoc conversations on Thursday.

Quite liked these tweets from people who had attended the digital leadership consultancy I had delivered for Leeds.

I had as part of the programme delivered a session on e-mail. It incorporates much of what is in this blog post on Inbox Zero and this follow up post.

Always nice to see the positive impact that your training has had on the way that people work, they didn’t just attend the training, engage with the training, but are now acting on what they saw and learnt.

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.

Ensuring excellence – Weeknote #121 – 25th June 2021

A rather busy week.

Had a few meetings about Jisc’s HE bespoke consultancy offer and next steps.

On Tuesday I did originally plan to go into the office today, but according to the desk bookings there were very few people in, so in the end I worked from home.

I delivered a presentation to the IHE Heads of Finance Network on LTR, Powering HE and how Jisc can support and help Higher Education with a particular focus on investment in digital.

Wednesday saw myself deliver the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. Despite the fact I had to do most of the session by myself, it did seem to go well.

On Thursday I did go to the office in Bristol. There was a lot more people in the office than normal, however as I had a fair few online interviews and meetings, I spent most of the day in one of our meeting rooms. However I did enjoy the change in routine and scenery, and I had a few happenstance conversations, which I don’t generally have online.

We had a debrief about the Advance HE/HEDG shareshop we did on transition. We also thought about future ideas, including dual mode delivery and curriculum planning.

Friday saw myself deliver a repeat of the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It was a slightly shorter session as I had a conference to present at later that morning.

The conference was a Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference: Next steps for reforming the TEF and ensuring teaching excellence in HE. My session was entitled Driving up standards and supporting teaching excellence in remote and blended learning.

I talked about definitions, background, the emergency response and the implications of differentiating between translation and transformation. I also discussed the topic of digital poverty.

meeting
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

In the afternoon I did some analysis of the planning that universities were taking in respect to transition that came out of the shareshop we did on transition.

The main themes that came out of the online padlet discussion were:

  • Building online communities
  • The importance of student (and staff) wellbeing
  • Supporting and developing academic skills
  • Developing inductions and planning welcome weeks
  • Building digital skills
  • Returning to on campus delivery

One of the key themes that came out of the padlet discussion was the value and importance of building online communities. As one delegate pointed out in their planning, they felt it was important in supporting them to socialise and feel part of the community. One university wanted to increase connectedness and a sense of belonging to the university community.

As with academic skills (but slightly less commentary) the disruption to both new students and returning students, many comments were made about supporting and developing the digital skills of students. There was a recognition that many students did not have the (academic) digital skills to successfully engage with online and blended learning. As one participant said there was a need to be supporting the digital skills needed to access the course and related services. Another said we overestimated the students ability to use and engage with online content.

My top tweet this week was this one.

I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go – Weeknote #120 – 18th June 2021

40 years ago on 12 June 1981 ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was first released in cinemas. Indiana Jones is a hero, as well as discovering ancient artefacts, he fights Nazis and does amazing things. Though I sometimes think that learning technologists are like Indiana Jones. Now before you grab your fedora and whip, I am not saying that this is a good thing.  No the reason I have a theory that learning technologists are like Indiana Jones is really down to the views of Amy Farrah Fowler in the Big Bang Theory. I should really write a longer piece about this…

Some beautiful weather this weather this week as it felt more like summer, however by Thursday the weather had turned and it was grey and damp.

Monday I went to the office, which was quiet, but the change of scenery and routine was very welcome.

Tuesday I was chairing the Connect More event, which was online.

Wednesday saw myself and Lawrie deliver an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It has been a few years since I delivered on the digital leadership programme however it all came back and I felt the session went well.

Got some nice tweets about my keynotes I have done over the years. There was this one on the Twitter.

Dave Hopkins blogged about his thoughts on inspiring keynotes. Though I didn’t take the top spot I did get an honourable mention about my FOTiE 14 keynote on the dark side.

Thursday I was back in the office, it was a grey and damp day.

Decided that I would do the #JuneEdTechChallenge and caught up very quickly on the Twitter.

I did a five minute presentation to RUGIT on dual model teaching.

Should we be doing dual-mode or hybrid teaching? Well there’s a question I get asked quite a lot these days by colleagues across the higher education sector.

Firstly, what is it? Well Durham has a nice definition.

At its best, dual-mode teaching combines the face-to-face and online experience into one cohesive whole. It keeps the class together, providing a shared learning experience that works for students who are on campus and those joining remotely at the same time. It allows you to include and draw on the full diversity of your students and their experiences to date.

They add though

The challenge is to provide an equitable experience, to engage with the people in the room and those joining remotely, using spaces and technologies that were not designed for this.

Generally from what I have researched in this space (and this is backed up by the research we have done with universities in the ) is that basically it doesn’t really work.

UCL for example say

‘Dual-mode’ teaching is where students are taught face-to-face in a classroom and online simultaneously. We strongly recommend this be avoided unless pedagogically appropriate for both groups and adequate staffing is in place to manage and integrate remote students into sessions fully. 

There are individuals who say that they can do this, but not really seeing the evidence from the students that it is effective. It does require more resource (staff and technology) which makes it more expensive, but still unsatisfying for both the in-person and the online students.

My top tweet this week was this one.

It’s lovely outside – Weeknote #119 – 11th June 2021

Lovely weather this week, I spent the week working inside.

Monday I went into our office in Bristol. It was somewhat quiet, and I actually spent most of the day in one of our meeting rooms by myself attending online meetings. However the reason for going in was a change in routine and it was nice to be back in Bristol.

I did go for coffee, which was nice.

Attended an online workshop about learning spaces. There was some discussion about dual mode or hybrid teaching and some of the technical challenges in creating an equivalent experience. I am still surprised by how important a small number of activities (such as examinations) which happen infrequently and for a short amount of time have so much impact on the design of some spaces. However what I learnt from the workshop will feed into an estate vision piece I am working on.

On Tuesday the internet broke… but it did get fixed in the end.

Spent some of the week planning for the Digital Leadership online programme I will be co-presenting with Lawrie over the next six weeks.

Continued to work on our projects, so much planning, reading and writing.

On Thursday I was presenting at EUNIS 21, which would have been nice if it was on the planned Greek island, reality was, that I was at home presenting over wifi. I was also part of a panel discussing the current landscape. I always find it fascinating presenting to an international audience, ensuring I come across clear and coherent. Also worked out in 2006 in Finland, that humour doesn’t always work for an international audience. Though the conference time was one hour ahead, it was quite a late presentation.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Unknown Unknowns and Unknown Knowns – Weeknote #117 – 28th May 2021

Monday I was focusing on one of the projects we are working on with an university looking at various scope areas and how technology and digital can make a difference. I was reminded of the NSA quote of cylinders of excellence when it comes to silo working. The concept of excellent departments, but not an excellent university came to mind, but also about the inefficiencies of silos working in isolation and not thinking about the impact of their development and change on the rest of the university.

At the end of the day we were discussing assessment. What is happening with assessment in higher education now and what changes made as a result of Covid-19 are now in place, but also the wider issues of assessment as well.

old television
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Cancelled my subscription to Britbox, in the main despite there being stuff I would like to watch, I wasn’t finding the time to watch it.

Tuesday saw me back to our office in Portwall Lane for an in-person meeting with my line manager, our first meeting in-person since August last year. It was actually nice to be both in the office and in an in-person meeting.

Something that keeps coming to my attention is the future of teaching, especially the concept of dual mode or hybrid teaching. What are peoples’ experiences of “dual-mode”, “muti-mode”, hybrid teaching? What has the student feedback being like? Something I have been reflecting on this week.

Students prioritise a return to face to face teaching from September 2021, so says the findings from a report published by the UPP Foundation.

Students want universities to prioritise a return to in person teaching and are missing face-to-face interaction around their wider student experience.

This is something which isn’t too surprising and is also something that has come out of our recent research into the student experience. Though digging deeper for us, it was more the in-person interaction students were missing and less the teaching.

Wednesday afternoon myself and Isabel Lucas of HEDG and the University of Cumbria hosted a share shop, facilitated by Advance HE, on how universities can support students transitioning in HE. We looked at both new students and returning students.

In the session, How can we best support learners coming in to HE from a Covid context? We discussed the transition arrangements others have put into place for the next academic year.

In September, third year students returning to HE will not have had a normal year in higher education and it is likely that their third year will not be like it was before.

We discussed a range of issues, focusing on the known knowns and the known unknowns. More difficult to discuss the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns!

We are aiming to share the findings from the shareshop in June.

Thursday was a light day in terms of meetings, but got even lighter, as one meeting was cancelled five minutes before it was due to start, with the other meeting, two people who had accepted were in fact on leave, so in the end the meeting lasted only five minutes.

The future of the office keeps getting discussed, with those who own offices explaining why going back to the office is so important and those who don’t explaining why it isn’t. For me a lot is about the kind of work you do, I don’t do the same thing everyday, so there isn’t a single kind of space I need all the time. Before Covid, sometimes I would be working alone, sometimes I would be in meetings, sometimes we would be collaborating and sometimes I didn’t know, so it was useful to have other people around to bounce ideas off and chat over coffee.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Back at Portwall Lane – Weeknote #116 – 21st May 2021

Monday was a mix of meetings, some about our current consultancy work, some about future consultancy work and one was a formal presentation for one of our current projects. Had to keep my head straight so I could ensure that I was talking about the right stuff in the right meeting.

Cardiff University have confirmed online lectures will continue in September 2021.

Cardiff University has announced that online learning will continue in September. Despite government rules relaxing, the university has said it will be prioritising the safety of staff and students. However, in-person seminars, workshops, tutorials, and lab work are expected to go ahead.

This is a similar model to what many other universities are going to do for September 2021.

At the end of Monday I was in a meeting with the Office for Students in preparation for a meeting later in the week.

Bristol by James Clay

On Tuesday I went to the office. This was the first time I had been to the office since October. I had been a few times during August last year, but following the second lockdown in November our offices have been closed and only reopened on the 17th May.

As might be expected it was somewhat quiet, I think there were only ten staff in all together. It was nice to see people (for real). The main problem I had was the desk I booked meant I had a window behind me, so on my calls I was a dark shadow. Which was confusing for people who usually find me sitting at my desk with a virtual background.

I did enjoy going into the office and also enjoyed my walk at lunchtime, it was interesting though to see how much had changed.  Even though I have been to Bristol a few times, I generally was going shopping, my lunchtime walk took in the parts of Bristol that I wouldn’t normally visit during a general shopping trip.

The view from Castle Bridge by James Clay

What I hadn’t missed was the commute. Combined with the rain as well, it was a hassle and annoying to drive to and from work.

Enjoyed watch Lawrie move through 21 locks on his boat as he had a well deserved holiday.

Had a scoping call about the Intelligent Campus and potential consultancy we could do in this space. We have been thinking about how we could work with universities on vision pieces and use cases.

I also had a useful discussion with another university later on Tuesday about blended and digital learning.

rusty car
Image by Taken from Pixabay

Wednesday I didn’t go to the office, as my car had its MOT (which it passed). Hardly using my car compared to pre-covid times, mainly as I am not travelling to events, universities or other Jisc offices.

In an interesting move, University of Cambridge has expanded into online learning and begins to launch its portfolio of short online courses, with 50 to come priced at around £2000 each.

The University of Cambridge has launched a series of online short courses for professionals in a major expansion of its distance learning activities.

Thursday I had to wait in for a collection, so no trip to Bristol either.

I had a meeting to plan a shareshop I am helping to run next week called Supporting Students to Transition to HE in September.

Over the last twelve months universities across the country have switched to emergency remote delivery as lockdowns caused students to stay at home (or in halls). Though we know university staff have made huge efforts to provide high quality remote teaching and learning, when we talk to students we have found that many feel isolated, separated from their cohort, missing the in-person social interaction which is so important to the student experience and for peer support and learning.

I did consider going to the office on Friday, but with all the wind and rain decided not to.

I finished my presentation for EUNIS 21 where I am giving a short presentation on learning and teaching reimagined.Registration is free and open to all.

Though I am not really one for being a slave to statistics, likes, etc…. I am wondering what I have said and done to lose so many Twitter followers over the last few weeks.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Good afternoon Professor Phipps – Weeknote #87 – 30th October 2020

This week saw the continual increase in covid-19 cases, sadly increasing deaths and many areas of the UK entering Tier 3 lockdowns. The threat of a national lockdown was getting discussed, whilst in Wales they were already in lockdown.

Monday I went into the Bristol office to work, it was quiet and I managed to get some work done.

Tuesday I spent the day writing, but I did find it hard that day to be creative. The weather was frightful.

Wednesday I was back into Bristol and in our office to work, I did meet up with a couple of colleagues as well for working meetings.

In local news, UWE lecturers said that they ‘don’t feel safe’ due to lack of mandatory face masks.

Concerns have been raised over a lack of mandatory face masks for students and staff at the University of the West of England (UWE). One lecturer said staff “don’t feel safe” and he felt “insulted” at the suggestion staff were “happy to go to Sainsbury’s and the pub but not work”.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, local lockdowns and social isolation was across higher education, having a continual impact on students and student wellbeing. This was echoed in this guardian article: ‘I was just sat in my room all day’: lonely students seek mental health support.

University students are struggling with loneliness and anxiety due to campus lockdowns, with the risk that their mental health will deteriorate further unless urgent action is taken, counsellors and charities are warning.

The issue of Christmas and students was being treated differently across the UK with plans afoot in England to let students escape at Christmas.

Covid tests with results within an hour are being piloted in universities – which could help students in England get home for Christmas.

Whilst in Scotland the story was that students may not be allowed home for Christmas.

Students could be told not to return home at Christmas if the spread of the coronavirus has not been controlled, the deputy first minister has said.

Amongst all this I have been planning the programme for the Jisc, QAA and HESA Data Matters 2021 conference which is taking place in January and will be an online conference. I have a history of doing online conferences and I am planning to take advantage of the affordances that an online conference can bring to such an event. I am hoping to do podcasts, pre-recorded presentations, blogs and more, as well as streaming live keynotes and presentations. Find out more here about the conference.

Thursday I was on leave. It was nice though to see this tweet from Lawrie. Excellent news.

Friday I was working from home. Having left an empty inbox on Wednesday I was quite surprised to see 51 unread e-mails in my inbox. It actually didn’t take too long to process the e-mails. Some I read and then deleted, others I marked as spam, from some I created Jira tasks, and some I just did what was being asked.

My top tweet this week was this one.