Tag Archives: bristol

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.

Down in the harbourside – Weeknote #165 – 29th April 2022

A busy week. In the morning I published a post, Go and be more innovative which was discussing how we often conflate innovation with improvement.

For me true innovation in educational technology is change which has significant impact across the whole organisation. However this isn’t always exciting and shiny! Too often we focus on the new and the shiny and less on those innovations, that are holistic, organisation-wide and would have a greater impact on the learner experience.

Monday afternoon we continued the review of our HE Directorate looking at what we do and how we operate.

I went into our Bristol office on Tuesday which was quite quiet.

It got me thinking about how do we make better use of the offices spaces we have without resorting to the leaving of little notes saying sorry to have missed you and looking forward to seeing you in the office. Most, okay all my meetings were online and in theory I could have done them all from home, but I did like the change in routine and scenery that going to the office allows. It was nice to have the few in-person social interactions I did have. I was once asked if I preferred working from home or working in the office, my response was I prefer to have the choice. Pre-pandemic the choice was very much about what I was doing which influenced where I would choose to work.

Earlier in the week there was an interesting Twitter thread on returning to the office and hybrid working.

I did think that this assertion on micro coworking was an interesting insight.

I can certainly see the rise of shared offices that don’t require long commutes or want a space to collaborate or I think important work in a social environment with others, even if they aren’t working on the same thing, or even for the same company.

I also think we could potentially see micro co-learning for universities being developed as well. Allowing students to learn locally without necessarily travelling to campus everyday or even at all.

Wednesday I did work from home and we had some briefing sessions about Connect More which is happening next week (online).

Thursday I was in Bristol, though this time at the Mshed supporting a team away day. It was nice to deliver a session in-person and chat with people over coffee.

I did some extra work in between sessions in a local coffee place.

I read this article, ‘Bossware is coming for almost every worker’: the software you might not realize is watching you in the Guardian.

Many companies in the US and Europe now appear – controversially – to want to try, spurred on by the enormous shifts in working habits during the pandemic, in which countless office jobs moved home and seem set to either stay there or become hybrid. This is colliding with another trend among employers towards the quantification of work – whether physical or digital – in the hope of driving efficiency.

The reliance on surveillance software to check if people are working, I do think misses the point about what work is. Work is something you do, it isn’t somewhere you go, and it isn’t something you can always be seen to be doing. Focusing on presenteeism and computer activity isn’t really an effective way of ensuring work is done.

I can certainly see some people looking at the potential of such kinds of surveillance technologies to measure learning. As if it could actually do that, by looking at computer activity and interactions with systems.

Friday was the last day of the week and I spent it at home working. I had an introductory meeting with a couple of new people in our public affairs team, talking about the HE sector strategy.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Shorter – Weeknote #164 – 22nd April 2022

A shorter week as there was a bank holiday and I took a day’s leave.

Came back to 70 emails in my inbox, which I cleared quite quickly.

Had a meeting with ALT about plans and collaboration going forward. Next week is the OER 22 Conference and there is a call for papers for the ALT Conference 2022. The ALT Conference 2022 will take place in-person in Manchester.

I attended the HEAnet & EduCampus Group Advisory Forum online. We are planning a strategic meeting that will take place in-person in September.

I spoke to our innovation team about the HE Sector Strategy.

I went to the office in Bristol on Friday, realised it had been sometime since I went to the Bristol office having been on leave, in Manchester and in London quite a bit over the last few weeks.

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.

Making it personal – Weeknote #157 – 4th March 2022

For the first time in at least two years (if not longer) I spent three days in a row at our Bristol office. The office was much busier than it has been on previous visits, and there was a (little) bit of a buzz in there. I did have a few in-person ad hoc interactions with people, who I might not interact with online. You can create these online, but it isn’t easy.

I was asked if I preferred working from home, or working in the office. My response was I prefer to have the choice. The challenge I found with lockdown, was that I had no choice. Though I have preferences about space when I have specific things I need to do, I really quite like working in different environments and spaces.

I had to upgrade the Twitter client on my iPad. The old one, which I liked kept crashing and I couldn’t get it to stop. The new one, I do not like.

group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I posted a blog post on my early thinking about personalisation.

What do we mean by personalisation, what can we personalise, what should be personalise and what are the challenges in personalisation?

I have been looking at how data and technology can deliver a personalised learning journey and we have in our HE strategy the following ambition statement.

We will explore and develop solutions to help universities deliver personalised and adaptive learning using data, analytics, underpinning technologies and digital resources.

We know that there are very different opinions and views of what personalised learning is. One of the things I do need to do is to take that ambition statement and expand it into a clear explanatory statement, so that key stakeholders are clear about what we mean and why this space is important to higher education.

The ICC in Birmingham
The ICC in Birmingham

I have been preparing for Digifest next week where I will be attending both days.

I am also speaking at Digifest on Wednesday9th March 2022 from 11:45 – 12:30 in Hall 7B.

In this session, James will showcase Jisc’s HE sector strategy, Powering HE, and why and how we developed the strategy. He will explore what Jisc is doing and planning to do in the HE teaching and learning space. He will bring the session together with the impact the strategy is having on university members across the UK.

I enjoyed the WonkHE 404 page.

My top tweet this week was this one.

I am not apologising – Weeknote #156 – 25th February 2022

Well, this is three years of weeknotes. I wasn’t sure if I could keep it up, but have found it useful to reflect on the week, but also to review back about what I was doing and reading.

This week Russia invaded the Ukraine. Lots of talk, but very little action from the Western nations.

The week started off for the higher education sector with the Universities Minister saying universities ‘must scrap online lectures’ after Covid curbs are lifted.

‘Online teaching should only be used to supplement face-to-face teaching, not replace it,’ she told the Daily Mail. She went on to add there is ‘no excuse’ for institutions to continue hosting lessons online once measures are lifted,

So though she is saying universities should no longer replace in-person teaching with remote teaching, the press rhetoric and the headlines gives the message that universities should scrap all online teaching. That isn’t what she said, but that is pretty much what people are reading she said.

newspaper
Image by Andrys Stienstra from Pixabay

The week started off for me with a HE leadership team meeting, which was looking at various discussions about what we need to do next.

I spent some of the week working on success criteria for the HE strategy. Part of this is expanding on the strategic objectives. These state what we are going to do, and I expanded them to include the why and the how. I then added what success looked like from an university perspective and what it looked like from a Jisc perspective.

Generally, as with many organisations, in the past we have mapped activity to the strategy. Strategy should really drive activity.

I published a blog post on eventedness.

I was recently reminded of the importance of eventedness when it comes to events and has similar implications in the delivery of teaching both in-person and online.

I published a blog post on my tech and productivity blog about collaboration.

I don’t think anyone thinks they consciously and actively block collaboration, but we often hear cries for more collaboration, so much so that we wonder why we don’t collaborate more than we do. In this post I will explore the reasons for collaboration and some of the blockers that stifle collaboration.

I posted this tweet to the Twitter about an undocumented feature on Jiscmail.

What most people don’t know is that Jiscmail has an undocumented feature which means if you post the same message with multiple lists in the To: field, recipients will only receive one, despite how many of the lists they are subscribed to. No need to apologise then.

I’ve used this feature quite often to send the same message to multiple lists.

It was a response to Simon Thomson who said

‘Apologies for cross-posting’ is the most hollow apology ever.

I agree with Simon that most people aren’t sorry when they apologise for cross-posting, but I also think a lot of people actually ignore messaged which start with an apology for cross-posting as they (rightly) assume it probably is some kind of spam message.

Wednesday I did think about going to the office. I had planned to go to Bristol, but missed the train from Weston Milton with seconds to go, I was literally on the platform. Went back home and decided to work from home.

On Thursday I headed off to our Bristol office on the train. I didn’t check the trains, the one I was going to get was cancelled, however that was because the earlier train was running 24 minutes late. So managed to get that one to Bristol.

It was nice to be back in the office again, something nice about the social aspects of office working. Not sure I could do it everyday, but nice having the option.

I did an online presentation for the Public Policy Exchange on using digital to overcome the funding challenges facing universities.

There was a problem with the meeting room I was using as I couldn’t turn the noisy fan off. So I had to present with the fan on.

My presentation was in the main about recognising that what we’ve been doing over the last two years isn’t the basis for moving forward. I also talked about transformation as opposed to just digitalisation.

At the event there was a lot of talk about the announcements from the Government about access to higher education. Would it surprise you that no one thought this would improve access to higher education.

I took leave on Friday and had a day in London.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Caught the train – Weeknote #153 – 4th February 2022

We had our mid-year team summit this week. Originally planned to be taking place in-person in Manchester, the decision was taken back in January to move it online. Some interesting stuff, but what we didn’t really manage to do was have those conversations over coffee and lunch that happen at an in-person events and meetings.

I was reminded of this blog post which I wrote in August 2019 (ie pre-pandemic) and many of the observations there I think reflect what has happened over the last two years.

When it comes to the delivery of online learning, the assumption is made that it will just happen. Assumptions are made that academics who are experts already in delivering learning will be able to easily transfer their skills to an online environment. What can often happen is that the processes and methods that people use in the physical space will be translates verbatim to an online space. It will not taken into account the challenges of an online environment, or recognise the affordances of said environments.

I also wrote this in the blog post.

The overall experience is expected to be the same, but merely re-creating the physical experience online is often disappointing for both students and academics. Many of the nuances of face to face learning can be lost when moving to online.

During the pandemic I spoke to a lot of students and academic staff, who had expectations about their experiences, but in the end both were disappointed (and exhausted) by the experience.

Part of the issue is that physical learning activities don’t necessarily translate readily into an online environment, the nuances of what makes the face to face so valuable can be lost in translation, similarly the possibilities and affordances of the online space can be lost.

Moving forward on this, we need to recognise, that despite the experiences of the last two years, we may want to think about how we adapt our training and development going forward to, not only build on the lessons and experiences of the last two years, but build on them to take advantage of the affordances of online learning and teaching.

Wednesday I went to our office in Bristol. Caught the train to Bristol, still wore my mask. The last time I was in our  Bristol office was back in November. I had originally planned to go to Bristol in December, but with the new measures in place and rising infections, I took the decision, back then, to work from home. So, avoiding the train and what was later apparently a busy office. Would have been nice to see people though.

This time it was nice to see people and have conversations about stuff. It was apparent that the happenstance of conversations is something I have missed, but also rather challenging to recreate online. Possible, but challenging. I also had a conversation about the impact this was all having on new starters, who don’t necessarily get to see people on a regular basis and make those important (social) connections that can have a positive impact on how you view your work and your colleagues.

Spent some time preparing a presentation I am giving next week. It takes me back to the intelligent campus space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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.