Tag Archives: coronavirus

Fifty six million articles – Weeknote #98 – 15th January 2021

No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!

Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.

writing
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.

Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.

With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
comic strip

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.

Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.

I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?

I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.

Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.

Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.

I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.

My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Locked Down – Weeknote #97 – 8th January 2021

mask
Image by pisauikan from Pixabay

This was the first week of the third national lockdown and the week that the President of the United States attempted to subvert democracy through violence.

Well after two weeks on leave it was back to work. Due to covid restrictions and a growing number of cases I wasn’t about to head off to the office as I would have done in previous years. It was back to working from home. Two of my children were also at home, undertaking remote learning.

I didn’t anticipate too many e-mails in my inbox as virtually everyone else had been on leave for most of the two week as well, however was slightly surprised to find 95 in there.

Of course, going through them I found most of them were from mailing lists and spam, so it wasn’t long before I was down to just three.

discarded mask
Image by Roksana Helscher from Pixabay

Monday evening saw an announcement from the Prime Minister that England was going to again go into a national lockdown, there were similar announcements from the devolved administrations.

Schools and colleges were to close to all students except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time, as they did in November, the Government has provided guidance to universities on what they should be doing.

Unlike in March, universities were able to continue to deliver in-person teaching for specific groups, however other students were expected to remain at home.

Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:

  • Medicine & dentistry
  • Subjects allied to medicine/health
  • Veterinary science
  • Education (initial teacher training)
  • Socialwork
  • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).

Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.

We have previously published ​guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term​. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.

If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.

For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.

Some universities went further, UCL told their students not to return to campus, whilst the LSE said all compulsory teaching would move online.

video chat
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

The news was full of stories about lack of laptops and connectivity this week, but I do think the issue is wider than that. My household has digital privilege, we have a 1Gb/s fibre connection and both my school age children have devices to access online learning.

However we did have an issue this week with a 300MB presentation uploaded to Google Classroom. We were unable to download the file (as that was restricted), we couldn’t preview the file (as it was too big) and Google Slides couldn’t open it.

We struggled, I did think that a student on a 3G connection with a bandwidth limit would also struggle with accessing the file.

Is the solution providing devices and bandwidth? Well in this case no the design here was a problem. Maybe we need to start thinking about low bandwidth and asynchronous curriculum design, which puts the learner first.

Did a lot of thinking about digital poverty this week, but I think that my colleague Lawrie sums it up best with this tweet.

microphone
Image by goranmx from Pixabay

In the same week that universities were defending the fees being charged for delivering their courses online, I had an e-mail from one university stating that they did not think they should pay for an online conference, though they would pay to attend a physical conference. There is something here about recognising the value of something despite the platform (physical or virtual) that it is being delivered on.

I had a blog post published on the Jisc website this week on data.

One thing that has become more apparent this year is the importance of data in supporting both student and staff experiences. However, sometimes making wish lists for the future is the easy part; what is often harder is figuring out that vision and the steps required to get there.

clouds
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Prior to the pandemic, one of the key challenges that higher education was thinking about was the climate emergency and how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and move to a carbon net zero position. Despite the pandemic this is still an issue and I was involved in a meeting where we discussed some of the challenges and issues and potential solutions. What is different now is that the pandemic and the lockdown has changed the thinking of many higher education institutions about the design of their campuses and their curriculum.

The third lockdown has got many institutions thinking about their curriculum design, also what they need to do to embed practice for the future. How do we move from models of translation to ones that are transformative.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Locked down again

discarded mask
Image by Roksana Helscher from Pixabay

Monday evening saw an announcement from the Prime Minister that England was going to again go into a national lockdown, there were similar announcements from the devolved administrations.

Schools and colleges were to close to all students except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time, as they did in November, the Government has provided guidance to universities on what they should be doing.

Unlike in March, in November universities were able to continue to deliver in-person teaching for specific groups.

This time however, though some students are able to return for in-person face to face teaching, other students were expected to remain at home.

Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:

        • Medicine & dentistry
        • Subjects allied to medicine/health
        • Veterinary science
        • Education (initial teacher training)
        • Socialwork
        • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).

Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.

We have previously published ​guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term​. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.

If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.

For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.

This third national lockdown isn’t entirely unexpected with the increase in case numbers and hospital admissions, however it does mean that universities will need to move to a remote teaching model as they did back in March.

girl with mask
Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

Will it be easier this time around?

As there was a phased return of students to campus, I suspect a lot of universities will have had their plans in place already. A few extra weeks will need to be added, but there is time (and hopefully the experience) to quickly switch from in-person to online. Staff will have the necessary technical skills now, gained through hard experience the first time Some staff will need to be on campus for in-person teaching and that creates new challenges as well.

I do think,  will they have adjusted their models of delivery to avoid just translating their curriculum, and will ensure that the curriculum takes advantage of the affordances of online delivery. Hopefully discussions would have taken place about what worked well last time and what needed to be improved. Students may also be in a better place, less of a shock this time. There are still issues with digital poverty, do all the students have the right devices and connectivity to learn online>

As with the first lockdown, this isn’t about switching some of the course online, as everything has to be delivered online, no blended learning here for most students. No doing what works well online and doing other parts of the course in-person. In addition we have the stress and pressures of a lockdown as well with social distancing, self-isolation, increased risk of infection from the variant virus, as well as home schooling and a stay at home policy.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

In the first lockdown one of the things I noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I had been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students. So I decided to write a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery, which proved useful and popular with people.

See the list of blog posts on transforming and translation.

Strewth, that’s early – Weeknote #93 – 11th December 2020

clock
Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

I had a meeting at 6pm, well 6pm in Australia, for me it was a 7am meeting on Monday morning, which though sounds horrendous, I am normally up at that time making packed lunches for my children. I was up a bit earlier so I could get those done before attending the meeting. It was bringing together colleagues from UK universities and Australian universities to compare and share about how they responded to the pandemic, but also wrapping it with what we had learnt from Learning and Teaching Reimagined. I was more of an observer in this meeting, making notes and seeking insights. One of the key insights for me was how some institutions which were set up for online learning still struggled in the lockdown and the early stages of the pandemic. It reinforces the view that the lockdown caused an emergency response to remote teaching and was not about planned online learning. The issues that arose were around staffing, who were now working remotely, as well as similar issues to in-person universities with assessment, as well as planned residentials.

Later that day we discussed the meeting and also other ways of working internationally with Learning and Teaching Reimagined.

BBC published a guide for students on how to survive online uni.

Read The Zoom Gaze by Autumn Caines.

Since the pandemic began, the seemingly mundane protocols of Zoom have become a significant part of many people’s daily lives: finding the right link, setting up the peripherals, managing the glitches and slippages in this supposedly “synchronous” form of communication. At first, of course, video conferencing was a godsend — a way that things could continue to go on with some semblance of normal. But it quickly became clear that video conferencing is not simply a substitute for face-to-face encounters. It incurs effects of its own.

This post was also discussed at the end of the week at Lawrie and Paul’s EdTech Coffee session.

I have noticed elsewhere that much of the discussion about Zoom is about how you need to do about your Zoom (or Teams) calls, maintaining eye contact, etc…

It did occur to me that actually the issue is less about how you appear on Zoom, but more about how you view others on Zoom. We need to remember that, with the diversity of setups, and even the simple fact that most people will be looking at the Zoom window and not the camera, that means virtually everyone will look distracted. I have been conscious about this, pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic (and well before) so I don’t worry about what others are doing on their cameras, whether they are on or off. Let’s focus on the important things, the reasons why we are having a Zoom call and less about bookcases and looking into cameras.

Spent much of the week on the reimagining of the HE strategy. We are ensuring that the lessons from  Learning and Teaching Reimagined inform the strategy and they are aligned.

I have been having a few meetings with our content colleagues in Jisc about their work on content for teaching and learning. We know that content isn’t teaching, however it can be an important aspect of learning and teaching.

Had an operational meeting about Data Matters, the content programme is complete, now we need to get people to sign up to the event.

Good news was that the mass testing of students has shown very few cases.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Returning – Weeknote #92 – 4th December 2020

lecture theatre
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I have been thinking about the use of space for teaching and learning once we move beyond Covid-19. There are similar discussions thinking about the future of the office. I found this Wired article interesting – The Covid-19 vaccines will usher the dawn of the true hybrid office.

The promising vaccine news is making bosses think about the return to work. But when it does happen, the office won’t ever be the same again.

I had a good discussion on Tuesday about the future university campus. I have worked on an intelligent campus project in the past, back then we had a vision. However the current landscape has changed and will continue to change. This has implications for campus planning and usage.

Wednesday saw the publication by the Government of guidance for universities on students returning in the spring.

I did read this article from Wonkhe responding to  – DfE publishes staggering advice for universities on students return in 2021. Jim Dickinson and David Kernohan unpick the implications.

Thursday I was on leave…

Friday was a full day of meetings and events. I actually have very few days where I spend most of the day in Zoom and Teams meetings, but today I had nearly six hours of online meetings. The key for me was to move away from the computer when I can.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Note that the original NY Post tweet this was referring to has now been deleted. It talked about the UK Christmas covid-19 planning with a picture of Paris.

However someone managed to get a screengrab before it was deleted.

Going home for Christmas – Weeknote #91 – 27th November 2020

A lot of news over the weekend on grade inflation. I was at an event last November where this was discussed and there was some despair about the issue, on one hand everyone is expecting the quality of teaching to be better, but at the same time they don’t want students to get better grades.

I spent a fair amount of time writing some proposals this week.

We’ve also been working on where Jisc goes next with Learning and teaching reimagined following the publication of the most recent report.

This report is the result of a five-month higher education initiative to understand the response to COVID-19 and explore the future of digital learning and teaching.

As the directorate I am now in is responsible for moving things forward, the key issue is how we move from a series of challenges and recommendations to a plan for change and transformation. We have a vision, we know where we are, it’s less about where we want to be, much more about how do we get there, what do we need to do to make it happen.

walking home
Image by 춘성 강 from Pixabay

So what’s going to be happening at Christmas as students flock home for Christmas? Continue reading Going home for Christmas – Weeknote #91 – 27th November 2020

I WON THE ELECTION – Weeknote #90 – 20th November 2020

Official sources called this election differently

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.

Continue reading I WON THE ELECTION – Weeknote #90 – 20th November 2020

Physical in-person face to face including aspects of digital and online as well as asynchronous – Weeknote #89 – 13th November 2020

The week started with a run through of an online event I was participating later in the week. I published a blog post called The second wave arrived in which I look at the impact of the second national (English) lockdown on the university sector. On Wonkhe, David Kernohan asked Is it really fair to blame universities for the second wave?

High case numbers in the early autumn have led some to conflate the second wave with students and universities. For David Kernohan, the data doesn’t show that.

This was an interesting article that looked at the data behind the second wave and how some people have been conflating the wave with university attendance and blaming students.

I spent a good part of Monday working on some internal documents for various projects, as well as some presentations for future events.

Tuesday I was on a panel session for the QAA looking at academic integrity. I don’t mind online events, but it can be really hard to read the audience compared to being on a panel at a live in-person face to face event.

On that note there was a discussion on Twitter about the term we use for that compared to online sessions.

I responded about how Jisc used the term in-person in their recent LTR report.

Personally looking back over my recent blog posts I have been using the (slightly clunky) term physical face to face For some it is a real issue and in some cases how it is interpreted by employers and the press. I personally think we might be spending a little too much time over thinking this.

Continue reading Physical in-person face to face including aspects of digital and online as well as asynchronous – Weeknote #89 – 13th November 2020

The second wave arrived

Wave
Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

In an entirely expected move, the country faced a second wave of covid-19 and as a result there is now a second lockdown in place (in England to the 3rd December. Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time the Government has said universities should remain open. Despite that guidance a fair few universities have moved their provision back online as they did back in March.

It’s interesting to see how things keep changing adding much more to an uncertain future across the higher education sector.  Back at the end of June as we started to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown I wrote a blog post wondering if we needed to worry so much about planning for online delivery for September.

Over the last couple of months in lockdown I have written various blog posts about the challenges that universities and colleges have faced with their emergency response to dealing with the coronavirus lockdown and planning for a new academic year amidst, translation and transformationhybrid curriculumsocial distanced campuses and a huge helping of uncertainty. That uncertainty is certainly a big challenge and in the last few days we have seen the government make big changes to the lockdown restrictions in place, and have planned further easing of lockdown.

In that blog post I was certainly overtly cautious about might happen.

Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.

As the weeks went by and we saw gyms, cinemas, restaurants and barbers reopen, as well as none-essential shops. I did think that by September that universities would be a good position to have relatively open campuses, face to face teaching with some elements of their programmes online. So overall creating a positive student experience. Maybe, just maybe, universities wouldn’t need to worry as much as thought they might in designing and delivering courses online in the next academic year. Then again maybe they needed to.

I also knew that covid-19 hadn’t vanished, it was still there and as the cases grew in August I did start to think that we probably would, as predicted by many scientists, that there would be a second wave. Chatting with a few people in August, it was apparent that across many universities where was still concerns about social distancing and reducing the risk of infection, so plans were still being made to deliver blended or hybrid programmes, at least until January. The local lockdowns then happening regionally, demonstrated once more the need for effective flexible, responsive curriculum planning.

With the return of students to university in September, sadly we saw a huge spike in cases at many universities across the UK.

Initially there were a few cases as I shared in this blog post about the situation in the middle of September. We saw major news stories on a halls of residence in Dundee, but as the week progressed more infections were being reported.

Within a week it all went crazy and I wrote about that situation in this blog post. Thousands of students across the UK were being forced to self-isolate as infections rose across the student population.

Initial press coverage was quite negative and I did write the following

So the higher education sector is facing real challenges as covid-19 infections result in self-isolation, local lockdowns and the resulting impact on learning and teaching, what they need now is support and help in working through this.

Wonkhe went into more detail about what is happening at universities right now, and why?

The anti-student sentiment continued, so much so, that Johnson in a press conference actually was quite sympathetic towards the student situation.

One result of the increased number of infections and self-isolation was a lot of universities were moving back to online teaching.

… the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University both said they will move more learning online. The University of Sheffield said all teaching will move online … Sheffield Hallam said it will increase the proportion of online teaching, but keep some on-campus.

Both universities (Newcastle and Northumbria) said they had extensive plans in place to support students. Earlier today they said they would move most of their teaching online in response to the outbreaks.

The two main universities in Manchester are teaching online until “at least” the end of the month after a coronavirus outbreak among students. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester (UM) said it was a “collaborative decision” with public health bosses and “won’t impact” on teaching quality.

The situation over the next few weeks didn’t get any better, and alas across the country as a whole, there were more cases, more hospital admissions and sadly more deaths.

At the end of October the crisis resulted in a new second national lockdown to reduce the rising cases and deaths. However unlike the first lockdown schools, colleges and universities were to remain open.

Many universities, as noted above, have moved their provision back online, but are still keeping their campuses open, so the students can remain in halls. However before the lockdown started the BBC reported that a mass exodus of students was expected as lockdown starts.

Students in cities across England could begin a mass exodus back to their families ahead of new lockdown measures coming into force on Thursday. Hilary Gyebi-Ababio, National Union of Students vice president for higher education, said students were “really wanting to go home”.

The UCU said last week that universities must move online for new national lockdown.

This has implications for universities which were already struggling with delivering a blended curriculum in and around strict social distancing and mask requirements. They will need to think carefully about how the curriculum will need to change if face to face teaching is no longer possible or viable. This isn’t just about the students, the teaching staff (who may be more at risk of serious complications with covid-19) may also not want to be on campus during the lockdown.

Though the Government has said that the lockdown will stop on 3rd December, if it doesn’t then that adds more uncertainty, even if it does, certain areas will remain in Tier 3.

As I have written before about implementing a hybrid curriculum will help universities deal with this uncertainty.  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. Alas designing flexible, responsive, hybrid curriculum does take not just time, but also expertise. I don’t think you can easily assume staff have the relevant digital skills, capabilities and experience to design, develop and build such curriculum models. There is a lot more to this then merely providing the guidance, training and support. Where do you start for example? What works and what doesn’t? Trying to do this all during a national lockdown just creates even more headaches. I am going to review the hybrid blog post soon and publish an updated version.

We’re in an uncertain world in which the situation appears to be constantly changing creating planning headaches for universities, not just in terms of learning, teaching and assessment, but the entire student experience.

As I said back in June and again in September, what we do know is that the future is uncertain and this uncertainty looks like it is going to last sometimes.

The second lockdown – Weeknote #88 – 6th November 2020

In an entirely expected move, the country faced a second wave of covid-19 and as a result there is now a second lockdown.

From my perspective not too much has changed. I am still working from home virtually all the time meeting via Teams and occasionally Zoom. I had started going to our office in Bristol once or twice a month, and was about to up this to once a week, I was in last week. However during November I will not be visiting the office or Bristol and will be following government guidelines.

The UCU said on Sunday that universities must move online for new national lockdown.

UCU said that universities must move all non-essential in-person teaching online as part of any plans for a national lockdown.

Now we have more details, we now know that the Government has said universities will remain open during this second lockdown. This will create headaches for universities as they plan to deliver more of their programmes online, but maintain some physical teaching to satisfy the Government. Of course some students will not want to attend physical lessons and lectures.

I did managed to get a coffee from one of my favourite coffee places before the lockdown. Continue reading The second lockdown – Weeknote #88 – 6th November 2020