Tag Archives: coronavirus

Adapting – Weeknote #61 – 1st May 2020

I spent some of Monday reflecting on an article in the Guardian at the weekend.

No campus lectures and shut student bars: UK universities’ £1bn struggle to move online

UK universities need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to deliver degrees online, with warnings that many are unprepared to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students’ education.

It has contributions from the likes of Martin Weller, Neil Morris and Diana Laurillard. It got me thinking, that we know good online learning takes time and money, however we don’t really have the time (and probably not the money either), so the question is, what can we do, what will have the most impact, and what can we also do to reduce the problems we face in moving online?

Of course we have moved to remote delivery, rather than full online learning. Even in September it probably will be a mix of delivery modes, you could even call it a blend of learning (sounds familiar) .

Reflecting on this, if every UK university created one excellent online degree between now and September (certainly possible) and then all universities shared their models/designs/content then we could be in better position than we are now, or even do a series of online modules that could be used by other universities.

Yes there are problems, issues and challenges, but can we afford to not do something. Sharing something, even small, has to be better than not sharing at all. So is this possible?  What needs to be in place to make this happen? What do we need to do to ensure it could work? What could you do to make this a success?

Jisc are hoping to run their Connect More events this year and I have been involved in a couple of early planning meetings. I was reminded of the article I contributed to about moving events online.

I spent part of the week (as I do now) collating voices from higher education about their needs and challenges across the current landscape, but also down the line for the next academic year.

Continue reading Adapting – Weeknote #61 – 1st May 2020

Lost in translation: the seminar

seminar room
Image by dmvl from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In a previous post I looked at translating the lecture, in this one I am looking at the seminar, or group tutorial.

As well as lectures many university courses have group discussions or seminar to talk about topics or subjects. These often consist of a one hour session led or steered by an academic member of staff.

One of the things I have 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. 

Dave White in a recent blog post about his experiences at UAL called it practice mirroring.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students. Continue reading Lost in translation: the seminar

Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Having moved down into assessment over the last few weeks, I am now looking at teaching online and student wellbeing (and engagement).

We know that the move to teaching online was very much done quickly and rapidly, with little time for planning. Platforms needed to be scaled up to widespread use and most academics moved to translate their existing practice into remote delivery. This wasn’t online teaching, this was teaching delivered remotely during a time of crisis.

The Easter break gave a bit of breathing room, but even then there wasn’t much time for planning and preparation, so even now much of the teaching will be a response to the lockdown rather than  a well thought out planned online course.

Thinking further ahead though, with the potential restrictions continuing, institutions will need to plan a responsive curriculum model that takes into account possible lockdown, restrictions, as well as some kind of normality.

I was involved in a meeting discussing the content needs of Further Education, though my role is Higher Education, I am working on some responses to Covid-19 and content for teachers is one of those areas. What content do teachers need? Do they in fact need good online content? Who will provide that content? How will do the quality assurance? Do we even need quality assurance? And where does this content live? Continue reading Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Lost in translation: the lecture

student on a laptop
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.

One of the things I have 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. An example of this, is from Dave White in a recent blog post about his experiences at UAL, he called it practice mirroring.

So in the move to online teaching our initial instinct is to preserve Contact Hours by mirroring what would have been face-to-face sessions with webinar style sessions. What this looks like is exhausting 3-4 hour online sessions which must be almost impossible to stay engaged with.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

Before having 4-5 hours in a lecture theatre or a classroom was certainly possible and done by many institutions. However merely translating that into 4 hours of Zoom video presentations and discussions is exhausting for those taking part, but also we need to remember that in this time there are huge number of other negative factors impacting on people’s wellbeing, energy and motivation.

When snow closed campuses, you probably could have got away with this kind of translation from the physical to the virtual, but now we have lockdown, anxiety about the virus, and let’s be brutal, people are actually dying everyday due to the virus.

People may not be able to participate in synchronous sessions, they may have childcare or other dependents they need to look after, they may be other household challenges.

So how do you, and how could you translate the one hour lecture into an effective learning experience that happens online. The key aspect is to identify the learning outcomes of that session and ensure that they are achievable in the translated session.

Continue reading Lost in translation: the lecture

Challenging – Weeknote #59 – 17th April 2020

A shorter week this week, as we had Easter Monday, of course with the lockdown I didn’t go anywhere on the long weekend and I am not going off to the office this week… this could result in an easy blurring of home and work. Though I generally am less strict during the working week, I kept the entire weekend free of work to have a decent break away. Though reading the news some relevant stuff does bubble to the surface such as this report from The Guardian on the potential drop in income universities will suffer as foreign students drop out.

Some universities are already expecting to lose more than £100m as foreign students cancel their studies, with warnings that the impact of coronavirus will be “like a tsunami hitting the sector”.

Several organisations are now planning for a 80-100% reduction in their foreign student numbers this year, with prestigious names said to be among those most affected. The sector is already making a plea to the government for a cash injection amounting to billions of pounds to help it through the crisis, as it is hit by a drop in international student numbers, accommodation deals and conference income.

There are also concerns that many domestic students will defer their entry for a year, if the first term in September will be online as it is now. I am wondering how many prospective students will defer their entry for a year as they wouldn’t want to miss the physical aspect of attending university. Similarly will there be first and second year undergraduates who will take a gap year.

We are starting to see the potential impact of this, as some universities are looking at delaying the start of term, whilst others are planning for online delivery.

Durham University is proposing online-only degrees as part of a radical restructuring process, the Palatinate reveals.

Confidential documents seen by Palatinate show that the University is planning “a radical restructure” of the Durham curriculum in order to permanently put online resources at the core of its educational offer, in response to the Covid-19 crisis and other ongoing changes in both national and international Higher Education.

The proposals seek to “invert Durham’s traditional educational model”, which revolves around residential study, replacing it with one that puts “online resources at the core enabling us to provide education at a distance.”

We don’t know for sure when the lockdown will be lifted, or what measures will stay in place, or even if they are lifted, whether they may come back down again, if there is a second or even a third wave of coronavirus infections. So it makes sense for universities to plan for online and remote delivery, something which is not the emergency models they have had to put in place right now.

It looks like the TEF has been indefinitely postponed.

I spent a lot of time this week discussing assessment and the challenges moving to online assessment. Of course assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning, so things you do for assessment need to be incorporated into the teaching and learning.

There are many challenges that the higher education sector faces with regard to assessment, but through my research, interviews and a landscape study, these challenges emerged as key to the sector.

Student engagement – Maintain student engagement through the next few weeks and through the assessment process, as they continue to socially isolate and study remotely.

Translating and transforming to online assessment at scale and at pace – Transform multiple modes of assessment to online versions at scale and at pace. Many universities have experience of designing and delivering online assessment, however they will not have done this at scale or transformed at the pace required.

Ensuring academic standards and quality when moving to online assessment – Maintaining the academic standard and quality as required by internal and external regulations, as they translate and convert existing practice into online modes.

Online assessment dashboards and benchmarking. – What are other universities doing with online assessment? What best practice is out there? Which universities are doing it well? How do universities compare? What do universities know about themselves?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Did I predict the virus? – Weeknote #58 – 10th April 2020

This week I have spent a lot of time looking at assessment, but also reflecting on the Plymouth e-learning conference where ten years ago I chaired a debate about closing the physical campus in times of crisis and disruption.

It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

Bunker

I was supposed to be on leave this week, we were heading off to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

I saw on Monday that the OfS on Friday had published new guidance on academic standards and quality.

There is recognition that in these challenging times that maintaining quality will be difficult. Continue reading Did I predict the virus? – Weeknote #58 – 10th April 2020

Coronavirus: What if this had happened in 2005?

Over on the BBC News Site, Rory Cellan-Jones, their technology correspondent has written an interesting “what if” piece.

But as I spend my day holding video-conferencing sessions with colleagues, FaceTiming my son and granddaughter stuck in a flat across London, and updating my various social networks, one thing strikes me: what if this had happened in 2005, just before the smartphone era began?

It got me thinking along similar lines about what would have happened in education if this had happened in 2005.

Rory does mention education:

With millions of children home from school, online education platforms are feeling the strain. But while there was plenty of talk about “edtech” back in 2005, most of the focus was on improving IT systems within schools rather than introducing remote learning at a time when many children would not have had a computer or a broadband connection at home.

This got me thinking about the services and platforms that we were using back in 2005 and would they have been able to cope with the increased demands that something like coronavirus would have put on them.

We did have VLEs across universities and colleges back in 2005. Many of these systems though were self-hosted in university server rooms, the concept of cloud or hosted services wasn’t really a thing back then.

As most of these learning platforms were under-utilised by staff and students they were often placed on under-powered servers and infrastructure, and very likely would have struggled if they needed to be scaled up to be used by a whole organisation.

We are all probably use to the single sign on and IDP these days, that we may forget back then that this wasn’t the norm. It wasn’t a simple matter of students and staff signing into a learning platform, they needed accounts created to use the learning platform.

Moodle for example was only at version 1.3 way behind where it is now, not just in version number but also functionality.

So who would be creating these accounts and importantly how would you get the information to the students?

The main form of electronic communication across universities and colleges in 2005 was e-mail, however though everyone these days have an e-mail account for their institution, this wasn’t necessarily the case back then. Certainly students weren’t often given institutional e-mail addresses relying on free e-mail services such as hotmail and yahoo. There were still quite a few people using AOL.

Without collaborative tools such as Slack, Teams, you can imagine people’s inboxes suffering from overload (though that may also be happening today as well).

As Rory points out in his article, home broadband connections were not the norm and there is no way you could expect all students to have a connection.

More than half of UK homes had broadband in 2007, with an average connection speed of 4.6 Mbit/s. That means half didn’t and those that did may have had slow connections.

Some people were still on dial-up connections, which tied up the phone line and was much slower than DSL connections.

If this crisis was to happen in 2005, then more use was probably going to be made of postal learning.

Today lots of people are using video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Teams to deliver teaching or for discussion.

Back in 2005 there were tools that could be used to deliver webinars, the precursor to Adobe Connect, Macromedia Breeze 4 was released in July 2003 with version 5 released in May 2005.

ADSL connections were okay for most things, but they were asymmetric, which meant upload speeds were significantly slower than download speeds. This would mean that it would be challenging to stream video from home connections, as well as challenging for people to view multiple video streams.

Today most laptops (if not all) have a built in camera, smartphones have two cameras (one in the front and one at the back). In 2005 a camera was a peripheral that you needed to buy to add to your computer or laptop. So thinking that at least we could stream low quality video would be scuppered by the lack of cameras.

Similar story with microphones as well, just in case you thought you could go audio only…

It’s not surprising that in 2005 most online learning was asynchronous text based, as that worked across most devices and connections of the time.

As for content, today we are awash with content, back in 2005 not so much…

In 2005, Wikipedia became the most popular reference website on the Internet, according to Hitwise, with the English Wikipedia alone exceeding 750,000 articles. Well in 2020 there are in excess of six million articles on the English Wikipedia site.

Much educational content was on CD-ROMs (remember them) and delivering materials online were fraught with challenges.

However at least journals were available online, but again problems with authentication would cause challenges for staff and students trying to access these collections from home.

Today many learners will be accessing their learning via their smartphone. Though there were (expensive) phones that could do the internet stuff back in 2005, those who did have mobile phones used them for calls, SMS text messages and the Snake game!

3G was in its infancy, was not available across the whole of the UK and was very expensive. 4G wouldn’t arrive in the UK until 2012.

Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay
Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Though we did have social media in 2005, it wasn’t on the same level as we have now. Today we are connected with others much more easily, our peers, colleagues and our students. We can share things online and feel very connected even though we are physically distant..

In 2005, YouTube was just a month old. Facebook was only opened to the public in September 2006, maybe they would have opened earlier in a crisis, but back in 2005, who had even heard of Facebook? There was no Twitter, no TikTok, no WhatsApp or Instagram.

Even with services such as Friendster and MySpace, though available, they didn’t have the same reach that today’s services have.

If this crisis had happened in 2005, I think that education for most would have been a very lonely affair, with staff and students feeling very disconnected from the whole process of learning. What do you think? What have I missed?

Merged – Weeknote #57 – 3rd April 2020

Roads

So it would appear after discussions last week that I am going to be leading a taskforce.

I have spent a fair amount of week looking at how universities are dealing with assessment it’s a varied world out there.

I also spent much of the week in calls and conversations.

The previous week I had five such calls in my calendar, though I know I did more than that. This week I had nineteen in addition to ad hoc conversations with people.

Normally in a weeknote I would discuss the different places I had been and what I was doing each day. In this locked down environment I am finding the days are merging into one blur of activity. My weeknotes may start to reflect that.

Great cartoon from XKCD on Covid-19.

Pathogen Resistance

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jack Schofield, one the real greats of tech journalisim.

This is so true and reminded me of those heady days not just in the 1990s but also in the early days of social media.

I have been reminded today of this blog post I write some time ago.

Starting with solutions is not necessarily the best place to start.

Dig a little deeper to identify the real problem.

It was this blog post from Chris Thomson on innovation reminded me of this.

The pressure is there to find innovative solutions to the various problems this presents us with. Because we are in a crisis and the stakes are high there must be a temptation to go for the low hanging fruit, to innovate in ways where we can tackle fix the symptoms instead of addressing the conditions that brought them about in the first place.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Dunes
Over the weekend we went to Brean Sands, won’t be going back for a while….

The office was still closed and Jisc had asked all staff to not to travel for work. It certainly felt like all the days were merging into a muddle of days. Even though I work from home a lot compared to others, I still had quite a bit of structure to my week, being out and about at least once a week if not more.

Last week I was supposed to be in London three times for example…. The week before I was in London for one day and Birmingham for two. This week, all at home….

This was also the day that all the schools were closed and as might be expected, school online learning services such as Doddle and Hegarty are not really coping with the demand for their services. Creating extra stress during these stressful times. We also need alternatives.

There was considerable strain on these services, which meant that I suspect a lot of children gave up and may not even try again.

I had a meeting discussing the Education 4.0 roadmap that I have been working on, this meeting was booked weeks ago, I was going to to Manchester to do this face to face, but of course now it was done online via Teams. Continue reading Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020

This was a week when everything changed…

Over the weekend I scared myself silly by watching Contagion again.

This was a film about a much more lethal virus with a shorter incubation period than coronavirus.

So in the interests of accuracy I checked the trivia and goofs sections of IMDB only to read this section in the goofs.

The disease in the film is highly lethal, affects a very large number of people and has a short incubation period. In reality an infectious disease must have a long incubation period and less lethality than in the film to facilitate a sustained transmission. The real case makes tracking much more difficult, which is a central part of the film, therefore the filmmakers had to bend the facts a bit.

Oh…

Monday I was supposed to be off to London, but due the cancellation of the meeting I was attending, I decided not to go and in hindsight this was probably the right decision.

I spent some time following up the cancellation of Data Matters and what we would do and what needed to be done.

Continue reading The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020