Tag Archives: covid-19

Well what did you get? – Weeknote #118 – 4th June 2021

Well a shorter week for me, as Monday was a Bank Holiday and I took leave on Wednesday. As it was half term, I has planned to go to the office for the other three days. So it would have felt in some ways like a normal working week. However personal circumstances resulted in working from home instead.

I liked this Wonkhe article by Nic Whitton and Lawrie Phipps: Why the teaching legacy from the pandemic must be more than digital.

As we start to emerge from this prolonged period of change, many university leaders are thinking about how to keep the best elements of digital and embed them in future practice; “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is a mantra we’ve heard on many occasions. This reflection is necessary and welcome: something we must do as we develop a “new normal” after the heady pace of change over the past year-and-a-half. However as we reflect, it is important to remember that more has changed about how we teach than the digital tools we use. To torture the metaphor somewhat, we might need to take a whole new approach to baby hygiene.

I took a day’s leave on Wednesday and we went to Legoland, which we haven’t done in a few years now. In theory they were limiting numbers, but it felt very much to me busier and more crowded than visits in previous years.

I read this article from the BBC News: Working from home: Call to ban out-of-hours emails from bosses.

…Prospect is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding “right to disconnect”. This would ban bosses from “routinely emailing or calling” outside set working hours.

The long hours and out of hours culture we see in many organisations is rife and the pandemic has made this worse.

When I managed a large team I was always keen to point out to my staff that though I was e-mailing early in the morning or late into the evening, I never expected them to do this and I never expected them to respond either. My reason for the odd hours was that I was commuting to Oxford back and forth and spent about 4-5 hours on the train. I worked quite a bit and did a lot of e-mail during that commute, as I was catching an early train and arriving home late, the timing of those e-mail was out of hours. What I did do was manage expectations of my staff about responding or not to those e-mails.

Now in a very different role, we have quite a flexible approach to working, and though less so recently (down to the pandemic) when I was travelling I would often work in the evenings in hotels if I was away from home. Again I had not expectations about responses, e-mail is for me an asynchronous form of communication and that is its main feature. Even in pandemic lockdown, working flexibly allows me to do stuff in the middle of the day and catch up either first thing or later. I don’t expect other people to work in this way.

I have a few things I do to keep my e-mail in check. I absolutely keep home and social e-mail separate from work e-mail. I turn off that notification feature on e-mail so I don’t have badges with ever increasing numbers. I don’t check e-mail when I am not working, so when I am on leave or at weekends, but I have the choice if I want to.

The issue I have with legislating e-mail sending is that it doesn’t actually solve the real problem. You need to solve that problem first.

Spent a lot of the week working on a couple of bespoke Digital Leadership Development programmes. One will be a series of online sessions, alas no in-person sessions for this, the other will be a self-directed study programme.

Since last working in this space, a lot has changed, the elephant in the room is obviously the impact of covid, lockdowns and the emergency response to all this. However much of what digital leaders need to do is still there as it was before. It is about becoming an effective digital leader, modelling the behaviour you expect in others and leading and influencing digitally-driven change.

Interviewed a member of academic staff about their digital practices this week and it was interesting to see the parallels and reflections of their practice which I have also seen across other interviews at other HEIs. The importance of effective (digital) support was brought up again, and this is a wide ranging issue for academic staff, for whom the support might be technical support, application support or practical support. This tool isn’t working, how do I do this with this tool and how can I use this tool for teaching and learning? In most universities this support is provided by different teams, the question you need to ask, does the academic know who to ask when they need support?

At our regular Higher Education monthly team call I talked about our experiences with consultancy, some of our wins and some of our challenges.

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.

How can we best support learners coming in to HE from a Covid context?

Zoom
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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. 

Can we build social cohesion online? Can we recreate effectively the in-person social interaction which students feel is critical to their learning? What can we learn from our experiences to ensure that students

Myself and Isabel Lucas from University of Cumbria / HEDG are running a free, safe space workshop to share thoughts, ideas, good practice on ways we can support learners in September. 

It would be great to see some friendly faces there who are interested in this topic and can share their thoughts, concerns and questions. 

We aim to write up and share with the community afterwards so the more input we get the more we can all learn from each other.

How can we best support learners coming in to HE from a Covid Context?

26th May 13.00-15.00 (BST)

This session, hosted by James Clay from Jisc and Isabel Lucas from University of Cumbria / HEDG will provide a safe and creative space to share views on what we consider will be the needs of learners entering HE in Sept 2021, having experienced 20 months of interruption to their education and social experiences. 

Please come along to share, listen and discuss with a view to creating some common understanding of how we can plan to support these learners in the new academic cycle. 

Please contact Rachel Witton if you are interested to join the session.

Affordances of digital – Weeknote #115 – 14th May 2021

earth
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

On Monday I was reflecting with an international lens on our HE strategy. Jisc is not funded to support non-UK universities, but we do work closely with other NRENs overseas, sharing practice, advice and where we can collaborating on projects.

Tuesday I delivered a formal presentation to a university executive about a project we have done for them, they were very pleased with the final report, the presentation and the work we had done.

Later I was doing another presentation to another university with some thoughts about digital governance. My main point was that digital isn’t just a thing, nor does it just within its own silo within an university. Often the benefits that digital brings to a department or professional service won’t be within that service but will benefit the university as a whole. For example, when you bring in a digital HR system, the real benefits of such a system are not for HR, but for the efficiencies it brings managers across the university. However often those benefits are not always realised, and the affordances of such systems are also not realised.

Wednesday I was catching up with stuff and preparing for other meetings.

Universities could face fines over free speech breaches as reported by BBC News.

Universities in England could face fines under new legislation if they fail to protect free speech on campus. Visiting speakers, academics or students could seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of a university’s free speech obligations.

To be honest I am not sure how much of a problem and issue this is in higher education that it requires legislation.  There was then a kerfuffle as the Universities Minister and Downing Street debated about what was allowed (as in free speech) and what wasn’t (as in hate speech). To be honest if the Government can’t work this out, what does this mean for universities?

Wonkhe asked the question Should student recruitment stay digital-first post Covid?

On Thursday I was presenting at the QAA Conference, my presentation was entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses?

 The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as more institutions move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning. In this session James Clay from Jisc will explore the challenges that growth in online learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. He will explore what is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the space and design implications of delivering online teaching as well. He will discuss what some universities are doing today to meet these challenges and requirements. He will reflect on a possible future where we are able to maximise the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

So true Lawrie, so true.

So next week our offices re-open, not quite a normal reopening, but we can now go into the office. I will be visiting our offices for various meetings, but also for a change of scenery.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Where’s my cake? – Weeknote #111 – 16th April 2021

I took a couple of days leave this week, I had my birthday and it was still the Easter break in North Somerset, though others were going back to school and university.  Going back meant turning the computer back on for those in higher education!

The 12th April saw the easing of lockdown restrictions and the news and social media was full of people taking full advantage of the easing. Even with infection rates down, vaccinations, there is still a risk of covid. It would appear that the easing of restrictions will result in an increase in infections, but the government still see this as manageable and will not put increased pressure on the NHS. My personal view is to remain cautious and not go crazy…

Of course higher education was not initially in the reopening plans, so for most students that means more Zoom classes and little or no live in-person interactions. This, as reported in The Observer is having an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

The government is putting the mental health and wellbeing of young people at risk by refusing to set a date when students can return to university campuses, university vice-chancellors and students have warned. Universities still haven’t been told when the government will allow them to resume face-to-face teaching for about 1 million students who have been forced to learn remotely during lockdown.

On Tuesday the UK government announced that English universities will resume (physical) in-person teaching no earlier than 17 May. Of course by then most teaching will be virtually finished for most students anyhow. So they can return, but return for what?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Quiet – Weeknote #110 – 9th April 2021

Well the week started later (as might be expected) with Easter Monday. Also with it being a school holiday and people taking leave, it was also a rather quiet week with very few meetings. This allowed me to crack on with a few things that were in my to do list.

The Guardian started the week with this article – Universities are angry at PM’s failure to include reopening plan in Covid roadmap.

University leaders said it was deeply unfair that students could get haircuts or work in pubs next week but still had no idea when their campuses would reopen, as the government announced that school pupils in England will be expected to wear masks until the middle of May.

mobile phone
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The BBC News reported on Gavin Williamson wanting to ban mobile phones in schools.

Mobile phones should be banned from schools because lockdown has affected children’s “discipline and order,” the education secretary has warned. Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph phones should not be “used or seen during the school day”, though he said schools should make their own policies. Phones can act as a “breeding ground” for cyber-bullying and social media can damage mental health, he added. “It’s now time to put the screens away, especially mobile phones,” he wrote.

I was reminded of a blog post that I wrote back in 2008.

Does your institution ban mobile phones in the classroom? Does it just ban the use of mobile phones in the classroom? Or does it just ban the inappropriate use of mobile phones in the classroom?

The key with any great learning process is the relationship between teacher and student, get that right and you are onto a winner. Disruption happens with that relationship breaks down, not when a phone rings.

My experience of school policies today, is that they actually already ban mobile phones….

I also liked this response from @Simfin who is an expert in this space.

I did like this article on Wonkhe – Where next for digital learning? by Julie Swain. She says that the key pillars of action to support staff and students need to focus on are:

  • Digital poverty
  • Digital Learning Spaces
  • Mental Health Support
  • Digital Learning Skills

In the article Julie recognises that digital poverty isn’t just about connectivity and hardware, it’s also about space and time.

She says about space: Space has proven to be a major issue. There were assumptions that students and staff had “study spaces” at home where they could shut off and dedicate themselves to learning. Again that is just not the case for many and it is not uncommon to be “inside someone’s spare room or even bedroom “.

Though I also think we need to consider low bandwidth and asynchronous learning activities as well as space, connections and hardware.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Pedagogy first – Weeknote #104 – 26th February 2021

calendar
Image by Amber Avalona from Pixabay

The end of this week marks my second year as Jisc’s Head of Higher Education. I have spent nearly 50% of this job in lockdown. I have also been writing weekly weeknotes for all that time as well.

Had a fair few meetings this week with universities talking about strategy, leadership as well as teaching and learning.

I had a Diversity and Inclusion workshop with the team. We were asked a few questions, but this was my response to: What do you think is the top priority for us that we need to work on?

Recognition that excluded groups don’t have the same advantages and privileges that others have. This has an impact on background, qualifications, experience and needs as an employee. We need to be creative and supportive in bringing excluded groups into the talent pool, but also recognise that recruitment is only part of the issue. Working practices, culture and expectations are there too. Society isn’t fair, we need to be not just equitable but also positive in what we will do.

I ran an online workshop for the current teaching and learning discovery project I am working on. I asked the question, what do we mean by blended learning, well that led to a really interesting discussion.

I do find online workshops quite challenging, and though there are tools out there, such as Miro, that can help, when you don’t know what expertise people have with those kinds of tools, I usually try and avoid using them. Simply put, as a result you spend more time trying to help people to use the tool, and those that can’t get into it, don’t have the opportunity to engage with the actual exercise.

Space
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thursday saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.

Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all. I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.

I wrote some more on this on my blog.

I also enjoyed reading David Kernohan’s thoughts on the report.

I did another post about the report on the definition of high quality teaching and how it relates to the use of video.

I have been reading the document and overall yes I do welcome the report, I think it has covered the background and situation on the response to the pandemic well.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Friday afternoon I attended the Intelligent Campus Community Event. Since I left the project two years ago, a RUGIT sub-group have taken over the organisation of the event, which is great. It was quite interesting to re-immerse myself into that space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Ground control to Major Tom

New Horizons
This artist’s concept shows NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. (Image credit: Southwest Research Institute)

Today saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gravity Assist

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.

Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all.

Ten years ago I wrote this post.

It’s not always about the technology, however in order to utilise technology effectively and efficiently, it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. How else are they going to apply the use of technological solutions to learning problems? Most practitioners are more than aware of the learning problems they and their learners face, what they need are solutions to those problems.

I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.

It didn’t pitch! – Weeknote #101 – 5th February 2021

We had snow at the weekend, but it didn’t pitch.

I had a week of meetings which was exhausting and quite tiring. Spent a lot of the week working on Jisc’s HE Teaching and Learning Strategy. I had meetings with key stakeholders within Jisc, as well as digging though university needs and ambitions.

lens
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I wrote a blog post for Advance HE on digital leadership, which will be published in a couple of weeks. It was based around the concept of the digital lens.

A strategic digital lens allows universities to better understand how digital and technology can enable them to achieve their core strategic priorities. It can help inform staff how they will use digital in their work to meet the institutional priorities.

I blogged a few years ago on the evolution of this concept within my work in Jisc.

magnifying glass
Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

Lawrie published a blog post, Stop normalising pandemic practices! There are some out there who think that what we are doing is what we want to do when the pandemic ends. However Lawrie reflected “I do want people to remember that pandemic technology practices don’t have to be everyday practices when we are out of this.”

What we are doing now is not normal and I don’t think we will be going back to what we had before.

We are reviewing the concept of the Technical Career Pathway within Jisc, I worked on the Learning Technologist pathway, but we’ve had little take up, but I think one key factor has been we don’t really employ dedicated learning technologists. I had a meeting this week to review on what we might need to do in the future.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

We have been reviewing Data Matters 2021, which was a charged for online event. Some individuals  have been challenging the concept of charging for online events, but would be happy to pay for an in-person event. Despite being online there are costs in organising and running online events. Having said that do we need to have events, could we achieve the same impact via different channels or medium? There are other online channels that could be used instead of an online event using a dedicated platform. An online event which is mainly about the transmission of content, probably shouldn’t exist, just use a YouTube channel! My experiences of the Jisc e-Learning Conferences back in the late 2000s was that these events could be (and were) highly engaging and interactive. There was conversations and discussions, as well as presentations. These events were value for money and people, though questioned the fee, did feel they were value for money. People don’t always value free events.

Had a fair few meetings with universities this week talking about blended learning, digital strategy and embedding digital practice across an organisation.

My top tweet this week was this one.