I got my iMac back at the weekend. Spent best part restoring the iMac from backup only to find I was having a permissions issue with my OneDrive files and there was a problem with opening files. I had been thinking everything had gone so well. I had virtually no data loss, so was pleased I had managed to get things sorted. However I was annoyed when opening a PowerPoint file from my OneDrive folder I got an error message.
Plans to go into the office later in the week were abandoned as two of my children were asked by the school to self-isolate and would be studying at home. I did take them for PCR tests, which were negative, but they still had to self-isolate.
I did another session for Leeds on digital leadership this week, we spent part of the session reflecting on the pandemic, what lessons we had learnt about change and what the potential impact of this would be in the future. One thing does keep coming up is how often we conflate digital with online. We talk about digital learning, but this isn’t always learning which happens online.
We also talked about innovation and how to mainstream ideas and new technologies.
Had a meeting about the initial results of the DEI survey which does echo many of our findings from our in-depth research with students. One area which still concerns me is how do we find out what the disengaged students are thinking and feeling, as both our research and the DEI is skewed towards engaged students with access to the internet.
Thursday saw a fibre company install a fibre cabinet right outside the front of our house, on the pavement, but slap bang middle in the front of our house. Looking over the legislation it looks like they can just do this without notice, or right of appeal. It counts as permitted development. You just know that it will become a magnet for dogs marking their territory, potential vandalism (graffiti) and a place for people to dump their rubbish.
Friday saw a repeat of Wednesday’s session on digital leadership which went well, but didn’t last as long, not sure why.
My top tweet this week was this one.
So they are digging up the pavement outside my house to lay some new fibre…
Slightly disappointed to see that the Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death is to become a black screen of death. Not that I see it that much these days as I usually have the spinning beachball of death on my Mac.
Actually my iMac fusion drive died at the weekend, luckily no data loss, but frustrating all the same. Attempts to fix it through software failed so I booked it in for a repair with the Apple Store.
The first Polish language dictionary (published 1746) included definitions such as:
After dropping off my iMac for its repair I headed into our Bristol office at Portwall Lane.
We had a review meeting about our Leeds programme and there was some good and interesting feedback.
The BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.
A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.
What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.
Later there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’
UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.
Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding of key terms such as blended learning.
On Wednesday I delivered the keynote at the University of Cumbria Annual Learning & Teaching Fest 2021. My presentation, Moving from Translation to Transformation, was delivered without slides and was similar to the one I delivered at LJMU last week.
James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.
I did another session for Leeds on digital leadership which went down well. We covered digital capability and was a chance to bring back Boaty McBoatFace and discuss what we understand by the term digital capability, once more a shared understanding is critical in ensuring that everyone knows what you are trying to do when you build capability (in that it is more than skills and more than just training).
In the afternoon I had a really useful and interesting meeting about the production of training materials and the cultural differences of teaching through the medium of Welsh.
Thursday I was in the office. I didn’t have any in-person meetings, but have started the process of using the office more, in the main for a change of scenery, meeting people and generally changing my routine. With the school holidays imminent I will probably be spending more time in the office. I have also planned my first trip to the London office for an in-person meeting.
Friday I was working from home, another session for Leeds and some discussion on strategy and targets in the afternoon.
Monday I was planning to head into the office, but with the rain coming down and a risk of thunderstorms, I decided to work from home. I do like going into the office, but without the discipline of formal in-person meetings, the incentive isn’t really there. I am trying to go in about twice a week, but at least one. I do like the change in routine and scenery and that I think is what is important.
Started to plan a presentation that I am delivering on Wednesday, but in the end decided that I would deliver it without slides. Not that I don’t like using slides, I think in the context of online conferences, that sometimes a no slide approach is different to what others are doing so adds variety to the online format.
Wednesday I was again delivering a session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It went well, but was clear somethings work well online and somethings didn’t.
Later that day I delivered a presentation at the Active Blended Learning Conference 2021.
Moving from Translation to Transformation
One of the things we have noticed back in March 2020 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 merely translating their usual practice to an online version. David White writing about his experiences at UAL, 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.” We have been interviewing students and staff about their experiences across the pandemic and what practices have worked and what hasn’t worked. As part of Jisc’s work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period we 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 and students. In this session James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.
I decided not to use any slides, and just talk to the screen.
Though I think I might have spoken a little too fast.
Later I was involved in a marketing strategy meeting.
On Thursday I had planned to go to the office, but due to the need to collect something, and the fact that I had no in-person meetings, decided to work from home instead.
Friday I was again delivering a session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It was a repeat of Wednesday, the exercise that didn’t work well on that day I removed for Friday’s session.
My top tweet this week was this one.
As for number 2, based on the bus and this image https://t.co/DEnStBsTbC I believe that is Crawley Avenue, West Green, Crawley branch.
Had a few meetings about Jisc’s HE bespoke consultancy offer and next steps.
On Tuesday I did originally plan to go into the office today, but according to the desk bookings there were very few people in, so in the end I worked from home.
I delivered a presentation to the IHE Heads of Finance Network on LTR, Powering HE and how Jisc can support and help Higher Education with a particular focus on investment in digital.
Wednesday saw myself deliver the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. Despite the fact I had to do most of the session by myself, it did seem to go well.
On Thursday I did go to the office in Bristol. There was a lot more people in the office than normal, however as I had a fair few online interviews and meetings, I spent most of the day in one of our meeting rooms. However I did enjoy the change in routine and scenery, and I had a few happenstance conversations, which I don’t generally have online.
We had a debrief about the Advance HE/HEDG shareshop we did on transition. We also thought about future ideas, including dual mode delivery and curriculum planning.
Friday saw myself deliver a repeat of the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It was a slightly shorter session as I had a conference to present at later that morning.
The conference was a Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference: Next steps for reforming the TEF and ensuring teaching excellence in HE. My session was entitled Driving up standards and supporting teaching excellence in remote and blended learning.
I talked about definitions, background, the emergency response and the implications of differentiating between translation and transformation. I also discussed the topic of digital poverty.
In the afternoon I did some analysis of the planning that universities were taking in respect to transition that came out of the shareshop we did on transition.
The main themes that came out of the online padlet discussion were:
Building online communities
The importance of student (and staff) wellbeing
Supporting and developing academic skills
Developing inductions and planning welcome weeks
Building digital skills
Returning to on campus delivery
One of the key themes that came out of the padlet discussion was the value and importance of building online communities. As one delegate pointed out in their planning, they felt it was important in supporting them to socialise and feel part of the community. One university wanted to increase connectedness and a sense of belonging to the university community.
As with academic skills (but slightly less commentary) the disruption to both new students and returning students, many comments were made about supporting and developing the digital skills of students. There was a recognition that many students did not have the (academic) digital skills to successfully engage with online and blended learning. As one participant said there was a need to be supporting the digital skills needed to access the course and related services. Another said we overestimated the students ability to use and engage with online content.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Maybe this isn’t the problem. Maybe the problem is too many meetings.
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.
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.
…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.
I realised that I have been walking and exercising less during the last few weeks, now the children are back in school, so this week I made a determined effort to increase the amount of walking I do.
Like last week, I have spent a lot of the week interviewing staff and students as part of a project we’re doing at Jisc. We have been talking to them about their thoughts and perspectives on digital learning. As with a lot of these kinds of interviews there are some interesting individual insights, however the real insight comes from analysing all the interviews and seeing what trends are in there. I also spent time planning a similar, but different project.
I attended a roundtable on a digital vision for Scotland and facilitated a breakout room reflecting on the vision.
If you have watched a 60 minute TV programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. Few of us have the time or the skills to create a 60 minute documentary style programme to replace the lecture, and where would you go to film it? So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.
In a meeting this week with staff from a university I was discussing this issue and their response was, what about comedy stand-up? That’s a monologue. That got me thinking and reflecting, so I wrote a blog post about needing a tray.
As higher education institutions plan for what will happen as we move slowly towards more students being on campus, there is continuing chatter about the form that teaching and learning will take. This includes how best to deliver it and how to communicate what this might look like. In all of this discussion, there has been a proliferation of words like “remote learning”, “digital learning”, and “hybrid learning” – and these terms have largely been taken for granted in respect to their pedagogical nuance. But if the preferred solution to the problems created by the pandemic in the first semester was “blended learning”, as we tumble through a second semester it would appear that the HE sector is beginning to settle on its next term of preference – “online learning”.
We do seem to spend a lot of time discussing what we should call what we do. The article makes the point that this does matter. I disagree slightly what matters is not what it is called, but whatever it is called, we have an agreed and shared understanding of what is means for you, for me and the students. We change the term, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we change our understanding. I recall having this discussion about the use of the term hybridthat I used in an article to mean responsive and agile, whilst someone else was using the term to describe a mixed approach. Words are important, but shared understanding actually allows us to move forward.
Wednesday I joined a panel at the Westminster Education Forum to deliver a session on the future use of technology in assessment.
“The future for England’s exam system – building on best practice from the 2020 series, the role of technology and ensuring qualifications equip young people with the skills to succeed post-18”
I only had five minutes, so not a huge amount of time to reflect on the challenges and possibilities. To think a year ago I would have had to travel to London by train, find the venue and then join the panel in-person. Today, I just switched on the webcam and there I was, did my presentation and then answered a few questions. I didn’t use slides, as there wasn’t always a need to use slides in these kinds of panel sessions and at an in-person event I wouldn’t have used slides.
Of course at a physical in-person event they would have provided lunch, which would then give delegates an opportunity to come and chat about what I had been talking about. That didn’t happen this time. I would say that though using Twitter as a digital back channel at physical in-person events does sometimes work, but people have to be using the Twitter. At edtech events I find a fair few people are , at other kinds of events, not so much.
Lecturers are doing all they can during the pandemic to support the myriad different ways in which students learn
It’s not as though the physical campuses are closed, they are open for those courses which require a practical element.
Then again schools are not closed, they are open for the children of key workers, as well as vulnerable children, and staff are working with them and delivering remote teaching to the children at home.
Yes the experience is variable across the country, even across a school, but to keep saying they are closed, doesn’t really tell the whole story.
On Thursday I had a really good discussion with a university about digital strategy. How important it is aligned to the main university strategy, but also how it enables that strategy and other strategies as well. If you are in charge of a strategy, how does it enable others, and how do others enable yours?
At the end of the week I was involved in the HEDG meeting and did a presentation on Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme and where Jisc is going next. It was good meeting and the presentation seemed to hit the spot.
I had a planning meeting about a session we’re doing with Advance HE on digital leadership which looks like it will be a really good session.
Looked at the presentation I am doing next week at Digifest on the future of digital leadership, what it is and where we are potentially going.
Strange things sometimes happen in universities and we’ve reported plenty of them here over the years. From hauntings and strange happenings to animal action and of course true crime events on campus. But this event which recently caught my eye is one of the oddest I’ve noticed lately. It all happened just over half a century ago at Keele University. Those were turbulent times as the world transitioned out of the end of the heady 60s era into a very different decade.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.