I had a busy week with most of the week travelling and being in Manchester.
Monday though was a series of meetings across the whole day, incorporating updates, discussing the customer experience, finalising our team coaching, and a meeting with our public affairs team.
Tuesday I headed first to the Bristol office, where I picked some stuff up I needed for Manchester (okay I picked up my coffee machine for the hotel) and had my Q2 review. After that I travelled up to Manchester.
I spent two days in Manchester planning, discussing, and conversing.
Reviewing industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said: “Let’s be clear: the metaverse (however you define it) is decades away.”
I had a meeting on the second edition of the guide to the intelligent campus, the decision has been made to make it a web guide.
Read this blog post from Donna and Lawrie on digital leadership.
We no longer encounter as many people in workshop contexts who have the option of not engaging with digital. We no longer encounter people who believe that “digital” is a separate job that only a few people in an organization should have.
This reminds me of the staff IT induction sessions I use to run at Gloucestershire College, in that in 2006, there were many new staff who didn’t have and didn’t use e-mail, or the internet. By 2013, things had changed, all staff were using the internet and doing things that even I wasn’t doing online. Digital is not constant or standing still, it is constantly evolving and changing.
There is also a call to action on ensuring that digital leadership going forward is seen through the lenses of:
Social justice and equity,
Ethics, privacy, security, and intellectual property
Environmental impact and sustainability of using Edtech (and tech generally) in education
Reviewing industry perspectives on AI and the impact of ChatGPT. Huge investments being made by Google and Amazon. Could we see an AI OS. Machine learning already in place in many applications (such as photo apps). Microsoft looking at including AI into tools such as Word (in a similar vein to a spellchecker and grammar checker).
I was asked to produce some crisp presentation slides, crisp as in sharp I believe and not ones on a savoury snack.
I have been working on a (revised) implementation plan for the HE sector strategy: Powering UK higher education at Jisc. This is very much about operationalising the strategy, so much so that I started planning a blog post about operationalising strategies based on the content of a session I use to run on the digital leaders programme.
I did write a blog post this week, Looking through that digital lens which is also based on a session from the digital leaders programme, the strategic work I have done with universities and working with Advance HE on a leadership session back in the summer.
The digital lens approach can enable effective and transformational behaviours to emerge by helping staff to understand and develop their capabilities and confidence in the context of their own work.
Looking at strategies through a particular lens isn’t a new thing, but as we move beyond the pandemic, the use of digital has become so embedded into practice and working that the concept of a separate digital strategy is no longer the option it once was for organisations.
I have spoken about transformation a lot over the last year, so it was interesting to read this article talking about the importance of transformation when it comes to embedding technology. Though it does talk about generational generalisations it does talk about transformation.
Faculty roles and the processes of teaching and learning are undergoing rapid change. Most faculty members did not seek careers in the academy because of a strong love of technology or a propensity for adapting to rapid change; yet they now find themselves facing not only the inexorable advance of technology into their personal and professional lives but also the presence in their classrooms of technology-savvy Net Generation students.
Then you find it was published fourteen years ago in 2007….
Ah well transformation can be slow.
Wednesday I went to our Bristol office, though my train into Bristol was delayed by half an hour. That was something I haven’t missed during the pandemic.
I booked a meeting room for my calls, so I wouldn’t disturb others in the office. Still nice though to be back in the office now and again.
I had planned to go to the office on Thursday as well, however plans were changed at the last minute. Had some interesting discussions about thought leadership though it is a term I don’t like, the concept of articles and blog posts that inspire transformation is very much part of Jisc’s strategy. For me a coherent and planned approach that engages with our target audience is key, but easier said than done.
Well the end of last week kicked off with a petrol crisis so had to rethink my planning for travelling for next week. Though there was plenty of supply local to me, I was a little wary of travelling north in case there were ongoing shortages there.
What was noticeable was how little (visual) impact this was having on universities and colleges. If this fuel crisis had happened before covid, I would have suspected (as happened with snow) that university campuses would have closed and teaching would have been cancelled. However these days with flexible working in place for many, it was just as easy to work from home and use the tools we have been accustomed to, to teach, have meetings, discuss, collaborate and so on. Lack of fuel rarely came up in conversations I was having over the week, for many it was a worry, but it wasn’t a big issue unless they actually needed to travel.
Like last week, most of the week was spent reading, analysing and writing.
Had a meeting about digital leadership. I spoke about the work I had done in this area over the years I have been at Jisc. As well as working on designing and developing the Digital Leadership Programme with Lawrie, we have also written and spoken about digital leadership at different events and conferences. More recently I have also delivered digital leadership consultancy to various universities. One thing that is often missed is the connection between leadership and strategy.
Had a meeting about thought leadership, I actually don’t like the phrase and would not consider myself to be a (so-called) thought leader! However it is a term we use in Jisc and as a result I often have conversations and meetings about thought leadership.
Digging into this a little deeper, in Jisc’s strategy, we do thought leadership, because it is a critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.
A critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.
It should be noted that many in the sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. Universities have said a thought leader is more likely to be perceived as an individual than an organisation. Universities are more likely to look to other universities, peers and colleagues for thought leadership than a member body, company or organisation (like Jisc).
However if you ask universities about the actual content that is produced by Jisc that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, universities will often ask for specific people within Jisc, who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring. So though internally in Jisc we may call is thought leadership, the reality is that universities are looking to Jisc for inspiration, and we know that our articles, blog posts, guides are helping universities and colleges to transform. In our recent surveys respondents agreed we provide trusted advice and practical assistance to support their needs.
I have been contributing to the themes for next year’s Digifest conference, not sure how much of what I have said has added.
Was part of a panel for the SCONUL webinar on Blended Learning and the Shape and Design of Library Services. I spent my five minutes (rapidly) talking about the transition from in-person to emergency remote delivery, and that much of this was translation rather than transformation. Moving forward with the delivery of library services, we may want to think about as we move to online and digital models, what do we translate and what do we transform?
Still can’t get my head around the fact that the film That Thing You Do! Is twenty five years old now… twenty five years…
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.