In an entirely expected move, the country faced a second wave of covid-19 and as a result there is now a second lockdown.
From my perspective not too much has changed. I am still working from home virtually all the time meeting via Teams and occasionally Zoom. I had started going to our office in Bristol once or twice a month, and was about to up this to once a week, I was in last week. However during November I will not be visiting the office or Bristol and will be following government guidelines.
UCU said that universities must move all non-essential in-person teaching online as part of any plans for a national lockdown.
Now we have more details, we now know that the Government has said universities will remain open during this second lockdown. This will create headaches for universities as they plan to deliver more of their programmes online, but maintain some physical teaching to satisfy the Government. Of course some students will not want to attend physical lessons and lectures.
Over the week I have been working on various papers and reports, which have been going through a consultation and review process.
We launched the Data Matters 2021 conference this week, I am working with QAA and HESA on the programme for the event, which will be online.
This year’s theme will focus on ‘enabling data certainty’. The UK education sector is moving towards an uncertain future. The sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of industry 4.0 and student expectations. With COVID-19 having such a huge impact on the operation of the higher education sector now and in the foreseeable future, the entire student experience has been and will be disrupted by the restrictions in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. This has impacted on the use of formal and informal learning spaces, as well as an increasing reliance on online platforms and digital content.
It has also impacted on student recruitment, domestic as well as international. Universities have a responsibility to support all students to thrive and achieve, and it is increasingly recognised that students’ experiences are very different depending on a large number of factors, including background and personal circumstances, type and subject of their course. The mental health and wellbeing of students is an increasing concern for universities and sector bodies.
The role of data, analytics, data modelling, predictive analytics and visualisation will be a core aspect of this uncertain future, but the uncertainty will bring new challenges for the sector in how they utilise the potential of data. Public scepticism about algorithms and data use is creating new ethical and legal challenges in the gathering, processing and interpretation of data.
AI software designed to monitor students via webcam as they take their tests – to detect any attempts at cheating – sometimes fails to identify the students due to their skin color.
I am not surprised, in my work on the Intelligent Campus, when we did some research into facial recognition, there was quite a bit of coverage about how it only really worked with white males. Can we be surprised then when used for exam invigilation that it fails on the same issue?
Women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to be told their photos fail UK passport rules when they submit them online than lighter-skinned men, according to a BBC investigation. One black student said she was wrongly told her mouth looked open each time she uploaded five different photos to the government website.
There is a question here about removing the systemic bias we find in AI and algorthims being used in education (as well as the wider society). A deeper question is how does that bias get there in the first place?
Across the week we saw more universities report large covid-19 infections in their student populations.
Sheffield Hallam has seen over 370 cases of Covid since the beginning of term and the University of Sheffield has seen 589 cases. The local area has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of people testing positive.
Another 1,600 students have tested positive for coronavirus at Newcastle’s two universities. Newcastle University says 1,003 students and 12 members of staff have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week. That’s up from the 94 students reported last Friday. There have also been 619 new cases among students at Northumbria University, compared with 770 last week. That means nearly 2,500 students and staff have tested positive since returning to studies.
More than 400 students and eight staff members at the University of Nottingham have tested positive for Covid-19. The university said the figures would be “higher than other universities” because it was running its own asymptomatic testing programme.
Almost 400 students and staff at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are self-isolating after more than 160 people tested positive for Covid-19. A university spokesperson said the safety and wellbeing of staff and students was the university’s first priority.
One result of this is a lot of universities are moving back to online teaching.
This week, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University both said they will move more learning online. The University of Sheffield said all teaching will move online from Friday until 18 October. Sheffield Hallam said it will increase the proportion of online teaching, but keep some on-campus.
Both universities (Newcastle and Northumbria) said they had extensive plans in place to support students. Earlier today they said they would move most of their teaching online in response to the outbreaks.
The two main universities in Manchester are teaching online until “at least” the end of the month after a coronavirus outbreak among students. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester (UM) said it was a “collaborative decision” with public health bosses and “won’t impact” on teaching quality. It comes after 1,700 students were told to self-isolate at MMU on 26 September.
I took the plunge and ordered full fibre from BT and if it goes to plan I will be getting 900Mb/s down and 110Mb/s up from the new all fibre connection. This will be much faster than my current 32Mb/s FTTC connection and so much faster than the ADSL connection I had between 2012 and 2017 which rarely went above 1Mb/s.