Tag Archives: government

More uncertainty

laptop user wearing a mask
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

This week we saw new Covid measures put into place across the UK to try and reverse the increase in coronavirus infections over the last few weeks. The impact of these coronavirus restrictions on the student experience is starting to surface, from the students breaching social distancing at an open air cinema at Exeter to Abertay in Dundee in Scotland where hundreds of students are being told to isolate.  Public health officials at NHS Lothian were investigating a coronavirus cluster at Edinburgh Napier University’s Bainfield student accommodation. A number of people tested positive and  contacts were being traced and told to isolate for two weeks. But the university remained open though, with students and staff who haven’t been asked to self-isolate have been told to attend as normal.

This must be causing challenges for universities as they respond to new restrictions and need to adapt their curriculum delivery models as a result, as well as ensuring the wellbeing of those students affected.

The Government are clear about what they expect from the sector:

We will introduce new restrictions in England, but not a return to the lockdown in March; we’ll ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.

It was back in June I wrote a blog post asking if we needed to worry so much about the immediate future. Then, things were starting to look a little more positive. Maybe, just maybe, universities wouldn’t need to worry as much as thought they might in designing and delivering courses online in the next academic year. However in that blog post I was certainly overtly cautious about might happen.

Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.

Then in August I discussed the uncertainty that the higher education sector were facing was causing real challenges for planning and preparation.

Chatting with a few people, it was apparent that across many universities where was still concerns about social distancing and reducing the risk of infection, so plans were still being made to deliver blended or hybrid programmes, at least until January. The recent local lockdowns now happening regionally, has demonstrated once more the need for effective flexible, responsive curriculum planning. Though we may see a national lockdown if there is a critical second wave, the current thinking from government appears to be to control local spikes with local lockdowns.

At the time of writing that post, universities were concerned about falling student numbers, expecting many students to defer for a year. Then we had the exams algorithm fiasco, so suddenly universities which were worrying about not enough students, faced having more students than they planned for, with more students then places achieving the required grades. This has caused additional planning headaches for many universities, combined with putting in safeguards for social distancing.

2m
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

So now we’re in a new, but just as, uncertain place where we have new restrictions, local lockdowns and the threat of a second wave which could result in a second national lockdown.

This uncertainty means that universities will still need to be responsive in how they deal with the various restrictions that are in place, but also responding to pockets of infection and isolation of parts of their student population.

I have written about implementing a hybrid curriculum that could help universities deal with these new levels of uncertainty.

With a hybrid course, some sessions are physical face to face sessions. There are live online sessions and there are asynchronous online sessions. In addition there could be asynchronous offline sessions as well. You may not want to be online all the time!

Some sessions could be easily switched from one format to another. So if there is a change in lockdown restrictions (tightening or easing), students self-isolating then sessions can move to or from online or a physical location.

This needs to be more than the emergency response we saw in March and April and universities have recognised this and undertake huge amounts of effort and work to ensure that courses are better orgaised and planned. Their students will be expecting more than simple translation of physical face to face sessions to remote online formats. The online sessions need to be reflect the fact they are online and not in a physical space.

Alas designing flexible, responsive, hybrid curriculum does take not just time, but also expertise. Term has started, so time is limited. I don’t think you can easily assume staff have the relevant digital skills, capabilities and experience to design, develop and build such curriculum models. There is a lot more to this then merely providing the guidance, training and support. Where do you start for example? What works and what doesn’t? There are subject and cohort differences. A model that fits one university, may for various reasons not fit another.

Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay
Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

Another big issues for universities will be dealing with the non-academic side of student life, for those who are self-isolating. Back in March students were told to go home, now they are being told so self-isolate in their accommodation. There are questions there about how they will get food and will they cook, can they still use shared kitchens? It’s one thing to be in the family home, another to be stuck in a single room in halls. How are you going to support student wellbeing in such an environment. Then there is the issue of non-compliance, how will universities deal with that? Will they want to?

As I said back in August, what we do know is that the future is uncertain and that we probably will still need to wash our hands just as often.

Uncertainty

Uncertain
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

It’s interesting to see how things keep changing adding much more to an uncertain future.

Back at the end of June as we started to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown I wrote a blog post wondering if we needed to worry so much about planning for online delivery for September.

Over the last couple of months in lockdown I have written various blog posts about the challenges that universities and colleges have faced with their emergency response to dealing with the coronavirus lockdown and planning for a new academic year amidst, translation and transformationhybrid curriculumsocial distanced campuses and a huge helping of uncertainty.

That uncertainty is certainly a big challenge and in the last few days we have seen the government make big changes to the lockdown restrictions in place, and have planned further easing of lockdown.

In that blog post I was certainly overtly cautious about might happen.

Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.

As the weeks went by and we saw restaurants and barbers reopen, I did think that by September that universities would be a good position to have relatively open campuses, face to face teaching with some elements of their programmes online. So overall creating a positive student experience.

Maybe, just maybe, universities wouldn’t need to worry as much as thought they might in designing and delivering courses online in the next academic year.

Chatting with a few people, it was apparent that across many universities where was still concerns about social distancing and reducing the risk of infection, so plans were still being made to deliver blended or hybrid programmes, at least until January.

The recent local lockdowns now happening regionally, has demonstrated once more the need for effective flexible, responsive curriculum planning.

Though we may see a national lockdown if there is a critical second wave, the current thinking from government appears to be to control local spikes with local lockdowns.

This has implications for universities which may find themselves going in and out of lockdown. This is doubling challenging for those universities that historically have a large number of commuter students. Their campus may be in locally lockdown or some of their students could be in a local lockdown. They will need to think carefully about how the curriculum will need to change if face to face teaching is no longer possible or viable. This isn’t just about the students, the teaching staff (who may be more at risk of serious complications with covid-19) may also not want to be on campus during these spikes.

As I have written before about implementing a hybrid curriculum could help universities deal with this uncertainty.

With a hybrid course, some sessions are physical face to face sessions. There are live online sessions and there are asynchronous online sessions. In addition there could be asynchronous offline sessions as well. You may not want to be online all the time!

Some sessions could be easily switched from one format to another. So if there is a change in lockdown restrictions (tightening or easing) then sessions can move to or from online or a physical location.

This needs to be more than the emergency response we saw in March and April, students will be expecting more than simple translation of physical face to face sessions to remote online formats. The online sessions need to be reflect the fact they are online and not in a physical space.

Alas designing flexible, responsive, hybrid curriculum does take not just time, but also expertise. I don’t think you can easily assume staff have the relevant digital skills, capabilities and experience to design, develop and build such curriculum models. There is a lot more to this then merely providing the guidance, training and support. Where do you start for example? What works and what doesn’t?

As I said back in June, what we do know is that the future is uncertain and that we probably will still need to wash our hands just as often.

What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Last Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. There was some really nice feedback from delegates at the conference.

Really hard to gauge feedback when delivering via Teams and all I can see is my Powerpoint presentation screen. Twitter at least gives me some insight to how it was received.

It would appear that my blog post on the main Jisc website was picked up by academics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  Continue reading What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Communicating with impact – Weeknote #71 – 10th July 2020

Early in the week I was preparing for my presentation on Friday, as well as working on some more future vignettes.

I spent two days this week doing CPD on “communicating with impact”. Though I have spent over twenty five years presenting, I still think there are things you can learn and unlearn as well.

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Jisc made the news having helped UK universities comply with China internet limits for their international students who are unable or unwilling to travel to the UK.

UK universities are testing a new online teaching link for students in China – which will require course materials to comply with Chinese restrictions on the internet.

The pilot project involves four Russell Group universities – King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, York and Southampton – and is run by JISC, formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, which provides digital services for UK universities.

BBC hasn’t quite caught up that JISC is now Jisc.

Despite hearing some anecdotal evidence to the contrary, it was interesting to read in the Guardian that  UK universities receive record number of applications in lockdown.

A record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to go to university, with numbers rising significantly during lockdown, according to the university admissions service UCAS.

We are seeing a political shift in how central Government view the university sector.

Government to scrap 50% of young to university target

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is to scrap a commitment to get 50% of England’s young people into university, which was reached for the first time last year.

He is also promising a German-style further education system with a focus on higher technical qualifications.

Tony Blair set the target over 20 years ago to boost social mobility.

University campus
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. Originally when planned I would have travelled over to Hatfield to deliver the conference in person. With everything that has happened since March, I did my presentation via Teams. My presentation was on learning analytics and ethics.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Do we need to worry so much?

washing hands
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Over the last couple of months in lockdown I have written various blog posts about the challenges that universities and colleges have faced with their emergency response to dealing with the coronavirus lockdown and planning for a new academic year amidst, translation and transformation, hybrid curriculum, social distanced campuses and a huge helping of uncertainty.

That uncertainty is certainly a big challenge and in the last few days we have seen the government make big changes to the lockdown restrictions in place, and have planned further easing of lockdown.

We are expecting to see over the next few weeks changes to the covid-19 guidelines. The government currently think there is not a high risk of a second wave. In the same timeframe, health officials have said that we must prepare for a second wave of covid-19.

Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus.

The government have said that “caution will remain our watchword and every stage is conditional and reversable”. The 2m social distancing guidance will be reduced to 1m from 4th July and people should remain at least one metre apart.

This has implications for university campuses, which have already made major efforts to ensure that the 2m social distancing guidelines could be enforced with one way corridors, removal of furniture from rooms and moving some high density learning activities online. Reducing the social distance to 1m means that in theory you can then fit more people into a single learning space (or office). Though as noted by health officials, reducing the distance to 1m, doesn’t double your risk of catching the coronavirus, it actually makes it ten times more likely. As a result some people will still want to be at least 2m apart. This does ask the question how you can manage this on a university campus.

chairs
Image by NickyPe from Pixabay

The government have also said, the fewer social contacts you have, the safer you will be. This means that universities will still need to ensure freshers’ week activities are conducted safely (probably online) and that cohorts of students would need to remain within a bubble to reduce the risk of infection across the university population.

We have seen with schools that trying to maintain social distancing even with smaller groups of pupils has been challenging, but we also see that schools in England will be reopening in September for primary and secondary school pupils in full. This has implications for Further Education colleges as well.

Outside the guidance remains that people can meet in groups of up to 6. Nice when it is sunny for outside learning, less so when it rains!

library and books
Image by lil_foot_ from Pixabay

From 4th July libraries would be permitted to open if they are Covid secure, this means we could see university libraries allowed to function as library spaces, as well as providing services online as they have been.

There is still quite a list of locations which would remain closed by law and this has implications on that student experience in the autumn.

Nightclubs would be closed, well that makes freshers’ week a little more locked down than in previous years.

Indoor fitness and dance studios, and indoor gyms and sports facilities, as well as swimming pools would remain closed. This has implications for student sports as well as sports courses and performing arts courses which make use of dance and drama studios.

dance studio
Image by Sendoku from Pixabay

It also looks like most conferences will be online for the foreseeable future, as Exhibition or Conference Centres – where they are to be used for exhibitions or conferences also have to remain closed by law. This has implications for those universities who rely on conference income over the summer holidays or have specialised conference facilities.

Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.

What we do know is that the future is uncertain and that we probably will still need to wash our hands just as often.

Sixty Years of “Charley says” and all that – now online

If you are of a certain age you may recall various public information films starring such people as Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Saville, the Green Cross Code Man, Charley and the Grim Reaper!

Green Cross Code Man

The National Archives has now put sixty years of public information films online.

For the first time on The National Archives’ website you can view complete public information films from 1945 -2006. Joining with the Central Office of Information (COI) to celebrate their 60th Anniversary, we have featured a selection some of the most memorable and influential COI public information films that cover some fasinating events from Britain’s post-war history.

Continue reading Sixty Years of “Charley says” and all that – now online