Tag Archives: guardian

..and then the proverbial hit the fan!

girl with mask
Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

I did think last week that this was just the beginning, when I posted my blog post about the uncertainty that the higher education sector was facing, when I noted a few stories about social distancing and isolation that was being reported in the press. I didn’t think that the story would blow up so soon!

Last week we saw stories emanating from Scotland that students were having positive tests for Covid-19 and hundreds of students were being asked to self-isolate for fourteen days. The impact of coronavirus restrictions on the student experience were 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.

After Dundee came Glasgow with a major Covid outbreak at Glasgow University seeing 600 students self-isolate. This was then reported in more depth and more widely – ‘We came all this way to start a new life’: the misery of Glasgow’s lockdown freshers.

University of Glasgow
Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

I did think that with Scottish universities starting term earlier than their English counterparts that we would start to see similar stories in England within the next two weeks.

I think we will start to see a rise in incidents in England, as Scottish universities start earlier so English universities are a few weeks behind.

Well it happened in the next two days, as well as more stories coming out of Scotland, we started to see similar stories in England, with hundreds of Manchester students locked down after 127 Covid cases and students ‘scared and confused’ as halls lock down.

Up to 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University and hundreds at other institutions, including in Edinburgh and Glasgow, are self-isolating following Covid-19 outbreaks.

It’s being reported by the BBC that forty universities are reporting coronavirus cases.

About 40 universities around the UK have now reported coronavirus cases and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new term begins.

  • The University of Aberystwyth is the latest to suspend face-to-face teaching to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
  • At the University of Essex a cluster of cases has been linked to sports teams.
  • Queen’s University Belfast – some students have been told to self-isolate after a “small number” tested positive.
  • The University of Exeter, which has also reported a “small” number of cases.

In Wales, with much of the population in lockdown, students in many of the Welsh universities were also forced to isolate and stay in their halls. This was proving to be traumatic for many first year students, who are mainly young and for most is their first time away from the family home.

Universities are facing various welfare challenges as you might imagine, but also the challenge that as well as physical face to face delivery, those sessions now also need to be delivered online. This is a different challenge than March where all students were off campus now there is need to deliver multiple versions of the same session. In addition the rise in covid-19 infections is impacting on staff, who may now want to shield, creating additional challenges for delivery across campus and online.

Wonkhe goes into more detail about what is happening at universities right now, and why?

What is going on? If you’ve not been following what has been going over the summer, or you are bewildered as to why we are in this situation, David Kernohan takes you through the basics.

lecture theatre
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

The Guardian was reporting on the pressures being put onto staff: UK universities ‘bullying’ junior staff into face-to-face teaching.

As universities struggle to contain student parties, and with coronavirus outbreaks already confirmed at several campuses, many academics are afraid of face-to-face teaching. But some say managers are bullying them to return and, fearing redundancy, they feel unable to refuse.

It doesn’t help that the press coverage is rather negative and biased against the sector. The universities were told by government that they should reopen their campuses. The Government were 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.

This was reinforced by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who defended students’ university return.

The culture secretary has defended students going back to university in England after a union labelled the situation “shambolic”. Oliver Dowden told the Andrew Marr Show it was important students did not “give up a year of their life” by not going.

Though many (if not all) universities have planned for this, it’s still a difficult situation.

However despite the challenges, it hasn’t stopped stories like this appearing: Police break up parties at Edinburgh student halls. Which places the blame on the students.

This morning we saw pieces on Radio 4’s Today programme and on the television on BBC Breakfast about the crisis, didn’t help that there were a fair few inaccuracies in the reporting.

So the higher education sector is facing real challenges as covid-19 infections result in self-isolation, local lockdowns and the resulting impact on learning and teaching, what they need now is support and help in working through this.

Shorter – Weeknote #73 – 24th July 2020

A shorter week as I was on leave for a couple of days.

Over the weekend I published the thinking and an expanded textual version of my  presentation to the University of Hertfordshire, where I talked about the possibilities of technology, and the ethical, privacy and legal aspects of said technology.

Monday saw my end of year review meeting. These weeknotes have been useful in remembering what I have been doing and where. Blogging not just weeknotes, but also about events I have attended or presented at also helps in preparing for these kinds of things. Even if you don’t publish them as I do, maintaining some kind of record over the year helps with preparation for reviews.

tree trunk
Image by Picography from Pixabay

I am working with colleagues on the Learning and Teaching Reimagined project. We are looking at undertaking various activities, as well as publishing some definitive guides for leaders in relevant areas.

One of the key aspects, which we are ensuring is recognising that though the technological challenges and issues do need to be addressed and resolved, one of the core issues is looking at the pedagogy in using technology to deliver learning and teaching, remotely and online. As demonstrated with my series on translation, it is often easier to translate existing physical face to face practice into online version, but this loses the nuances of that physical delivery, whilst ignoring the affordances that online and digital can provide.

exam
Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay

I found this opinion article on the Guardian on facial recognition interesting and relevant.

As students sit their exams during the pandemic, universities have turned to digital proctoring services. They range from human monitoring via webcams to remote access software enabling the takeover of a student’s browser. Others use artificial intelligence (AI) to flag body language and background noise that might point to cheating.

In my work on assessment I did research and look at digital proctoring. Most universities realised that the technology, despite the protestations of the companies involved, was unfair and could negatively impact on wellbeing. There were also concerns about the validity of such proctoring. Universities have also recognised that not every student was in a space, have the connection or the right kind of device to enable them to participate in said remote exams.

I wrote up my thoughts in this blog post.

Someone shared this excellent XKCD comic on the Twitter.

XKCD have a wonderful perspective of some of the key issues of the day and this diagram looking at the risks of Covid-19 along with risks of non-Covid-19 activities did raise a smile in me.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Consider the ethical issues first!

exam
Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay

I found this opinion article on the Guardian on facial recognition interesting and relevant to some of the work and research I have been doing on assessment, specifically remote assessment during the lockdown and plans for the future.

As students sit their exams during the pandemic, universities have turned to digital proctoring services. They range from human monitoring via webcams to remote access software enabling the takeover of a student’s browser. Others use artificial intelligence (AI) to flag body language and background noise that might point to cheating.

In my work on assessment I did research and look at digital proctoring. Most universities realised that the technology, despite the protestations of the companies involved, was unfair and could negatively impact on wellbeing. There were also concerns about the validity of such proctoring. Universities have also recognised that not every student was in a space, have the connection or the right kind of device to enable them to participate in said remote exams.

However, professional bodies, such as the Bar Standards Board in the article, have decided to use digital proctoring for their professional exams, and their chosen technology uses face-matching technology.

The Guardian article author, Meg Foulkes, rightly expresses her concerns about the biased nature of said technologies and is concerned that they are been used without sufficient safeguards in place, such as stricter regulation and ethical standards, for instance.

The article specifically mentions the concern of many over the bias that these technologies have.

Of most concern is the racialised bias that face-matching and facial recognition technologies exhibit.

This article reminds me of the discussion I had a few weeks back in my presentation to the University of Hertfordshire, where I talked about the possibilities of technology, but I said, first consider the ethical, privacy and legal aspects of said technology before blindly implementing it with students. This applies not just to universities, but also the professional bodies that they work and collaborate with.

Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.

The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.

University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.

We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.

It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.

We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.

There was massive disappointment across the sector to the news that the government were not going to bailout the university sector or agree to the UUK plan. Continue reading Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Having moved down into assessment over the last few weeks, I am now looking at teaching online and student wellbeing (and engagement).

We know that the move to teaching online was very much done quickly and rapidly, with little time for planning. Platforms needed to be scaled up to widespread use and most academics moved to translate their existing practice into remote delivery. This wasn’t online teaching, this was teaching delivered remotely during a time of crisis.

The Easter break gave a bit of breathing room, but even then there wasn’t much time for planning and preparation, so even now much of the teaching will be a response to the lockdown rather than  a well thought out planned online course.

Thinking further ahead though, with the potential restrictions continuing, institutions will need to plan a responsive curriculum model that takes into account possible lockdown, restrictions, as well as some kind of normality.

I was involved in a meeting discussing the content needs of Further Education, though my role is Higher Education, I am working on some responses to Covid-19 and content for teachers is one of those areas. What content do teachers need? Do they in fact need good online content? Who will provide that content? How will do the quality assurance? Do we even need quality assurance? And where does this content live? Continue reading Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020

Colleges, universities and the digital challenge

The JISC and the Guardian jointly published a feature on the digital challenge facing libraries.

Academic libraries are changing faster than at any time in their history. Information technology, online databases, and catalogues and digitised archives have put the library back at the heart of teaching, learning and academic research on campus.

There are some interesting articles in there.

My job role is managing both e-learning (ILT) and the Libraries in my college, something which is happening more often in FE, I know Trafford College has a similar position and another college in the South-West is advertising a similar position soon.

I do believe it is important that the e-learning and learning resources functions within an FE College if not managed by the same person, the relevant managers should be working closely together. Libraries need to embrace the digital challenge not try and fight it.

Colleges, universities and the digital challenge

And before you ask, no, embracing the digital world, does not mean getting rid of all the books!