Tag Archives: health

..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.

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.

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.

Nintendo Wii used for therapy for burns victims

The BBC has an interesting report on how the Nintendo Wii been used to provide therapy for burns victims.

The Nintendo Wii games console is being used as part of physiotherapy treatment for patients in South-East England.

Burns victims and those with hand injuries are being offered spells on the console to boost their recovery.

In an accompanying article the BBC asks the question:

So is the evidence stacking up that the sought-after games console is not just fun, but good for us too?

I have seen how TechDis have promoted the use of the Wii and these articles show how games consoles have uses beyond merely playing games.