Spent a lot of time this week reading, digesting, reviewing, and reflecting. Also attended a few meetings and spent time having conversations on Teams.
On Tuesday I went to our Bristol office. The train was delayed, so I started attending a meeting on my phone, which I find weird, but it worked.
Attended an internal meeting about Microsoft – Mixed Reality (MR) and Metaverse. There is some excitement around the Metaverse. As I said last week industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms are varied. 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, the “effective” metaverse is probably decades away…
Had an interesting discussion about the Office for Students and its future. There is criticism that they have been receiving from members and member organisations (such as GuildHE and the Russell Group). Labour (who are likely to win the 2024 election) have been quiet on HE and the OfS. Also found and read this Can Labour de-Commodify Higher Education? It has a Minor Problem.
The education system in Britain is in the mud. That is scarcely news. But would Labour have the courage and values needed to revive it? The trouble they would have if they win the next General Election is due partly to their Party’s legacy and partly to a personal problem.
The early spring bank holiday meant a shorter working week for me.
Most of the week was being involved in Jisc’s Connect More 2022 event. I was chair for one day and a virtual host for another day. I wasn’t presenting as this was very much a practitioner focused event.
Some great and inspiring sessions.
Politics against entered the debate about in-person teaching and blended learning.
Michelle Donelan has warned that if universities fail to return to face-to-face teaching, they may face large penalties. The universities minister told The Mail on Sunday she plans to “put boots on the ground” and send teams of inspectors to check staff attendance rates at campuses across the UK. Where universities don’t meet the required standards, they could “potentially be fined…
Helpful rhetoric? No, of course not.
Was involved in a few discussions about how students wanted to return to campus, but not necessarily to attend lectures.
Friday I went to the office in Bristol. It was quite busy compared the last time I was there.
The sector still appears to be reflecting on the concept of hybrid (or hyflex) teaching I read the following summary of ‘Hybrid Teaching and Learning in HE: a futuristic model or a realistic model for the future?’ was a question addressed at a workshop held by the University of Nottingham in early 2022, when universities were ready to turn the pandemic corner. More than 150 participants from around the globe were brought together to share their practice and learn from a community of academic and technical colleagues who had experienced hybrid teaching.
I published a blog post on time. Do you have enough time to read it?
Though I have written about time lots of times over time (well at least the last twenty years); across the sector we are still discussing that we need to provide academics and practitioners with more time. There are still many voices out there, saying that the challenge with engaging practitioners with learning technologies is about providing them with time The trouble with talking about time, is that it is a somewhat simplistic perspective over what is a complex and challenging issue.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Our staff found a difference between what students say and what they do, eg they said they want to come on-to campus for sessions. We arrange f2f and only 20% of students attend.
How do we account for this when designing hybrid/blended learning?
When we talk about online and in-person many of us think of this as a dichotomy, either we are online, or we are in-person.
The reality is though as we know, that this can be more of a spectrum, a range of possibilities, with varying depths to which online or digital can be embedded into an in-person experience.
If we take an in-person lecture. We can start to add digital and online aspects. At a simplistic level printing off a handout created in Word involves some level of digital. One aspect that has been around for a couple of decades at least is using the internet and the web for online research, which informs the content of the lecture. Referring to online articles and journals.
This is so embedded now into practice that we probably don’t even think of this as “online” or digital.
The use of Powerpoint is so embedded into practice nowdays, that we forgot that at one time extolling the possibilities of Powerpoint was the mainstay of many a staff development day, with some staff wanting to retain the OHP, acetates and their OHP pens.
However over the years many academics have started to add more digital technologies into their sessions. They have brought in online video which is another step along that spectrum. Services such as YouTube have made is so much easier to bring video into the lecture. I remember back in the 1990s having to bring in my home desktop computer with its Matrox Rainbow Runner graphics card to enable me to play full screen video as part of a Powerpoint presentation. The institutional provided laptop didn’t have sufficient graphics power to run video bigger than a postage stamp.
Ubiquitous wifi and student devices has enabled more embedding and integration of digital technologies, specifically online tools and services.
The addition of an online back channel (official or off the grid) enabled social and community learning away from the individual experience that we use to have. Likewise shared document editing allowed for collaborative note taking amongst students. Easy access to resources and online site, allowed deeper understanding of topics as students had ready and easy access to information as they participated in the lecture.
The pandemic showed us that we can flip the in-person lecture to the online lecture using tools such as Zoom or Teams. However going forward we can start to embed in-person experiences to the online lecture. Students could get together into groups to participate in an online lecture. This can be a relatively simple way to make an online experience more social considering that appropriate spaces are provided.
Likewise hybrid (or hyflex) teaching is by definition a combination of in-person and online teaching.
Listening to lecturers and students taking about their experiences, it is clear that teaching is not a binary of online or in-person, but can be considered a spectrum of experiences. Over a programme sessions can move along that spectrum.
So how are you supporting staff to embed online and digital technologies into their teaching?
Monday I was focusing on one of the projects we are working on with an university looking at various scope areas and how technology and digital can make a difference. I was reminded of the NSA quote of cylinders of excellence when it comes to silo working. The concept of excellent departments, but not an excellent university came to mind, but also about the inefficiencies of silos working in isolation and not thinking about the impact of their development and change on the rest of the university.
At the end of the day we were discussing assessment. What is happening with assessment in higher education now and what changes made as a result of Covid-19 are now in place, but also the wider issues of assessment as well.
Tuesday saw me back to our office in Portwall Lane for an in-person meeting with my line manager, our first meeting in-person since August last year. It was actually nice to be both in the office and in an in-person meeting.
Something that keeps coming to my attention is the future of teaching, especially the concept of dual mode or hybrid teaching. What are peoples’ experiences of “dual-mode”, “muti-mode”, hybrid teaching? What has the student feedback being like? Something I have been reflecting on this week.
Students want universities to prioritise a return to in person teaching and are missing face-to-face interaction around their wider student experience.
This is something which isn’t too surprising and is also something that has come out of our recent research into the student experience. Though digging deeper for us, it was more the in-person interaction students were missing and less the teaching.
Wednesday afternoon myself and Isabel Lucas of HEDG and the University of Cumbria hosted a share shop, facilitated by Advance HE, on how universities can support students transitioning in HE. We looked at both new students and returning students.
In September, third year students returning to HE will not have had a normal year in higher education and it is likely that their third year will not be like it was before.
We discussed a range of issues, focusing on the known knowns and the known unknowns. More difficult to discuss the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns!
We are aiming to share the findings from the shareshop in June.
Thursday was a light day in terms of meetings, but got even lighter, as one meeting was cancelled five minutes before it was due to start, with the other meeting, two people who had accepted were in fact on leave, so in the end the meeting lasted only five minutes.
The future of the office keeps getting discussed, with those who own offices explaining why going back to the office is so important and those who don’t explaining why it isn’t. For me a lot is about the kind of work you do, I don’t do the same thing everyday, so there isn’t a single kind of space I need all the time. Before Covid, sometimes I would be working alone, sometimes I would be in meetings, sometimes we would be collaborating and sometimes I didn’t know, so it was useful to have other people around to bounce ideas off and chat over coffee.