So I have made it to a hundred weeknotes. Wasn’t sure if I could keep it up and some are better and more informative than others. The lockdown has resulted in them being less of a travelogue. Sometimes when writing them I would realise that what I was writing would be better as a blog post. They certainly are for me, the stats on them are quite low and there are many more popular posts on the blog.
Tuesday and Wednesday was Data Matters 2021, an online version of a conference which I did actually start planning back in 2019. The Data Matters event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021. We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online. The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future. I attended a lot of the sessions and did the final closing statement as well. It was well attended and as a paid for event was the first in modern Jisc as a paid virtual conference.
Did some planning as well this week, haven’t planned a project for a while, but it was quite easy to get back onto the Confluence Jira bandwagon for this. I have to say I use these tools for my individual work planning, but this was the first time in ages that I was doing this for a team.
Even though all my meetings these days are online meetings I found this article by Atlassian on better meetings useful and interesting.
Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.
More final-year pupils than ever before are applying to local universities so that they can study closer to home, amid concerns that the impact of the pandemic may extend into the next academic year.
This echoes one of the future visions on the hyperlocal university I wrote for Learning & Teaching Reimagined.
My top tweet this week was this one.
I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery. pic.twitter.com/9cMKpNVyUy
No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!
Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.
Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.
Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.
With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?
Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?
I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.
Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.
Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.
I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.
My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.
I had a meeting at 6pm, well 6pm in Australia, for me it was a 7am meeting on Monday morning, which though sounds horrendous, I am normally up at that time making packed lunches for my children. I was up a bit earlier so I could get those done before attending the meeting. It was bringing together colleagues from UK universities and Australian universities to compare and share about how they responded to the pandemic, but also wrapping it with what we had learnt from Learning and Teaching Reimagined. I was more of an observer in this meeting, making notes and seeking insights. One of the key insights for me was how some institutions which were set up for online learning still struggled in the lockdown and the early stages of the pandemic. It reinforces the view that the lockdown caused an emergency response to remote teaching and was not about planned online learning. The issues that arose were around staffing, who were now working remotely, as well as similar issues to in-person universities with assessment, as well as planned residentials.
Later that day we discussed the meeting and also other ways of working internationally with Learning and Teaching Reimagined.
Since the pandemic began, the seemingly mundane protocols of Zoom have become a significant part of many people’s daily lives: finding the right link, setting up the peripherals, managing the glitches and slippages in this supposedly “synchronous” form of communication. At first, of course, video conferencing was a godsend — a way that things could continue to go on with some semblance of normal. But it quickly became clear that video conferencing is not simply a substitute for face-to-face encounters. It incurs effects of its own.
This post was also discussed at the end of the week at Lawrie and Paul’s EdTech Coffee session.
I have noticed elsewhere that much of the discussion about Zoom is about how you need to do about your Zoom (or Teams) calls, maintaining eye contact, etc…
It did occur to me that actually the issue is less about how you appear on Zoom, but more about how you view others on Zoom. We need to remember that, with the diversity of setups, and even the simple fact that most people will be looking at the Zoom window and not the camera, that means virtually everyone will look distracted. I have been conscious about this, pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic (and well before) so I don’t worry about what others are doing on their cameras, whether they are on or off. Let’s focus on the important things, the reasons why we are having a Zoom call and less about bookcases and looking into cameras.
Spent much of the week on the reimagining of the HE strategy. We are ensuring that the lessons from Learning and Teaching Reimagined inform the strategy and they are aligned.
I have been having a few meetings with our content colleagues in Jisc about their work on content for teaching and learning. We know that content isn’t teaching, however it can be an important aspect of learning and teaching.
Had an operational meeting about Data Matters, the content programme is complete, now we need to get people to sign up to the event.
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.
Made my first visit to a cinema at the weekend, which was nice, I went to see The Empire Strikes Back which was amazing to see on the big screen, I never saw this at the cinema in 1980, so it was nice to see it where it was meant to be seen.
But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.
The student experience this year will not be like it was last year. I still think one of the challenges will be the potential chance of a second wave of infection and another full lockdown, but the more likely challenge will be a local lockdown. Universities will need to plan for that kind of eventuality, these local lockdowns are likely to be weeks rather than months. Will courses have the flexibility to be able to respond and change as the local situation changes? That kind of planning is challenging enough with the added challenge of planning a curriculum that needs to take the requirements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus through bubbles and social distancing. As discussed before the real challenge is the uncertainty out there.
The next online session within learning and teaching reimagined will explore how you can encourage digital innovation across the learning and teaching spectrum, providing the opportunity to share examples of good and emerging practice in facilitating, developing and mainstreaming digital innovation.
Share and discuss thoughts and ideas on practical steps to encourage innovation in learning and teaching through the use of digital technologies and share exemplars of what has been working within the institutional environment.
I published another blog post in my translation series, this time on community and the challenges in translating the process of community building amongst student cohorts that usually occurs when they start a course, which may not happen if part or substantial parts of a course are delivered online. Back in March I wrote a blog post on building communities.
I wrote a short piece for our media team on approaches to blended learning.
I was on leave on Thursday, though I didn’t miss the huge uproar about the A Level results.
There is anger among schools, colleges and students, after nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded on Thursday were lower than teachers’ predictions.
How did France grade its Covid-19 impacted students? They took the average of first and second term marks, always rounding “up” and creating 10 000 extra university places. No negative algorithms were used.
The BBC published a couple of pieces this week about how university could be for new students this year.
With A-levels results day out of the way, students across the UK will have a better idea of their future plans. But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.
There are 137 universities in the UK, and 89 out of 92 of those which replied to a Universities UK survey will provide some in-person teaching next term. This will be part of a “blended approach” to teaching and learning, with many universities announcing that lectures will be given online.