Tag Archives: office for students

Extreme Heat Warning – Weeknote #125 – 23rd July 2021

I had planned to go to the office on Monday, but with 31°C plus temperatures forecast and an Extreme Heat warming decided that though the office was air-conditioned and would be fine to work in, the thought of driving and then walking, or catching the train and then walking in the heat wasn’t very appealing.

Had a couple of meetings with universities, both via Teams. I do wonder if I will ever be invited to physically attend a meeting at a university in the next twelve months.

meeting
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

What can we see in the 2021 National Student Survey?  Was published by Wonkhe.

As expected, students were less satisfied than ever during the last academic year, with creative arts students particularly unhappy.

Jisc is doing some new value studies and we had a meeting about progress.

Introducing OfS’ new proposals on quality and standards | Wonkhe

The OfS published today a consultation setting out proposals for new conditions of registration for quality and standards. The proposals clarify the focus of our regulatory interest. We care about high quality courses – the courses themselves, rather than the processes institutions have in place to produce their courses. And we care that rigorous standards are maintained in practice, with degree classifications reflecting student achievement.

University of Leeds - Leeds Business School
Leeds Business School

I delivered the final digital leadership session for Leeds this week, which has gone really fast, but the delegates did provide some really positive feedback.

I had planned to go to the office on Thursday, but as with Monday, with 31°C plus temperatures forecast and an Extreme Heat warming decided that though the office was air-conditioned and would be fine to work in, the thought of driving and then walking, or catching the train and then walking in the heat wasn’t appealing.

I wrote an abstract for a presentation I am delivering in November, which is planning to be an in-person event in Scotland.

The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as we move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning.  This session will explore the challenges that growth in blended learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. What is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the implications of delivering online teaching as well. Examples will be given of what universities are doing today to meet these challenges. The session will reflect on a possible future maximising the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

I delivered the final (final) digital leadership session for Leeds on Friday, this went well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Pedagogy first – Weeknote #104 – 26th February 2021

calendar
Image by Amber Avalona from Pixabay

The end of this week marks my second year as Jisc’s Head of Higher Education. I have spent nearly 50% of this job in lockdown. I have also been writing weekly weeknotes for all that time as well.

Had a fair few meetings this week with universities talking about strategy, leadership as well as teaching and learning.

I had a Diversity and Inclusion workshop with the team. We were asked a few questions, but this was my response to: What do you think is the top priority for us that we need to work on?

Recognition that excluded groups don’t have the same advantages and privileges that others have. This has an impact on background, qualifications, experience and needs as an employee. We need to be creative and supportive in bringing excluded groups into the talent pool, but also recognise that recruitment is only part of the issue. Working practices, culture and expectations are there too. Society isn’t fair, we need to be not just equitable but also positive in what we will do.

I ran an online workshop for the current teaching and learning discovery project I am working on. I asked the question, what do we mean by blended learning, well that led to a really interesting discussion.

I do find online workshops quite challenging, and though there are tools out there, such as Miro, that can help, when you don’t know what expertise people have with those kinds of tools, I usually try and avoid using them. Simply put, as a result you spend more time trying to help people to use the tool, and those that can’t get into it, don’t have the opportunity to engage with the actual exercise.

Space
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Thursday saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.

Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all. I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.

I wrote some more on this on my blog.

I also enjoyed reading David Kernohan’s thoughts on the report.

I did another post about the report on the definition of high quality teaching and how it relates to the use of video.

I have been reading the document and overall yes I do welcome the report, I think it has covered the background and situation on the response to the pandemic well.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Friday afternoon I attended the Intelligent Campus Community Event. Since I left the project two years ago, a RUGIT sub-group have taken over the organisation of the event, which is great. It was quite interesting to re-immerse myself into that space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Pausing for thought

Just a thought, a one hour lecture paused six times, isn’t this the same as six ten minute lectures?

Gravity AssistYesterday saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I have been reading the document and overall yes I do welcome the report, I think it has covered the background and situation on the response to the pandemic well.

However moving forward, it misses many opportunities to fully exploit the affordances of digital.

An example on page 42

We heard that to create high-quality digital teaching and learning, it is important not simply to replicate what happens in an in-person setting or transpose materials designed for in-person delivery to a digital environment. For example, an hour-long in-person lecture should not simply be recorded; rather, it needs to be broken down into more manageable chunks. In other words, teachers need to reconsider how they approach teaching in a digital environment.

Why does it need to be broken down? Has no one heard of the pause button?

A one hour lecture paused six times, is the same as six ten minute lectures.

How is six ten minute lectures better quality than a one hour lecture paused six times?

video camera
Image by Robert Lischka from Pixabay

I wrote this back in September following a conversation with a lecturer about this very issue, who like me couldn’t work out why they needed to chunk their lectures.

Doing a 60 minute (physical) face to face lecture is one thing, generally most people will pause through their lecture to ask questions, respond to questions, show a video clip, take a poll, etc…

Doing a 60 minute live online lecture, using a tool like Zoom or Teams, is another thing. Along with pauses and polls as with a physical face to face lecture you can also have live chat alongside the lecture, though it can help to have someone else to review the chat and help with responses.

Doing a 60 minute recording of a lecture is not quite the same thing as a physical face to face lecture, nor is it a live online lecture.

There is a school of thought which says that listening to a live lecture is not the same thing as watching a recording of a lecture and as a result that rather than record a 60 minute lecture, you should break it down into three 20 minute or four 15 minute recordings. This will make it better for the students.

For me this assumes that students are all similar in their attention span and motivation, and as a result would not sit through a 60 minute lecture recording. Some will relish sitting down for an hour and watching the lecture, making notes, etc… For those that don’t, well there is something called the pause button.

With a recording you don’t need to break it down into shorter recordings, as students can press the pause button.

remote control
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

Though I think a 60 minute monologue is actually something you can do, why do it all the time? You could, for other sessions do different things, such as a record a lecture in the style of a television broadcast or a radio programme.

If you were starting afresh, there is something about breaking an online lecture down into more sections and intersperse them with questions, chat and polls, just as you would with a 60 minute physical face to face lecture. If you have the lecture recordings already, or have the lecture materials prepared, then I would record the 60 minutes and let the students choose when to use the pause button.

The reality is that if you want to create high quality digital teaching and learning, you need to start from the beginning with what the learning outcomes will. Chunking your existing processes doesn’t result in a higher quality experience, it merely translates what you did before, but in a way which is not as good but in a digital format. It loses all the nuances of what made that physical in-person session so good and has none of the affordances that digital could bring to the student experience.

Probably the best way of thinking about this, is this is a first stage, the next stage is making it happen.

Ground control to Major Tom

New Horizons
This artist’s concept shows NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon. (Image credit: Southwest Research Institute)

Today saw the publication of the Office for Students’ report Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future. It is their review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gravity Assist

It is a 159 page report that attempts to capture the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change.

I was slighty amused by the opening gambit that Digital teaching must start with appropriately designed pedagogy, curriculum and assessment.

Of course with the first and subsequent lockdowns, the technology needed to come first as people quickly switched to remote teaching and needed some kind of tool to do this. What did happen was people merely translated their in-person pedagogy to the online platforms and then wondered why it didn’t work very well… or didn’t work at all.

Ten years ago I wrote this post.

It’s not always about the technology, however in order to utilise technology effectively and efficiently, it is vital that practitioners are aware of the potential and availability of technology. How else are they going to apply the use of technological solutions to learning problems? Most practitioners are more than aware of the learning problems they and their learners face, what they need are solutions to those problems.

I’ve always found that teachers and academics always put the pedagogy first, it’s a no-brainer. However though it may be pedagogy first, this doesn’t mean pedagogy only. You really need to understand that if you are to take advantage of the affordances that technology can bring to the learning experience.

I am working, I may be at home, but I really am working – Weeknote #79 – 4th September 2020

Shorter week due to a Bank Holiday in England, the weather wasn’t up to much.

I wrote a piece about the reality of robots. The premise of the article was that:

When we mention robots we often think of the rabbit robots and Peppa robot that we have seen at events. As a result when we talk about robots and education, we think of robots standing at the front of a class teaching. However the impact that robotics will have on learning and teaching will come from the work being undertaken with the robots being used in manufacturing and logistics.

The draft of the article was based on conversations and some research I had done over the last few years. This was an attempt to draw those things together, as well as move the discussion about robots in education away from toy robots which are great for teaching robotics, but how robots could and may impact the future of learning and teaching.

I remember in one job when we bought a Peppa robot, in the support of teaching robotics. One of my learning technologists asked if the team could get one. We then had a (too) long discussion on why would be need a robot and how it would enhance learning and teaching in subjects other than robotics? The end consensus was more that it was cool. This was a real example of the tech getting in the way of the pedagogy.

Peppa

It’s September, so schools and colleges are back this week, operating in a totally different way to what they were doing just six months ago.

At my children’s secondary school, the students will now remain in the same room throughout the day and it will be the teachers who move from room to room. Each child will have a designated desk which they will sit in each day for at least the first term, if not the rest of the academic year. It won’t be like this at colleges and universities, but restrictions will still need to be in place to mitigate the risk of infection.

There has been quite a bit of discussion online and in the press about people returning to the workplace. Sometimes the talk is of returning to work. Hello? Hello? Some of have never stopping working, we have been working from home! The main crunch of the issue appears to be the impact of people not commuting to the workplace and the impact this is having on the economy of the city centre and the businesses that are there.

Personally I think that if we can use this opportunity to move the work landscape from one where large portions of the population scramble to get to a single location via train or driving to one where people work locally (not necessarily from home) then this could have a really positive impact on local economies, as well as flattening the skewed markets that the commute to the office working culture can have on house prices, transport, pollution and so on.

I wrote more thoughts on this on my tech and productivity blog.

video chat
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

I read an article on The Verge this week which sparked my interest.

These students figured out their tests were graded by AI — and the easy way to cheat

I posted the link to the article to the Twitter (as I often do with links) and it generated quite a response.

Didn’t go viral or cause a Twitterstorm, but the article got people thinking about the nature of assessment and marking, with the involvement of AI. I wrote a blog post about this article, my tweet and the responses to it.

There was a new publication from Jisc that may be of interest to those looking at digital learning, Digital learning rebooted.

This report highlights a range of responses from UK universities, ranging from trailblazing efforts at University of Northampton with its embedded ‘active blended learning’ approach, to innovation at Coventry University which is transforming each module in partnership with learning experience platform Aula. The University of Leeds, with its use of student buddies, and University of Lincoln’s long-standing co-creation work are notable for their supportive student-staff approaches. University of York, however, focused on simplicity in the short term and redesign longer-term. The University of the West of Scotland is also focusing on developing a community-based hybrid learning approach for the new year.

I am going teach, was a blog post I wrote about the nature of teaching in this new landscape.

The Office for Students are reviewing the challenges the sector faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and are calling for evidence.

This call for evidence is seeking a wide breadth of sector input and experience to understand the challenges faced, and lessons learned from remote teaching and learning delivery since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020.

The OfS are looking to see what worked and what has not worked. What will work in the future and what about the student experience in all of this.

I was quoted a few times in this article, How digital transformation in education will help all children.

As many teachers and learners have discovered recently, Zoom fatigue, that that needs to be accounted for when designing curriculums. “You need to design an effective online curriculum or blended curriculum that takes advantage of the technology and opportunities it offers, but likewise doesn’t just bombard people with screentime that actually results in a negative impact on their wellbeing,” says Clay.

I also mentioned connectivity.

“As soon as you took away the kind of connectivity and resources you find on campus, it became a real challenge to be able to connect and stay connected,” says James Clay, head of higher education and student experience at Jisc.

This was something that was echoed in a recent survey on digital poverty from the OfS.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, 52 per cent of students said their learning was impacted by slow or unreliable internet connection, with 8 per cent ‘severely’ affected.

The survey also found the lack of a quiet study space was also impacting on the student experience.

71 per cent reported lack of access to a quiet study space, with 22 per cent ‘severely’ impacted

Friday was full of meetings, which made for a busy day.

My top tweet this week was this one.

What should we do, what can we do? – Weeknote #66 – 5th June 2020

So after a lovely week off, taking a break from work including a lovely cycle ride to Brean, I was back in the office on Monday, well not quite back in our office, more back at my office at home. So it was back to Zoom calls, Teams meetings and a never ending stream of e-mails.

My week started off with a huge disappointment, I lost the old Twitter…

Back in August 2019 I wrote a blog post about how to use Chrome or Firefox extensions to use the “old” Twitter web interface instead of the new Twitter interface. Alas, as of the 1st June, changes at Twitter has meant these extensions no longer work and you are now forced to use the new Twitter! When you attempt to use them you get an error message.

I really don’t like the “new” web interface, it will take some time getting use to it, might have to stick to using the iOS app instead.

broken iPhone
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Most of Monday I was in an all day management meeting, which as it was all via Zoom, was quite exhausting. We did a session using Miro though, which I am finding quite a useful tool for collaborating and as a stimulus for discussion. At the moment most of the usage is replicating the use of physical post-it notes. I wonder how else it can be used.

The virtual nature of the meeting meant that those other aspects you would have with a physical meeting were lost. None of those ad hoc conversations as you went for coffee, or catching up over lunch. We only had a forty minute late lunch break, fine if lunch is provided, more challenging if you not only need to make lunch for yourself, but also for others…

Some lessons to be learned there!

Monday was also the day that schools (which had been open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children already) were supposed to re-open for reception, years one and six. However in North Somerset with the covid-19 related closure of the local hospital in Weston-super-Mare, this meant that the “re-opening” was cancelled at the last minute, with some parents only been informed on Sunday night! Since then the plan is to go for re-opening on the 8thJune, now that the covid-19 problem at the hospital has been resolved. Continue reading What should we do, what can we do? – Weeknote #66 – 5th June 2020

Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.

Making that move from the radio…

Making that move from the radio…

If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.

I had an article published on the Media FHE Blog. Continue reading Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

Hybrid

Chimera
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

I have been listening, writing and talking about how universities are planning for September. There is so much uncertainly about what the landscape will be like then, so working out what and how to design an effective student experience is challenging.

Courses will not be the same as they were and won’t be the same as they are now.

Universities are reflecting on their plans in light of the current lockdown, the easing of the lockdown, social distancing as well as guidance from the regulator.

Students applying for university places in England must be told with “absolute clarity” how courses will be taught – before they make choices for the autumn, says Nicola Dandridge of the Office for Students. 

This has implications for future planning and announcements of what universities will be doing in the Autumn. They will probably need to start publishing in June their plans. Some have done this already.

In what I suspected was to be the start of a trend, the University of Manchester decided to keep lectures online for the autumn.

The University of Manchester has confirmed it will keep all of its lectures online for at least one semester when the next academic year starts. In an email to students Professor McMahon, vice-president for teaching, learning and students, confirmed the university’s undergraduate teaching year would begin in late September “with little change to our start dates”, but it would “provide our lectures and some other aspects of learning online”.

The whole student experience is not going online though as the article continues.

However, students would be asked to return physically to campus in the autumn as Manchester was “keen to continue with other face-to-face activities, such as small group teaching and tutorials, as safely and as early as we can”, added Professor McMahon.

The following week, the Student University Paper at Cambridge and then many others reported, such as the BBC – All lectures to be online-only until summer of 2021.

“Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the university has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year. Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social distancing requirements. 

There was a similar announcement from the University of Bolton.

The University will teach our excellent Undergraduate and Postgraduate programmes on campus from the start of the new academic year in September 2020 and also support your learning using a range of dynamic virtual learning tools.

Though very similar pronouncements, reading this Twitter thread:

Most are thinking that Bolton and Cambridge are doing the same thing, but just spun it differently.

So how can universities plan their courses and curriculum in an uncertain future? 

We see and hear plans for online courses, non-online courses, blended courses and other types of courses.

A phrase I had been using in my conversations and discussions is hybrid courses. This is less hybrid as in combining online and physical courses into a single course, that’s more a blended approach. My view was that hybrid was much more about analogous to how hybrid vehicles function.

hybrid engine
Image by Davgood Kirshot from Pixabay

There is a petrol engine in the hybrid car, but the car can run on electric power when needed. On longer journeys the petrol engine takes over, but on shorter (slower) trips the car uses electric power. Which power is used is dependent on the environment and situation the car is in.

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.

These hybrid responsive courses will allow universities to easily clarify with prospective students about their experience and how they potentially could change as restrictions are either lifted or enforced. It helps staff plan their teaching and assessments to take into account the environment and changes to the situation.

There are hybrid variations across cars, some can be topped up by plugging in, whilst others just rely on charging form the petrol engine.

There could be a similar story with variations on hybrid courses. Some could have more online elements, whilst others reflecting the nature of that subject could have more physical face to face aspects.

There are of course still petrol cars and fully electric cars, but there is a whole spectrum of hybrid vehicles and it’s the same with hybrid courses.

You could translate your courses into online versions. You could transform them into courses which take advantage of the affordances of online. However the delivery of teaching is just one aspect of the overall student experience and thinking about that and reflecting on how your course and learning design will take into account the realities of an uncertain future, means you need to build that into the design of modules and courses. A hybrid model that is responsive and can adapt is one way which this could be done.

So it was interesting to see another person, Simon Thomson from University of Liverpool Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE) has been using it as well.

“None of us know what’s going to be happening in the Autumn”, said OfS CEO Nicola Dandridge to the Commons Education Committee, who nevertheless added – in the same breath – that “we are requiring that universities are as clear as they can be to students so that students when they accept an offer from a university know in broad terms what they’ll be getting”. Via WonkHE

It’s an uncertain future and one that means courses will need to reflect that uncertainty. Designing hybrid courses which reflect the possibilities of that future, but are responsive enough to respond to changes are probably one way of ensuring that the student experience is meeting the demands of students in a challenging landscape.

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

Not quite a four day week – Weeknote #36 – 8th November 2019

Big Wheel in Cardiff

I was working from home for a lot of the week. I had originally planned to attend Wonkfest, but some administrative technicalities meant I didn’t manage to book a place at the event and I had to glance in remotely.

Following my meeting last week in London at the Office for Students I was interested to see the following press release from them on mental health issues in higher education.

Today the Office for Students has published an Insight brief, Mental health: are all students being properly supported? Our Insight briefs give an overview of current issues and developments in higher education, drawing on the data, knowledge and understanding available to us as the regulator for universities and colleges in England. Mental health is consistently among the top concerns raised by students and the OfS has an important role in identifying systemic gaps in student support or advice. Alongside the Insight brief, we have published an analysis of access and participation data for students with declared mental health conditions.

With the rise in students reporting mental health problems, there is a real challenge in supporting these students. We know that many support service staff are seeing many more mental health emergencies compared to a few years ago. More funding for support services is of course one solution, but there is also the need to consider the well being of students overall and ensuring that those students who are at risk, are supported much earlier. Does the current structure of higher education courses contribute to well being or negatively impact on it?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Continue reading Not quite a four day week – Weeknote #36 – 8th November 2019