Tag Archives: online learning

Getting it wrong – Weeknote #160 – 25th March 2022

I spent the week working from home, there was a combination of factors which influenced this decision, from home-schooling, builders, and plumbers. Next week I am in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference.

I spent some of the week working on a new sector group that can provide feedback to Jisc. This group will advise on Jisc’s strategic direction in the support of learning, teaching and assessment, and the student experience in higher education, and help to inform and shape the implementation of the HE sector strategy:

  • Advising on the current state of play and future direction of learning, teaching and assessment in the HE sector
  • Reflecting the views and user needs of senior managers in learning, teaching and student experience, as Jisc members and stakeholders
  • Helping to define the kinds of (digital) products, services, support, and sector engagement/advocacy which will be most beneficial to universities.

The Office for Students (OfS) launched their new strategy targeting quality and standards.

The OfS’s work on quality and standards aims to ensure that students receive a high quality academic experience which improves their knowledge and skills. Much provision in the English higher education sector is excellent – the focus of the OfS will be on challenging provision that falls short, and taking action as needed. On access and participation work, the OfS will encourage higher education providers to work in partnership with schools to raise attainment. These two areas of focus are mutually reinforcing, with effective regulation of quality helping to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the support they need to succeed in and beyond higher education.

From my perspective in supporting the OfS strategy is how digital and technology can support improving the quality of the student experience and widen participation in higher education.

OfS has also commissioned a report on the quality and impact of blended learning. I found this Wonkhe articleinteresting on how David Kernohan still hasn’t got over the last one

A notably independent review chair has been asked to produce a report drawing on evidence from the sector and from the wider literature. Because we need to know what “good” looks like in this mode of provision, so the regulator can ensure students are getting value for their fees.

David reminds us that a year ago the OfS published Gravity Assist.

Gravity Assist

Michael Barber could cite literature suggesting that blended learning may lead to better learning outcomes than in person alone, but as far as the national conversation is concerned this is now a deliberate ploy by universities to educate students on the cheap.

David continues…

Enter Susan Orr. Shortly to take up a Pro Vice Chancellor role at De Montfort University, and a creative arts educator and researcher of some repute, she – alongside an expert panel with membership yet to be determined – will report in the summer on: concerns that the poor quality of the online experience for some students during the pandemic has undermined the positive potential of mixing in-person and online course delivery

David’s conclusion is that Michael Barber must have got it wrong.

Campus
Image by Edgar Winkler from Pixabay

I had a meeting about updating the Jisc guide to the intelligent campus. We originally published the guide in 2017. This was at the time well received by the sector and continues to be the core guidance in this space. Since then, universities across the UK have been exploring how they can make their campuses smarter and intelligent.

Dr Kris Bloomfield (at the time CIO Durham) said of the guide This is an outstanding piece of work and massive kudos is due to those that contributed to the development and publication of this document.

As well as the guide there were numerous use cases that showed how the higher education sector could benefit from the intelligent campus concept.

Though I changed roles in March 2019, I have been talking about the intelligent campus space at various events. In July 2021 I spoke at the QAA conference with a presentation entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses? Last month I spoke at The Future of the Higher Education Estateonline event.

Obviously the covid pandemic had a huge impact on the university campus and how it was and will be used in the future. In last few years I have written some more posts about that aspect.

Intelligent Campus and coronavirus planning was a blog post on how the concept of the Intelligent Campus could help universities in their planning. I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially more helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.

The Intelligent Learning Space was a post based on my experiences on the Intelligent Campus project. As we design learning spaces, we can add sensors and mechanisms to collect data on the use of those learning spaces. It then how we analyse and use that data that allows those spaces to be initially smart and then intelligent.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Since the guide was published, there have been many changes to the landscape, as well as the covid-19 pandemic, there have been advances in smart campus technologies, and a new range of use cases.  We know from sector intelligence, member voice and Learning and Teaching Reimagined that the future of the campus is an important component when it comes to digital transformation. This has shown the need for Jisc to update their advice and guidance in this area.

This work would:

  • update the guide to reflect current thinking
  • add additional case studies from current practice
group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I expanded on my previous post on personalisation by looking at Jisc’s sector strategy perspective of personalisationand what Jisc may do in this space. So why is this space important to the sector? When we developed the HE strategy, we listened to what the sector was saying, what it was telling us, what we saw, and we also looked at the wider sector context, the regulatory space, the political space and importantly the student voice in all this.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Caught the train – Weeknote #153 – 4th February 2022

We had our mid-year team summit this week. Originally planned to be taking place in-person in Manchester, the decision was taken back in January to move it online. Some interesting stuff, but what we didn’t really manage to do was have those conversations over coffee and lunch that happen at an in-person events and meetings.

I was reminded of this blog post which I wrote in August 2019 (ie pre-pandemic) and many of the observations there I think reflect what has happened over the last two years.

When it comes to the delivery of online learning, the assumption is made that it will just happen. Assumptions are made that academics who are experts already in delivering learning will be able to easily transfer their skills to an online environment. What can often happen is that the processes and methods that people use in the physical space will be translates verbatim to an online space. It will not taken into account the challenges of an online environment, or recognise the affordances of said environments.

I also wrote this in the blog post.

The overall experience is expected to be the same, but merely re-creating the physical experience online is often disappointing for both students and academics. Many of the nuances of face to face learning can be lost when moving to online.

During the pandemic I spoke to a lot of students and academic staff, who had expectations about their experiences, but in the end both were disappointed (and exhausted) by the experience.

Part of the issue is that physical learning activities don’t necessarily translate readily into an online environment, the nuances of what makes the face to face so valuable can be lost in translation, similarly the possibilities and affordances of the online space can be lost.

Moving forward on this, we need to recognise, that despite the experiences of the last two years, we may want to think about how we adapt our training and development going forward to, not only build on the lessons and experiences of the last two years, but build on them to take advantage of the affordances of online learning and teaching.

Wednesday I went to our office in Bristol. Caught the train to Bristol, still wore my mask. The last time I was in our  Bristol office was back in November. I had originally planned to go to Bristol in December, but with the new measures in place and rising infections, I took the decision, back then, to work from home. So, avoiding the train and what was later apparently a busy office. Would have been nice to see people though.

This time it was nice to see people and have conversations about stuff. It was apparent that the happenstance of conversations is something I have missed, but also rather challenging to recreate online. Possible, but challenging. I also had a conversation about the impact this was all having on new starters, who don’t necessarily get to see people on a regular basis and make those important (social) connections that can have a positive impact on how you view your work and your colleagues.

Spent some time preparing a presentation I am giving next week. It takes me back to the intelligent campus space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Predicting is hard, and we can get it wrong

classroom
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

HEPI published a blog post on Five common predictions about COVID and education that now appear to be wrong.

No one would dispute that COVID-19 has severely disrupted the education of millions of people. Our polling with Advance HE, for example, shows an unprecedented proportion of undergraduate students think they have received ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ value for money and twice as many as usual feel their experiences have been worse than their prior expectations.

This is not surprising, given full-time students on three-year courses graduating this summer will have had every one of their years at university disrupted. Those leaving school / college this summer have seen both their GCSEs and their school-leaving qualifications (A-Level / BTECs) affected. But it is also true that most of the really big predictions about how COVID would affect education have (fortunately) turned out to be wrong.

It makes for interesting reading. Predictions about fewer students, or higher drop-outs were wrong as it turned out.

Why does this matter, well the article summarises with this comment.

It is worth flagging how poor the predictions about education in a pandemic have turned out to be because it acts as a reminder about how hard it is to predict the future, because it could serve as a useful guide in future crises and because it shows the importance that hard counter-intuitive evidence should play in policymaking.

This is something that we can reflect upon.

One prediction made at the start of the pandemic by many involved in education technology was that the forced working from home would (post-pandemic) be a catalyst for more blended and online learning in higher education. The prediction was that following people being forced to use tools such as the VLE, Teams, Zoom, lecture capture, that this would embed such technologies into future teaching and learning. Well we know from the press this week that this may not be the case, with  Nadhim Zahawi talking in the Daily Mail that “Students made to pay tuition fees for Zoom lectures should revolt”. This kind of rhetoric makes any (current and future) use of online technologies challenging for universities. Benefits of online will be missed, as students will “revolt” regardless.

Later a more reasoned open letter was published on the Education Department website.

Many of our universities and colleges have been working hard to ensure Covid-secure face-to-face teaching is offered and I know that, for many of you, this face-to-face teaching is a vital part of getting a high-quality student experience. As you know, whilst the country was implementing wide-spread restrictions, the majority of teaching had to be moved online. There are some great examples of effective and innovative online teaching, and universities and colleges have been delivering a high-quality blended approach since before the pandemic. Maintaining the option of online teaching for those who are vulnerable or isolating is to be encouraged. However, face-to-face teaching should remain the norm and the pandemic and must not be used as an opportunity for cost saving or for convenience. I know that students expect and deserve face-to-face teaching and support, and you have my full backing.

But if universities were in any doubt about what they could do and what they should be doing, we had this from the Universities Minister.

The reality is that universities are now under pressure from Government and students to focus on and prioritise in-person face to face teaching.

So, the prediction that the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns would have a positive impact on the use of online and digital learning technologies across the board, may have been slightly off the mark.

I might predict that the job of embedding digital into higher education is now more difficult than it was before the pandemic.

What do you think?

What did you think when you heard me back on the radio? – Weeknote #150 – 14th January 2022

radio
Photo by Nacho Carretero Molero on Unsplash

First thing Monday morning I was on the radio, Radio Bristol, discussing the food and restaurant scene in Weston-super-Mare with the imminent opening of the new bowling alley in Dolphin Square, despite the closure of nearly all the restaurants in the same complex.

Again spent a fair amount of time this week discussing, thinking about and reflecting on digital transformation.

Last week, despite the rising covid infection rates I’ve not had much or seen much discussion about the impact this will have on higher education and students. Then Nadhim Zahawi says there are ‘no excuses’ for online learning at universities.

Well that’s helpful and constructive.

More than a hundred universities including twenty-three out of the twenty-four universities in the Russell group are reportedly online teaching this term. It was reported in the media that Durham University would teach all classes online in the first week of term, Queen’s University Belfast will hold most classes online this month and King’s College London has also moved some classes to online. Across the media and the sector this move has been termed blended learning, online learning and remote learning.

One of things I have noticed is how often much of what was done during the numerous lockdowns was described as online learning, sometimes it was called blended learning, or remote learning.

We are now seeing students phone into consumer programmes on the radio complaining about the “online learning” they received.

Can we just agree that what we are seeing is not online learning? I wrote a blog post back in November about this issue.

The reality is though that despite the hard work, there wasn’t the training, the staff development, the research, the preparation undertaken that would have been needed to deliver an outstanding online learning experience. Combined with that, the fact that the academic staff were also in lockdown as well, the actual experiences of students and staff are in fact quite amazing. However it wasn’t online learning.

I caught some of the You and Yours radio programme about student life during the pandemic and as you might expect most callers were phoning in, to complain. Without focussing on the individual complaints, I sometimes think that there was an assumption that universities were ring-fenced from the pandemic. Yes students had, in many ways could be called a terrible experience, however the entire country was suffering during the pandemic, and university staff were in there too. They also had to deal with the lockdown, the restrictions, illness and everything else. It was a difficult time for everyone and we need to remember that.

Have been planning our Thought Leadership on learning and teaching this week. I actually really don’t like the term Thought Leader but it is the term in the Jisc strategy, so internally I will use that term to ensure what I am talking about is aligned with the strategy. It should be noted that many in the sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. However if you ask universities about the actual content that is produced by Jisc, that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, universities will often ask for specific people within Jisc who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring.

Our new priorities document, Powering UK higher education outlines four key priorities:

  • Empowering culture and leadership
  • Reimagining learning, teaching and assessment
  • Reframing the student experience
  • Transforming infrastructure

These priorities have come from the sector, and we will use articles, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and case studies to bring them to life for universities. We want to create and deliver content that in some cases is longer term in outlook, visionary; transformative yet possible, it should inspire and make people think differently about the area. We also need shorter actionable pieces that should be more practical, replicable and something that could be implemented in a shorter time frame.

looking through a telescope
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Had an interesting discussion during a risk assessment meeting about the importance of strategy and embedding strategy into an organisation. You would think that this is a given, but too often I see strategies developed at a high level, but the actual operational activities are mapped to the strategy, rather than being derived from the strategy. The same can also happen at a personal objective level too. This was something we worked on during the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme about how to expand and develop a (digital) strategy.

We started planning the themes for Connect More 2022 this week.

Got a little too obsessed with Wordle.

Must stop. Just stop.

I have a few more meetings, just need to get some bottles of wine, anyone got a suitcase?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Maybe today is the day you start wearing your mask again – Weeknote #144 – 3rd December 2021

This was a full week back at work and I was in London for most of the week. Over the summer I had enjoyed working in the London office, a change of pace, location and routine compared to the forced working from home we had endured during the pandemic. Having had a fair amount of time off work, sick with covid, it was nice to be back in the office, talking and chatting to colleagues and similarly to the summer having the change of place and routine. The office was much busier than it had been in the summer. It felt quite normal in some respects, a little quieter than it was pre-pandemic.

However it was only a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about the possibilities of in-person teaching now that 90% of university students had had at least one Covid jab. Last week though we saw a new variant of concern of the coronavirus was identified by South African scientists and labelled by the WHO as Omicron.

On Monday I wrote about the impact Omicron could potentially have on the HE sector though my main messages was that universities should prepare for a possible lockdown.

Hopefully the vaccination rollout and mask wearing will reduce the chance of lockdown, but I would still be preparing for the possibilities of another lockdown regardless.

As we reach the end of the week, there have been some stories on the spread of Omicron, across the world, spreading to Europe, as might be expected with global travel and concerns this variant would have on infection rates (being more transmissible) and the subsequent impact on health resources. There were also some positive stories about the potential of vaccination to reduce the impact of Omicron.

Having said all that I would still be preparing for the possibilities of another lockdown regardless.

As you might expect, I ensured I was wearing my mask on public transport and when entering shops, eating places and as I walked around the office.

We had an HE leadership meeting on Monday and the majority of the meeting was discussing key challenges with our new CEO.

One of the things I reflected on was the success of Learning and Teaching Reimagined (LTR) and what we should do next. In order to build on and support the sector to deliver on the recommendation and work towards the challenges, Jisc working with members produced Higher education strategy 2021-2024: powering UK higher education which outlined how Jisc would support the sector going forward.

However LTR with its focus on teaching and learning leaves the door open to other ideas. There are a range of subjects that Jisc could focus on and undertake a similar range of activities and events as we did with LTR. This, like LTR, could be a sector-wide initiative focused on providing university leaders with inspiration on what the future might hold for higher education and guidance on how to respond and thrive in those environments. We could look at the student experience, leadership, the campus… there are a range of areas in which we could focus on in.

laptop and headphones
Image by Regina Störk from Pixabay

I published a blog post about the pandemic response and what we saw though described as online learning, wasn’t online learning.

One of things I have noticed is how often much of what was done during the numerous lockdowns was described as online learning. Let’s be clear you can describe what was happening as an emergency response to a crisis, even simplistically a pivot, but what was happening across schools, colleges and universities could in no way be described as online learning.

Some of my meetings were cancelled this week, which though freeing up time, can be frustrating.

This week was the Ascilite Conference. I really enjoyed attending and keynoting the conference back in 2009. Back then the UK was in the midst of an outbreak of swine flu. I didn’t go this year, but I may think about attending next year (pandemic permitting). This year it took place online and in-person at University of New England, Armidale NSW in Australia.

Martin Bean was part of a panel session and one comment (well tweet) I saw about the session mentioned the importance of authentic assessment, which made me think.

I think there is a blog post in this.

Was reminded this week that I am rubbish at Twitter.

While eating dinner on Wednesday evening, I participated in the #LTHEChat Twitterchat, Decolonising Learning Technology  led by Professor John Traxler.

I participated and did note that so much educational technology is designed for specific sector and its cultural norms, and then adjusted for other sectors and then other cultures. It was a really interesting debate and I enjoyed the discussion.

As it was December, I started tweeting out my advent calendar posts from a few years back. I really ought to spend some time doing new ones.

At the end of the week we had a HE Team meeting.

My top tweet this week was this one.

It wasn’t online learning!

laptop and headphones
Image by Regina Störk from Pixabay

One of things I have noticed is how often much of what was done during the numerous lockdowns was described as online learning.

Let’s be clear you can describe what was happening as an emergency response to a crisis, even simplistically a pivot, but what was happening across schools, colleges and universities could in no way be described as online learning.

That’s not so say that universities took advantage of the web tools and other online services to deliver teaching online, and the students were learning, whilst online. However, to describe what was happening using an existing term such as online learning, has resulted in the term online learning now tarnished with the less than satisfactory experiences of staff and students during the pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, the term online learning was used in a positive way to describe how learning could happen online.

During the pandemic, there was an emergency response to the crisis. Students and importantly the staff were in lockdown, with all the requisite baggage that came with that, in terms of isolating, looking after family and all the other stuff that was happening as a result of the pandemic.

I do think, having spoken to students and staff who have been through this process, how hard everyone worked during the pandemic to do their best to deliver teaching and support learning.

The reality is though that despite the hard work, there wasn’t the training, the staff development, the research, the preparation undertaken that would have been needed to deliver an outstanding online learning experience. Combined with that, the fact that the academic staff were also in lockdown as well, the actual experiences of students and staff are in fact quite amazing. However it wasn’t online learning. What we saw was translation of existing in-person practices to online versions; they lost the nuances of what made the in-person experience so good, and didn’t take advantage of the affordances of that online and digital can bring to the experience.

Zoom
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

What is online learning then?

Well, for one thing highly effective online learning is designed from scratch, it isn’t about converting, translating or digitising an original in-person programme. Experiences from universities across the UK have shown that, though this can be done, it isn’t necessarily the best and most effective way of designing an online course. Starting from a blank canvas and thinking holistically about the whole experience, and from a student perspective should result in a better student experience. It should not be constrained by the physical requirements of an in-person programme, such as rooms and timetables, likewise it can use the opportunities of asynchronous activities that digital can being to the table.

Designing and delivering online learning does require skills and knowledge, but over the last couple of decades there has been lots of papers and research on this topic, as well as people sharing their experiences of doing it.

What, still no slides? – Weeknote #123 – 9th July 2021

beach ball
Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

Slightly disappointed to see that the Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death is to become a black screen of death. Not that I see it that much these days as I usually have the spinning beachball of death on my Mac.

Actually my iMac fusion drive died at the weekend, luckily no data loss, but frustrating all the same. Attempts to fix it through software failed so I booked it in for a repair with the Apple Store.

After dropping off my iMac for its repair I headed into our Bristol office at Portwall Lane.

We had a review meeting about our Leeds programme and there was some good and interesting feedback.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

The BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.

A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.

What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.

Later there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’

UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.

Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding  of key terms such as blended learning.

Lake District
Cumbria by James Clay

On Wednesday I delivered the keynote at the University of Cumbria Annual Learning & Teaching Fest 2021. My presentation, Moving from Translation to Transformation, was delivered without slides and was similar to the one I delivered at LJMU last week.

James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.

I did another session for Leeds on digital leadership which went down well. We covered digital capability and was a chance to bring back Boaty McBoatFace and discuss what we understand by the term digital capability, once more a shared understanding is critical in ensuring that everyone knows what you are trying to do when you build capability (in that it is more than skills and more than just training).

In the afternoon I had a really useful and interesting meeting about the production of training materials and the cultural differences of teaching through the medium of Welsh.

Jisc's Portwall Lane Office, Bristol
Jisc’s Portwall Lane Office, Bristol

Thursday I was in the office. I didn’t have any in-person meetings, but have started the process of using the office more, in the main for a change of scenery, meeting people and generally changing my routine. With the school holidays imminent I will probably be spending more time in the office. I have also planned my first trip to the London office for an in-person meeting.

Friday I was working from home, another session for Leeds and some discussion on strategy and targets in the afternoon.

My top tweet this week was this one.

No, no, no, yes, no, maybe

Earlier this week the BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.

A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.

What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.

Today there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’

UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.

Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding  of key terms such as blended learning. Many now think of the emergency response and shift to remote delivery was blended learning, or even online learning. The reality was that this was remote delivery. Blended learning is something different, as is (good) online learning.

Affordances of digital – Weeknote #115 – 14th May 2021

earth
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

On Monday I was reflecting with an international lens on our HE strategy. Jisc is not funded to support non-UK universities, but we do work closely with other NRENs overseas, sharing practice, advice and where we can collaborating on projects.

Tuesday I delivered a formal presentation to a university executive about a project we have done for them, they were very pleased with the final report, the presentation and the work we had done.

Later I was doing another presentation to another university with some thoughts about digital governance. My main point was that digital isn’t just a thing, nor does it just within its own silo within an university. Often the benefits that digital brings to a department or professional service won’t be within that service but will benefit the university as a whole. For example, when you bring in a digital HR system, the real benefits of such a system are not for HR, but for the efficiencies it brings managers across the university. However often those benefits are not always realised, and the affordances of such systems are also not realised.

Wednesday I was catching up with stuff and preparing for other meetings.

Universities could face fines over free speech breaches as reported by BBC News.

Universities in England could face fines under new legislation if they fail to protect free speech on campus. Visiting speakers, academics or students could seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of a university’s free speech obligations.

To be honest I am not sure how much of a problem and issue this is in higher education that it requires legislation.  There was then a kerfuffle as the Universities Minister and Downing Street debated about what was allowed (as in free speech) and what wasn’t (as in hate speech). To be honest if the Government can’t work this out, what does this mean for universities?

Wonkhe asked the question Should student recruitment stay digital-first post Covid?

On Thursday I was presenting at the QAA Conference, my presentation was entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses?

 The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as more institutions move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning. In this session James Clay from Jisc will explore the challenges that growth in online learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. He will explore what is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the space and design implications of delivering online teaching as well. He will discuss what some universities are doing today to meet these challenges and requirements. He will reflect on a possible future where we are able to maximise the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

So true Lawrie, so true.

So next week our offices re-open, not quite a normal reopening, but we can now go into the office. I will be visiting our offices for various meetings, but also for a change of scenery.

My top tweet this week was this one.

A shared understanding – Weeknote #105 – 5th March 2021

cogs
Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay

I started as Head of Higher Education at Jisc on the 1st March 2019. So I have done two years (and a bit), had three line managers, a changing role and, oh yes, a global pandemic.

On Monday I had an excellent conversation with Isabel Lucas from Cumbria about the HEDG meeting I was presenting at, at the end of the week.

I have been sharing internally (and externally) the draft of the Jisc HE Strategy.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Another post on language, this time from Wonkhe: Why what we mean by “online learning” matters.

As higher education institutions plan for what will happen as we move slowly towards more students being on campus, there is continuing chatter about the form that teaching and learning will take. This includes how best to deliver it and how to communicate what this might look like. In all of this discussion, there has been a proliferation of words like “remote learning”, “digital learning”, and “hybrid learning” – and these terms have largely been taken for granted in respect to their pedagogical nuance. But if the preferred solution to the problems created by the pandemic in the first semester was “blended learning”, as we tumble through a second semester it would appear that the HE sector is beginning to settle on its next term of preference – “online learning”.

We do seem to spend a lot of time discussing what we should call what we do. The article makes the point that this does matter. I disagree slightly what matters is not what it is called, but whatever it is called, we have an agreed and shared understanding of what is means for you, for me and the students. We change the term, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we change our understanding. I recall having this discussion about the use of the term hybridthat I used in an article to mean responsive and agile, whilst someone else was using the term to describe a mixed approach. Words are important, but shared understanding actually allows us to move forward.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Wednesday I joined a panel at the Westminster Education Forum to deliver a session on the future use of technology in assessment.

“The future for England’s exam system – building on best practice from the 2020 series, the role of technology and ensuring qualifications equip young people with the skills to succeed post-18”

I only had five minutes, so not a huge amount of time to reflect on the challenges and possibilities. To think a year ago I would have had to travel to London by train, find the venue and then join the panel in-person. Today, I just switched on the webcam and there I was, did my presentation and then answered a few questions. I didn’t use slides, as there wasn’t always a need to use slides in these kinds of panel sessions and at an in-person event I wouldn’t have used slides.

Of course at a physical in-person event they would have provided lunch, which would then give delegates an opportunity to come and chat about what I had been talking about. That didn’t happen this time. I would say that though using Twitter as a digital back channel at physical in-person events does sometimes work, but people have to be using the Twitter. At edtech events I find a fair few people are , at other kinds of events, not so much.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

I liked this post from the Independent: I’m tired of hearing that universities are closed – it simply isn’t true

Lecturers are doing all they can during the pandemic to support the myriad different ways in which students learn

It’s not as though the physical campuses are closed, they are open for those courses which require a practical element.

Then again schools are not closed, they are open for the children of key workers, as well as vulnerable children, and staff are working with them and delivering remote teaching to the children at home.

Yes the experience is variable across the country, even across a school, but to keep saying they are closed, doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Lens
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

On Thursday I had a really good discussion with a university about digital strategy. How important it is aligned to the main university strategy, but also how it enables that strategy and other strategies as well. If you are in charge of a strategy, how does it enable others, and how do others enable yours?

At the end of the week I was involved in the HEDG meeting and did a presentation on Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme and where Jisc is going next. It was good meeting and the presentation seemed to hit the spot.

I had a planning meeting about a session we’re doing with Advance HE on digital leadership which looks like it will be a really good session.

Looked at the presentation I am doing next week at Digifest on the future of digital leadership, what it is and where we are potentially going.

Favourite HE story of the week was Campus capers, 1970 style from Wonkhe.

Strange things sometimes happen in universities and we’ve reported plenty of them here over the years. From hauntings and strange happenings to animal action and of course true crime events on campus. But this event which recently caught my eye is one of the oddest I’ve noticed lately. It all happened just over half a century ago at Keele University. Those were turbulent times as the world transitioned out of the end of the heady 60s era into a very different decade.

My top tweet this week was this one.