It was a shorter week this week due to the New Year bank holiday.
In the education world there has been much discussion about ChatGPT and its impact on student assessment. I decided I would dig out some old assignment questions and see what ChatGPT made of them. I had to adjust them slightly, as the original questions were on Railtrack, so I changed that to Network Rail. I wrote about the results in a blog post.
I headed to our Bristol office for two days this week, it was rather quiet in the office, with very few people in there working. I suspect the rail strikes had a factor in this, but my commutes were rather quiet.
Almost a third of university courses are still combining face-to-face teaching with online learning in 2022-23, data gathered by the BBC suggests. Data from 50 of the 160 universities surveyed shows 28% of courses are being taught in a hybrid way, compared with 4.1% in 2018-19 before the pandemic. One student said he feels like he is paying thousands of pounds per year for a “glorified streaming service”. But an official says many students appreciate the flexibility and freedom.
The basis of the entire article appears to be skewed to the perspectives of one student who doesn’t like it. Though later down the page the article talks about some of the benefits of flexibility and inclusion that blended, or hybrid bring. To me it appears that the journalist arrived with an agenda and wrote the article in that light.
According to a study museum visits do not improve GCSE results.
A family trip to the theatre or an afternoon at a museum may be a fun day out, but new research suggests that such cultural outings will not actually help children secure higher grades.
I love the implication that the only reason to do some cultural stuff is to secure higher grades at GCSE. Sometimes we as a family do stuff because it is fun, enjoyable or makes you think. A couple of weeks back we went to London for a day out, my daughter and I headed to the British Museum to see the Greek galleries. She had been reading the Percy Jackson series and now has a serious interest in Greek mythology. We both really enjoyed viewing the exhibits and reading the background and history of the different things we saw. Will this help her secure higher grades? To be honest we weren’t thinking or worrying about that. It was a great day out.
So how was your week? Mine, well I upset Spain with a photograph of the dish I cooked on Saturday night.
After a busy week travelling I was working from home on Monday. I finished my blog post on transformation, this is an area where I have been presenting and discussing and I wanted in this post to finalise some of my thinking on (digital) transformation.
Well, I have been thinking about what we understand mean by digital transformation and in some discussions, I have been using different kinds of explanations to explore what I see and understand digital transformation is.
In the post I went through the possible digital transformation of requesting and approving leave.
Tuesday though I was back to our Bristol office, for various things. Bristol Temple Meads that morning was full of Peaky Blinders types, suits and flat caps, all on their way (probably) to the Cheltenham Races. If Digifest (which was last week) was the same week as the Cheltenham Races, I would avoid the trains and drive to Birmingham. When I worked at Gloucestershire College, I would avoid our Cheltenham campus those weeks as well. Mainly as the trains were usually full and crowded of very drunk people out to have a good day, and it usually wasn’t even 9am!
I did some work on presentation formats for some ideas we are working on for online events and thought leadership content. Too often when it comes to online presentations, we see talking slides or talking heads. I have been reflecting and thinking about how we can be more creative, more innovative in the ways in which we deliver content during events or on the website. A lot of my thinking is based on the translation posts I did during the pandemic.
Thursday, I ventured back to the Bristol office again. It was much busier today with a couple of teams doing a co-location day. We also had a coffee and cake morning for charity.
The Office for Students (OfS) has today launched a review of blended learning, amidst 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.
It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the review in the summer.
Having defined the success criteria of our HE sector strategy I started detailing what this meant for one of our ambition statements and what Jisc could potentially do in this space to achieve the strategic aspiration.
I also started working on a second communication plan for the strategy. We did one last summer, but listening and talking to staff across the organisation, we have felt that we need to do more work to explore, explain and reflect on the HE sector strategy to the rest of the organisation. One challenge I am facing is what do we even mean by strategy?
In the world around us the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies is a marvel of nature. Though technically referred to as metamorphosis rather than transformation, the process for butterflies (and all insects) involves a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change. This got me thinking about digital transformation in organisations.
HEPI and QAA published a new report that unpacks the meaning of quality in a complex and rapidly changing higher education sector.
Quality is a slippery term, not least because it is in part practical, in part philosophical and (almost) always relative. Yet it underpins higher education provision and is central to policy debate and regulatory approaches across the UK. So how do we define quality? An understanding of the different mechanisms at play can provide context to the debate.
For the first time in at least two years (if not longer) I spent three days in a row at our Bristol office. The office was much busier than it has been on previous visits, and there was a (little) bit of a buzz in there. I did have a few in-person ad hoc interactions with people, who I might not interact with online. You can create these online, but it isn’t easy.
I was asked if I preferred working from home, or working in the office. My response was I prefer to have the choice. The challenge I found with lockdown, was that I had no choice. Though I have preferences about space when I have specific things I need to do, I really quite like working in different environments and spaces.
I had to upgrade the Twitter client on my iPad. The old one, which I liked kept crashing and I couldn’t get it to stop. The new one, I do not like.
What do we mean by personalisation, what can we personalise, what should be personalise and what are the challenges in personalisation?
I have been looking at how data and technology can deliver a personalised learning journey and we have in our HE strategy the following ambition statement.
We will explore and develop solutions to help universities deliver personalised and adaptive learning using data, analytics, underpinning technologies and digital resources.
We know that there are very different opinions and views of what personalised learning is. One of the things I do need to do is to take that ambition statement and expand it into a clear explanatory statement, so that key stakeholders are clear about what we mean and why this space is important to higher education.
I have been preparing for Digifest next week where I will be attending both days.
I am also speaking at Digifest on Wednesday9th March 2022 from 11:45 – 12:30 in Hall 7B.
In this session, James will showcase Jisc’s HE sector strategy, Powering HE, and why and how we developed the strategy. He will explore what Jisc is doing and planning to do in the HE teaching and learning space. He will bring the session together with the impact the strategy is having on university members across the UK.
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.
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.
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.
It happens so often in my Sainsbury’s that they have had special shelf fillers printed so the shelves don’t look empty. pic.twitter.com/Ji9vP8kSoI
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.
The first Polish language dictionary (published 1746) included definitions such as:
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.
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.
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.
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.
40 years ago on 12 June 1981 ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was first released in cinemas. Indiana Jones is a hero, as well as discovering ancient artefacts, he fights Nazis and does amazing things. Though I sometimes think that learning technologists are like Indiana Jones. Now before you grab your fedora and whip, I am not saying that this is a good thing. No the reason I have a theory that learning technologists are like Indiana Jones is really down to the views of Amy Farrah Fowler in the Big Bang Theory. I should really write a longer piece about this…
Some beautiful weather this weather this week as it felt more like summer, however by Thursday the weather had turned and it was grey and damp.
Monday I went to the office, which was quiet, but the change of scenery and routine was very welcome.
Tuesday I was chairing the Connect More event, which was online.
Wednesday saw myself and Lawrie deliver an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It has been a few years since I delivered on the digital leadership programme however it all came back and I felt the session went well.
Got some nice tweets about my keynotes I have done over the years. There was this one on the Twitter.
Dave Hopkins blogged about his thoughts on inspiring keynotes. Though I didn’t take the top spot I did get an honourable mention about my FOTiE 14 keynote on the dark side.
Thursday I was back in the office, it was a grey and damp day.
Decided that I would do the #JuneEdTechChallenge and caught up very quickly on the Twitter.
I did a five minute presentation to RUGIT on dual model teaching.
Should we be doing dual-mode or hybrid teaching? Well there’s a question I get asked quite a lot these days by colleagues across the higher education sector.
Firstly, what is it? Well Durham has a nice definition.
At its best, dual-mode teaching combines the face-to-face and online experience into one cohesive whole. It keeps the class together, providing a shared learning experience that works for students who are on campus and those joining remotely at the same time. It allows you to include and draw on the full diversity of your students and their experiences to date.
They add though
The challenge is to provide an equitable experience, to engage with the people in the room and those joining remotely, using spaces and technologies that were not designed for this.
Generally from what I have researched in this space (and this is backed up by the research we have done with universities in the ) is that basically it doesn’t really work.
UCL for example say
‘Dual-mode’ teaching is where students are taught face-to-face in a classroom and online simultaneously. We strongly recommend this be avoided unless pedagogically appropriate for both groups and adequate staffing is in place to manage and integrate remote students into sessions fully.
There are individuals who say that they can do this, but not really seeing the evidence from the students that it is effective. It does require more resource (staff and technology) which makes it more expensive, but still unsatisfying for both the in-person and the online students.
Lovely weather this week, I spent the week working inside.
Monday I went into our office in Bristol. It was somewhat quiet, and I actually spent most of the day in one of our meeting rooms by myself attending online meetings. However the reason for going in was a change in routine and it was nice to be back in Bristol.
I did go for coffee, which was nice.
Attended an online workshop about learning spaces. There was some discussion about dual mode or hybrid teaching and some of the technical challenges in creating an equivalent experience. I am still surprised by how important a small number of activities (such as examinations) which happen infrequently and for a short amount of time have so much impact on the design of some spaces. However what I learnt from the workshop will feed into an estate vision piece I am working on.
On Tuesday the internet broke… but it did get fixed in the end.
Spent some of the week planning for the Digital Leadership online programme I will be co-presenting with Lawrie over the next six weeks.
Continued to work on our projects, so much planning, reading and writing.
On Thursday I was presenting at EUNIS 21, which would have been nice if it was on the planned Greek island, reality was, that I was at home presenting over wifi. I was also part of a panel discussing the current landscape. I always find it fascinating presenting to an international audience, ensuring I come across clear and coherent. Also worked out in 2006 in Finland, that humour doesn’t always work for an international audience. Though the conference time was one hour ahead, it was quite a late presentation.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Okay, who broken the internet? Was it you at the back? Yes you?
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.
Monday was a mix of meetings, some about our current consultancy work, some about future consultancy work and one was a formal presentation for one of our current projects. Had to keep my head straight so I could ensure that I was talking about the right stuff in the right meeting.
Cardiff University have confirmed online lectures will continue in September 2021.
Cardiff University has announced that online learning will continue in September. Despite government rules relaxing, the university has said it will be prioritising the safety of staff and students. However, in-person seminars, workshops, tutorials, and lab work are expected to go ahead.
This is a similar model to what many other universities are going to do for September 2021.
At the end of Monday I was in a meeting with the Office for Students in preparation for a meeting later in the week.
On Tuesday I went to the office. This was the first time I had been to the office since October. I had been a few times during August last year, but following the second lockdown in November our offices have been closed and only reopened on the 17th May.
As might be expected it was somewhat quiet, I think there were only ten staff in all together. It was nice to see people (for real). The main problem I had was the desk I booked meant I had a window behind me, so on my calls I was a dark shadow. Which was confusing for people who usually find me sitting at my desk with a virtual background.
I did enjoy going into the office and also enjoyed my walk at lunchtime, it was interesting though to see how much had changed. Even though I have been to Bristol a few times, I generally was going shopping, my lunchtime walk took in the parts of Bristol that I wouldn’t normally visit during a general shopping trip.
What I hadn’t missed was the commute. Combined with the rain as well, it was a hassle and annoying to drive to and from work.
Enjoyed watch Lawrie move through 21 locks on his boat as he had a well deserved holiday.
Had a scoping call about the Intelligent Campus and potential consultancy we could do in this space. We have been thinking about how we could work with universities on vision pieces and use cases.
I also had a useful discussion with another university later on Tuesday about blended and digital learning.
Wednesday I didn’t go to the office, as my car had its MOT (which it passed). Hardly using my car compared to pre-covid times, mainly as I am not travelling to events, universities or other Jisc offices.
In an interesting move, University of Cambridge has expanded into online learning and begins to launch its portfolio of short online courses, with 50 to come priced at around £2000 each.
The University of Cambridge has launched a series of online short courses for professionals in a major expansion of its distance learning activities.
Thursday I had to wait in for a collection, so no trip to Bristol either.
I had a meeting to plan a shareshop I am helping to run next week called Supporting Students to Transition to HE in September.
Over the last twelve months universities across the country have switched to emergency remote delivery as lockdowns caused students to stay at home (or in halls). Though we know university staff have made huge efforts to provide high quality remote teaching and learning, when we talk to students we have found that many feel isolated, separated from their cohort, missing the in-person social interaction which is so important to the student experience and for peer support and learning.
I did consider going to the office on Friday, but with all the wind and rain decided not to.
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.