Tag Archives: quality

They think it’s all over… – Weeknote #69 – 26th June 2020

typewriter
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

So what do you understand by the term blended learning? What about an online course? A hybrid programme? Could you provide a clear explanation of what student wellbeing is? At the end of last week I published a blog post on language.

Last week I delivered two presentations, one was a planned presentation for a QAA workshop, the other, well it wasn’t supposed to be a presentation, but due to a lack of response from the audience in the networking session I was in, I quickly cobbled together a presentation based on the slides I had used for the QAA.

I pulled together the idea into a single blog post. It is a combination and an expansion of the presentations I delivered about my thoughts of what happened, what then happened, what we need to think about and what we could do.

So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced.  My question is this, where (physically) are those universities expecting their students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well. This was the question I asked in another blog post I published this week. Though as the week went on we saw the government start to ease the lockdown restrictions. I suspect we will see some (or even most) universities follow suit.

Dave White

That Dave White (who also became ALT President this week) blogged about the lecture paradox which reminds me of his eventedness talk at ALT-C ten years ago.  Continue reading They think it’s all over… – Weeknote #69 – 26th June 2020

So what of the future?

University campus
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

We are living through a period of unprecedented disruption, it isn’t over, so what do we need to do in the short term, the medium term and how will this impact the long term?

Last week I delivered two presentations, one was a planned presentation for a QAA workshop, the other, well it wasn’t supposed to be a presentation, but due to a lack of response from the audience in the networking session I was in, I quickly cobbled together a presentation based on the slides I had used for the QAA.

This post is a combination and an expansion of the presentations I delivered about my thoughts of what happened, what then happened, what we need to think about and what we could do.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I initially reminded ourselves of what we had experienced back in March.

We know people talk about a pivot to online learning, but we know this isn’t what happened. As others have written about, this wasn’t some planned gradual shift to a blended online approach to teaching and learning. It was a abrupt radical emergency response to physical campus closures in the midst of a national crisis.

shattered glass
Image by Republica from Pixabay

As universities closed their campuses to staff and students, they were forced to isolate and start to teach and learn remotely. Staff who previously had offices and desks to work from suddenly found themselves in lockdown, working from home amidst all the other stuff which was happening. They may have been lucky and had a working space they could use, but many would have found themselves in a busy household with partners working from home, children being home schooled with all the pressures that brings to space, time, devices and connectivity.

Likewise students were suddenly faced with stark choices, should they stay on campus or go home, for some home meant a flight home. They too would find themselves in strange environments in which they had to learn. They would be isolated, in potentially busy households, potentially without the devices and connectivity they could have used on campus.

In addition to all this the landscape and environment was changing rapidly. Lockdown forced us to stay at home, only allowed out for essential supplies and exercise once per day. There was the threat of infection and with the death rates rising exponentially, it was a frightening time.

The emergency shift to remote delivery also was challenging, without the time and resources, or even the support, to design, develop and delivery effective and engaging online courses. We saw many academic staff quickly translate their curriculum design from physical face to face sessions to virtual replacements using Zoom and Teams. What we would see is that this simple translation would lose the nuances that you have with live physical sessions in learning spaces without taking account of the positive affordances that online delivery can potentially have. Without the necessary digital skills and capabilities staff would have found it challenging in the time available to transform their teaching.

I still think as I was quoted in a recent article that this rapid emergency response and shift to remote delivery by academic staff across the UK was an amazing achievement.

In the presentations I gave an overview of some of the support Jisc had been providing the sector, from providing a community site, various webinars, blogs, advice and guidance as well as direct help to individual members of Jisc.

online meeting
Image by Lynette Coulston from Pixabay

Over the last few months I have been publishing various blog posts about aspects of delivery translation and transformation. I have also reflected on the many conversations I have had with people from the sector about what was happening, what they are doing and what they were thinking about going forward. I’ve also had a fair few articles published in the press on various subjects.

So as we approach the end of term, the planning for September has been in play for some time as universities start to think about how they will design, develop and deliver academic programmes for the next year.

Journey
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

We know that virtually all universities are planning to undertake some teaching on campus in the next academic year, but will combine that with elements of the course delivered online.

Though in the past we may have talked about these being blended courses, though they may consist of a blend on face to face physical sessions and online sessions, they were planned to be blended and not changed over the course. They didn’t need to take into account social distancing, so could combine physical lectures with online seminars. In the current climate, we are expecting to see large gatherings forced online and smaller group activities happening physically face to face.

Blended programme are generally designed not be changed over the time of the programme, so I think we might see more hybrid programmes that combine physical and online elements, but will flex and change as the landscape changes.

writing and planning
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I published a blog post about hybrid courses back in May, my definition was very much about a programme of study which would react  and respond to the changing environment.

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.

Listening to a conversation someone was talking about hybrid courses as a mix between online and face to face, but didn’t mention the responsiveness or the potential flexibility. Without a shared understanding we know that this can result in confusion, mixed messaging, with the differences in course design and delivery, as well as problems with student expectations. I wrote about this last week on a blog post on a common language.

Some courses do lend themselves to an online format, whereas others may not. As a result I don’t think we will see similar formats for different subjects. Lab and practical courses may have more physical face to face sessions, compared to those that are easier to deliver online. As a result different cohorts in different subjects will have different experiences. Some universities may find that due to nature of social distancing that classes may have to be spread across a longer day and these has been talk of spreading over seven days as well, to fit in all the required classes and students.

solitary
Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

Designing, developing and delivering online courses, or even just components of online courses doesn’t just happen, it takes time and time is something we don’t have. In a conversation about the issues of planning, one senior manager said to me that what she needed was six months and more money.

We have seen that some universities in response to this kind of challenge are recruiting learning technologists and online instructional designers to “fill” the gap and support academic staff in creating engaging and effective online components of their courses.

Maintaining the quality of such components will be critical, and merely translatingexisting models to a simple online format using tools such as Zoom will lose the nuances of physical face to face teaching without gaining any of the affordances that well designed online learning can bring to the student experience.

Building and developing staff skills and capabilities in these areas is been seen as a priority for many universities, but how you do this remotely, quickly and effectively is proving to be a challenge and a headache for many.

clock
Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

Normally when I mention time, I would have talked about how I don’t have a dog, but in this case this is not the case, the development of new designs for the next academic year is not just the main priority, but as we don’t have the time and the skills in place to make it happen.

We are not merely adding online elements to existing courses. We are not going to be able to deliver the physical face to face sessions in the same way as we have done. Everything has to change, everything is going to change.

So what of the future? Well we know for sure it’s going to be different.

tree trunk
Image by Picography from Pixabay

Maintaining the quality – Weeknote #68 – 19th June 2020

I spent the best part of Monday preparing, planning and rehearsing for the  QAA online workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment I am participating in.

An article I write was published in University Business this week. Regular readers of the blog will realise that this was a reworked (and polished) version of a blog post I published a few weeks back.

Throughout the pandemic, universities have done their utmost to make sure continuity of learning has been maintained as much as possible, and the pace at which the sector has moved is amazing. But now that the initial period of response is coming to a close, and universities are starting to look at more long-term options, a consideration of online pedagogy and strategy will be important.

On Tuesday I had another article published, this time in The PIE News.

As coronavirus turns the traditional university experience upside down, changing the ways we design and deliver teaching, are contact hours still a valuable mark of quality?

I spent most of the day in my Senior TEL Group meeting where we discussed the group’s current challenges and what potentially kind of support from Jisc they need. Issues that did arise included workload planning, curriculum scheduling and timetabling.

conference
Image by Spencer Garner from Pixabay

On Wednesday, UUK published the results of a survey on how universities will deliver teaching and learning this autumn.

97% of universities surveyed confirmed that they will provide in-person teaching at the start of term this year, with 78 universities (87%), also stating that they will offer in-person social opportunities to students, including outside events and sporting activities, all in line with government and public health guidance.

microphones
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Thursday I did two online presentations, one was part of a QAA workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment in which we will look at some of the key quality assurance issues that universities will face in the new academic year.

This session will include an update on COVID-19 before moving to a focus on the pedagogy of online teaching and learning and how this underpins quality. We will discuss key messages from a range of sources regarding maintaining quality in an online environment, before hearing applied examples from providers.

I also ran a session at Jisc’s Connect Morewhich I have called What of the future?My session was asking delegates to think about what happens next? What they think they need to do? As well as what they want support and help with to make it happen? This was a challenging session, despite having 80+ people in the Zoom session, there wasn’t many contributions from the delegates. I am not sure if it was my session, or the fact that it was the last session of the day, or the platform (we were using the Zoom webinar platform) didn’t necessarily facilitate engagement that well. In the end I did a quick presentation about my thinking of what the short term future means for universities and colleges.

I have been thinking following conversations earlier this week about scheduling of hybrid and blended programmes on a socially distanced campus.

So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced. Some parts will be delivered online through tools such as Zoom, Teams and the VLE. Some will be asynchronous, but some won’t.

My question is this, where (physically) are you expecting your students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well.

Imagine a commuter student (or a student who lives some distance from the university) who has arrived on campus for a physical face to face seminar and then needs to attend an online session. Where are they expected to do that? If they are to be on campus, where would they go? Would they know where they could go? Are they expected to go “home”?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

At the weekend, in Bristol, the statue of Edward Colston was pulled down by protesters and dumped into the water of the Bristol Docks. There was real anger about the “celebration” of a man who made his fortune by buying and selling people. It’s vitally important that as a society we learn from the lessons of history, but my opinion, aligns with David Olusoga, statues do not teach history, they celebrate the lives of those they represent. If we want to retain such statues, then we should put them in a museum and put them in context.

Though the R factor for the coronavirus is decreasing elsewhere in the UK, here in the South West it’s 1.0 which means that though the rate of infection is not rising exponentially, it also isn’t declining. In theory I can go to the office in Bristol next week, if I really need to work there and can get there easily by foot or cycle. Well I think I will be working from home again next week.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a journalist and his article has now been published online on a webpage. Continue reading Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

What is the difference between strong, thorough and exceptional? – Weeknote #37 – 15th November 2019

BT Tower in Fitzrovia
BT Tower in Fitzrovia by James Clay

One interesting read this week was this blog post

An ‘Edinburgh Model’ for Online Teaching Programme: Notes from a pilot run.

In this post, Dr Michael Gallagher, a Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Digital Education, describes how he and colleagues drew on current expertise and research within The University of Edinburgh to inform and design a new online course…

It was an interesting read, but I find it equally interesting that we are still having difficulty with delivering and teaching online that we still need to run pilots.

There has been substantial amounts of research and practice in this space, this is reinforced by the forthcoming A Manifesto for Teaching Online which, as indicated in the article on the  ‘Edinburgh Model’ was a source for the course, much of what is distilled in the course comes from the outcomes of the Near Future Teaching project and the Manifesto for Teaching Online.

This isn’t though a course which is delivered online, this is a course for teaching people how to teach online and it wasn’t initially delivered online.

This first pilot of the course was run face to face to allow the team to focus on specific areas and get rapid feedback from participants.

In my reading and experience, people really get to understand the challenges and affordances of delivering online if they have first hand experience of being taught online, both bad and good. A similar thing can be said for non-online teaching (or what we sometimes call traditional or face to face teaching. This is something that all teachers will have experience of, being taught in a face to face or traditional manner before they start teaching themselves. Though I wonder can we teach online if we have never been taught online? Should be said though the team are planning to run the course fully online in early 2020.

I suppose there is for me an element of frustration that the concept of online teaching isn’t new, there has been considerable research in this space, but it’s still something that we as a sector struggle with. Hopefully sharing experiences from these pilots will help, but we have been doing pilots for decades now… Continue reading What is the difference between strong, thorough and exceptional? – Weeknote #37 – 15th November 2019

Using e-resources to improve the quality of achievement

In order to improve the quality of achievement, there are various strategies that practitioners can use. One key thing to note is that there is only so much that practitioners can do and learners need to take responsibility for doing more than is just provided to ensure that they get the best possible grade they can.

I know some learners who “believe” that all they need to pass their course is the core text book and the handouts they get in class.

Well, yes in a way that’s right, but they will only pass.

To get that grade A or a distinction they are going to have to do a little bit more. Though some learners will know this, many will not. It is therefore useful for practitioners to support learners to ensure that they have the opportunity and the access to wider range of resources.

Of course practitioners don’t always have the time for this (as they do work hard doing a lot already for the learners) however learning technologies and digital resources can often provide that extra sparkle to allow learners to improve the quality of their work and assessments.

By providing links to e-books, e-journals, relevant e-resources will be placed on the VLE. This will allow students who wish to improve the quality of their assessed work, access to a wider range of resources and links. Learners can then access these links at a time and place that suits them, whether that be at home, at work, whilst drinking coffee or even in college.

Now just providing the links isn’t enough, you also need to ensure that learners are signposted the resources in lessons.

Before any practitioners say “I would like to do that, but I don’t have the time” I have two things to say.

Firstly if quality of achievement is an issue for a particular curriculum area than using resources ie spending time on doing this should be a priority over doing other stuff. It’s not about time, it’s about priorities.

Secondly within most institutions are a bunch of information professionals who are really good at curating and collating these very resources for you. They often live in the library and from experience not only will they know what resources are available for any particular curriculum area, they may also curate and collate them for you.

There are many ways in which digital and online resources can be used to enhance and enrich learning. Using access to a wider range of resources to improve the quality of achievement can be an easy start to solving this issue.