The US election continues to dominate Twitter though seeing less of it on the mainstream news. Saw a number of people on Twitter claiming to have won the election!
Five years ago this week myself and Lawrie were delivering the second residential of the pilot for the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme at the Holland House Hotel in the heart of Bristol. We had spent four days delivering that week. We also had some great cakes and pastries.
Even the coffee was nice. We learnt a lot from the process and spent the next few months iterating the programme, dropping and adding stuff based on the feedback we had from the pilot delegates.
Less than a year later we delivered the programme to paying delegates in Loughborough, again we reviewed what we did and adapted the programme again, before delivering to groups in Manchester, Belfast and Leicester.
This week saw the continual increase in covid-19 cases, sadly increasing deaths and many areas of the UK entering Tier 3 lockdowns. The threat of a national lockdown was getting discussed, whilst in Wales they were already in lockdown.
Monday I went into the Bristol office to work, it was quiet and I managed to get some work done.
Tuesday I spent the day writing, but I did find it hard that day to be creative. The weather was frightful.
Wednesday I was back into Bristol and in our office to work, I did meet up with a couple of colleagues as well for working meetings.
Concerns have been raised over a lack of mandatory face masks for students and staff at the University of the West of England (UWE). One lecturer said staff “don’t feel safe” and he felt “insulted” at the suggestion staff were “happy to go to Sainsbury’s and the pub but not work”.
University students are struggling with loneliness and anxiety due to campus lockdowns, with the risk that their mental health will deteriorate further unless urgent action is taken, counsellors and charities are warning.
Students could be told not to return home at Christmas if the spread of the coronavirus has not been controlled, the deputy first minister has said.
Amongst all this I have been planning the programme for the Jisc, QAA and HESA Data Matters 2021 conference which is taking place in January and will be an online conference. I have a history of doing online conferences and I am planning to take advantage of the affordances that an online conference can bring to such an event. I am hoping to do podcasts, pre-recorded presentations, blogs and more, as well as streaming live keynotes and presentations. Find out more here about the conference.
Thursday I was on leave. It was nice though to see this tweet from Lawrie. Excellent news.
Really pleased! Chatted to @rafehallett from @KeeleInnovation today. and I am being conferred as an Hon. Professor in Digital Education, leadership, and practice. Excited to be associated with a great team and the benefits it will bring to my Jisc research work.
Friday I was working from home. Having left an empty inbox on Wednesday I was quite surprised to see 51 unread e-mails in my inbox. It actually didn’t take too long to process the e-mails. Some I read and then deleted, others I marked as spam, from some I created Jira tasks, and some I just did what was being asked.
My top tweet this week was this one.
So just me then when I saw Tucker trending thinking that it was about Tucker Jenkins.
I did think last week that this was just the beginning, when I posted my blog post about the uncertainty that the higher education sector was facing, when I noted a few stories about social distancing and isolation that was being reported in the press. I didn’t think that the story would blow up so soon!
About 40 universities around the UK have now reported coronavirus cases and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new term begins.
The University of Aberystwyth is the latest to suspend face-to-face teaching to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
At the University of Essex a cluster of cases has been linked to sports teams.
Queen’s University Belfast – some students have been told to self-isolate after a “small number” tested positive.
The University of Exeter, which has also reported a “small” number of cases.
In Wales, with much of the population in lockdown, students in many of the Welsh universities were also forced to isolate and stay in their halls. This was proving to be traumatic for many first year students, who are mainly young and for most is their first time away from the family home.
Universities are facing various welfare challenges as you might imagine, but also the challenge that as well as physical face to face delivery, those sessions now also need to be delivered online. This is a different challenge than March where all students were off campus now there is need to deliver multiple versions of the same session. In addition the rise in covid-19 infections is impacting on staff, who may now want to shield, creating additional challenges for delivery across campus and online.
As universities struggle to contain student parties, and with coronavirus outbreaks already confirmed at several campuses, many academics are afraid of face-to-face teaching. But some say managers are bullying them to return and, fearing redundancy, they feel unable to refuse.
It doesn’t help that the press coverage is rather negative and biased against the sector. The universities were told by government that they should reopen their campuses. The Government were clear about what they expect from the sector:
We will introduce new restrictions in England, but not a return to the lockdown in March; we’ll ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.
The culture secretary has defended students going back to university in England after a union labelled the situation “shambolic”. Oliver Dowden told the Andrew Marr Show it was important students did not “give up a year of their life” by not going.
Though many (if not all) universities have planned for this, it’s still a difficult situation.
This morning we saw pieces on Radio 4’s Today programme and on the television on BBC Breakfast about the crisis, didn’t help that there were a fair few inaccuracies in the reporting.
So the higher education sector is facing real challenges as covid-19 infections result in self-isolation, local lockdowns and the resulting impact on learning and teaching, what they need now is support and help in working through this.
It was a much busier week this time, with a lot more travelling, including trams, planes, trains, buses, cars and walking. At least the weather wasn’t too bad, but there was certainly some rain and wind about.
Monday I was in Wales for one of Jisc’s Stakeholder Forums. It was interesting to talk to colleagues form universities and colleges about how they felt about Jisc and the services we provide them. I really enjoyed the session delivered by my colleague on big challenges and co-design and on my table we had a really insightful and interesting discussion about a Netflix style model for education.