Tag Archives: social distancing

Nightmare timetabling…

clocks
Photo by Ahmad Ossayli on Unsplash

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 LMS. Some will be asynchronous, but some won’t.

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.

Yes they could go back to halls, or to the room in their shared house, their bubble space.

However imagine a commuter student 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”?

Likewise a student attends a physical face to face session in a social distanced seminar room, they then next need to attend a synchronous online lecture (via Zoom) before attending another physical face to face tutorial.

In these scenarios that student will need a social distanced physical space to access the online session. They will need a device suitable for the tool (or even tools) being used as well as a decent connection.

solitary
Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

Now turn that around and look at what staff will be doing, they could be delivering a physical face to face seminar and then need to go to a device to deliver that live online lecture. Does their office computer have a webcam and do they have a decent microphone? Do they share an office? What do they do if they are in open plan offices with half the desks taped off for social distancing? You may want to deliver your online session from home, but if you need to be on campus for the physical sessions then you may not have a choice.

We guess that campuses won’t be as “busy” as they were before lockdown, so some of the challenges will be mitigated, but then we have to reflect that many of the students who would have been “locked away” in lecture theatres will now potentially wandering around campus or trying to find a space to study, so I am not that confident that campuses will be less busy than they were before.

calendar
Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

I remember going to one university last year during term time, and it didn’t appear to be that busy and then the scheduled lessons and lectures finished, the doors opened and the corridors were awash with people.

This in itself, even in less crowded campus brings its own challenges when it comes to end time of timetabled physical face to face sessions. How do you avoid those crowds and congestion on the hour or half hour? Will you need to plan in different end times, more time in between sessions. This may also be needed if one way systems are put into place to ensure social distancing.

These are only some of the issues that universities are facing when it comes to planning and designing their timetables and schedules for the new academic year. This is in addition to ensuring spaces are meeting the (changing) social distancing regulations as well.

The social distancing rules may be relaxed, which may make things easier, but what happens if things are tightened up? If anything that’s make it even more challenging.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

broken iPhone
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

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

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

Some lessons to be learned there!

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

Intelligent Campus and coronavirus planning

solitary
Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

For a few years at Jisc I was working on the Intelligent Campus project and then got a new role as Head of HE and Student Experience. I still have an interest in the space and when I read this recent post from WonkHE, Can we plan for a socially distanced campus? interesting and useful for the planning for September.

We know how to operate a traditional on-campus model, and we are very quickly developing a better understanding of how to facilitate off-campus working and learning, but how can we best support social distancing on a functioning campus?

Is this what social distancing looks like in a lecture theatre? via WonkHE Seminar.

https://wonkhe.com/blogs/can-we-plan-for-a-socially-distanced-campus/

I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.

I published a use case a year ago, on people flows and congestion,  and it gave me an idea of updating it to reflect the current challenges that universities and colleges will face in September.

With the impact of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing and tracing contacts, if there was ever a use case for the concept of the intelligent campus then this is it.

What’s the issue?

The flow of people through campus and beyond is complex and not well understood outside of known peak times such as class changes or lunchtime. The density of people at any one place and time, and the speed of their movement, can have a big impact on how easily people can get in and around campus buildings and facilities. This can have an impact on the need for effective social distancing. Universities need to avoid situations arising which result in large numbers of people congregating in areas which could result in failure to maintain social distancing.

What could be done?

Pedestrian flow could affect the time for journeys between classes, waiting times at cafes or sudden changes in how busy the library is. Location trackers such as used by mobile phones can provide data on flow, and also people counters, such as using video systems, can be placed around campus to collect data on the numbers of people in that location at any time. Such data can have a number of applications, including combining with other contexts to improve services, as well as ensure social distancing.

Monitoring the increasing numbers of people towards a known destination could anticipate potential problems with congestion and queueing. For example, students heading towards the cafeteria could indicate an unusually high demand for food and trigger staffing or stocking changes to cope with higher numbers. You could also use the information to alert students that the space will be busier than normal and due to social distancing there would be longer queues and waiting times.

Timetabling data indicates when classes are scheduled to end, but real time data on movement could indicate that some classes finish earlier or later, leading to changing patterns in availability of services. This could be critical if you are using timetables to stagger the movement of people to ensure social distancing and avoid congesting and crowding.

Library
Image by RHMemoria from Pixabay

Usage data could show that the library is already busy when one class ends, and students could be directed towards other study areas or computer rooms that have more availability and more space.

Where campuses interact with local towns and cities, for example crossing roads or using transport services, or where students are using their cars. The changing flow of people could be used to increase the capacity or timing of pedestrian crossings, to avoid congestion. Likewise the  frequency of transport services could ensure that sufficient public transport is in place for both local people and students. Real time traffic information could allow students to make decisions about when to arrive for university on time or when would be the best time to leave.

Tram

Over time the data may suggest interesting patterns of behaviour that could be used to further predict, anticipate and respond to congestion. One example might be the impact of weather – on sunny days students may spend more time outside, whereas when it’s rainy they may congregate in specific spaces. This behaviour will impact on those trying to ensure social distancing in spaces such as corridors and learning spaces such as the library.

Using room utilisation data, spare rooms could be opened up to accommodate social interaction and refreshment breaks, or pop up library or IT services could be opened. Ensuring that social distancing guidelines are kept to.

What examples are there?

Many of the existing examples are from “Smart cities”, involving vehicular and pedestrian traffic, to aid safety, improve health and environmental concerns, and also inform retail and business. However, such applications can be easily applied to campus routes and facilities.

Google maps is one of the best known examples of tracking the location of mobile devices (typically in cars) to show congestion on traffic routes. The mapping service then can suggest the best/quickest route for the traffic conditions at the time and provide alternatives if congestion is estimated to lead to a slower journey time. Waze (owned by Google) does something similar, but allows individuals to add information about congestion. This type of system could be really useful in a campus context.

Other methods of “people counting” include video cameras, which can also combine with CCTV, recognising an image of a person and transmitting the numbers (usually not the images). Such systems could be used to flag spaces which are getting congested or filling up.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

In Las Vegas, not only do they track vehicles through a junction but also count the number of pedestrians crossing the streets and also “jaywalking”, and then re-routing vehicular traffic when the numbers of pedestrians is high. Could a similar system ensure that students are re-routed when their chosen route is getting crowded.

People counters are often used in business and retail areas for example in Manchester to better understand queuing time and which areas of a store are popular. The data also contributes to strategies to improve walkability and transport, understand the impact of events and marketing campaigns, and assist businesses and community services in adopting appropriate staffing and security arrangements. These systems could be adapted to ensure safe spaces for students on university campuses.

Sphere
Image by Picography from Pixabay

What about ethical and other issues?

In principle, data on people movement tends to be aggregated to use the total numbers and changes to those numbers rather than knowledge about a specific individual. This is similar to the way google uses your location to provide mapping data, and is widely accepted. However, images of individuals may be being captured along with their movements and this information could be used inappropriately without strict controls and clear consent rules. Similarly, as data becomes combined, it begins to create a picture of a person’s behaviour that could be considered more of an invasion of privacy – for example which cafe are they going to, who else is there and what do they drink?

It’s important that the ethical aspects of this are taken seriously, and the excuse “it’s a crisis” shouldn’t be used to increase surveillance of individuals and impact negatively on privacy. Transparency of what the university is doing and why is key.

University of Leeds - Leeds Business School
Leeds Business School

Conclusions

With the impact of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing and tracing contacts, if there was ever a use case for the concept of the intelligent campus then this is it.