In an entirely expected move, the country faced a second wave of covid-19 and as a result there is now a second lockdown.
From my perspective not too much has changed. I am still working from home virtually all the time meeting via Teams and occasionally Zoom. I had started going to our office in Bristol once or twice a month, and was about to up this to once a week, I was in last week. However during November I will not be visiting the office or Bristol and will be following government guidelines.
UCU said that universities must move all non-essential in-person teaching online as part of any plans for a national lockdown.
Now we have more details, we now know that the Government has said universities will remain open during this second lockdown. This will create headaches for universities as they plan to deliver more of their programmes online, but maintain some physical teaching to satisfy the Government. Of course some students will not want to attend physical lessons and lectures.
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.
You can tell winter is coming, but I did enjoy having an extra hour on Sunday. I watched this video on Sunday morning about how university students in Europe and the US are paying Kenyans to do their academic work for them.
The global market for academic writing is estimated to be worth $1bn (£770m) annually.
Findings from the largest dataset gathered to date on contract cheating indicate that there are three influencing factors: speaking a language other than English (LOTE) at home, the perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’, and dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment (Bretag & Harper et al., 2018).
These influencing factors could be mitigated, could we assess in the learner’s native language? Culd we improve satisfaction with the overall teaching and learning environment? Often easier said than done.
This contract cheating or collusion is a major headache for universities in the UK, but I wonder if the answer isn’t about creating systems or processes that can identify when cheating or collusion is taking place, but ensuring that assessment is designed in a way that means there is no incentive to chat, collude or pay someone else to undertake the assessment.
I spent the weekend at a family wedding down in Sussex and I got my first taste of campanology, when I was asked to ring the bell in the church at the end of the wedding service, why I was asked I have no idea, but my family now have an amusing video of me being pulled up and down by the bell rope! The wedding was lovely and we had a great time.
Nine years ago on the 19th October 2010 I took this photograph of one of the offices in the college I was working in.
We had been having a lot of discussions about desks and offices. One particular group of staff were adamant they needed their own desks to work on and that they didn’t want their space changed.
What you should notice from the photograph above was that though everyone had their own desk, what they were actually using them was for, was storage. No one was really using their desks for working at. The result was a room which was not conducive to working, so no one worked in there. No one could find anything… well some could.
I remember having discussions about replacing the space with fewer desks, more storage and some nicer seating and comfortable areas. The reaction was (as expected) no, I need my own desk.
The staff in this office spent the majority of their working week teaching in classrooms, when they were not teaching, they wanted space to mark and prepare, research as well as somewhere to relax, drink coffee and discuss stuff with colleagues. They also needed space to store materials and resources, as well as student work. Their needs were being overshadowed by the need for their own space, a space they could call their own.
With institutions re-evaluating their teaching and thinking how best to invest, it’s a great time to consider whether we really understand how students are using informal educational spaces outside of the classroom. The student perspective combined with novel use of occupancy data is bringing us closer to answering that conundrum.
Reminded me of this blog post that I wrote this back in 2017 on designing informal learning spaces that would encourage informal learning.
Well the key really is to think about what actually facilitates and encourages informal learning.
It’s a combination of factors and can include design of learning spaces and the learning activities undertaken by the learners.
Creating the right contexts and environments for informal learning, will ensure that the concept of learn anywhere and anytime is encouraged and enhanced.
Though I wouldn’t have called it ethnography (and I certainly wouldn’t call it ethnography today) my blog post was based on my experiences in designing and running libraries, as well as developing the use of digital and virtual learning. I would spend a lot of time observing how learners would use our spaces, what they were doing in those spaces and I felt importantly what they weren’t doing as well. I would talk to learners, more importantly I would listen to learners. We would also measure space utilisation and activity in our spaces and all this would inform how we would design and change the space.
When we originally designed the spaces, an important aspect to me was flexibility, being able to change the space as demands on that space changed, in how people wanted to use it and how many wanted to use it. All our shelving for example was on wheels, could be moved easily and quickly around. So following observation and listening, we would adjust the space accordingly.
The premise of that article was you couldn’t design informal learning (as that would formalise it) but what you could do is create spaces that would encourage informal learning.
It is more challenging to create learning spaces that encourage informal and social learning. As demands on space continues to grow and demand for more learner-led learning, it is important that institutions consider much more how their spaces can be used for informal learning.
Monday I was into the office in Bristol for various meetings and some training on culture. One of the things I did finalise was my performance objectives for the year ahead. One thing which I ensured was that my objectives were derived from the strategic objectives of the organisation. This way everything I do is contributing to the organisational strategic priorities. This process was something we did on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme and I also illustrated in this sketchnote.
I also had a discussion about writing an article about Education 4.0, but with a copyright lens. At this time we’ve not really looked into the copyright implications of the changes that could happen in the world of education.
Alas when leaving the office later that day, it was pouring rain and I got rather damp walking back to my car. I realised my waterproof coat was in fact no longer waterproof.
Illness in others and terrible rain, meant that meetings were changed, so I was able to change my plans from going into the Bristol office to working from home on Tuesday and avoid the rain.
I saw a video in the Twitter on the fourth industrial revolution which I thought was rather good so I blogged about it.
Wednesday saw an interesting anniversary, as ten years ago on the 2nd October, I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.
Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general. I wrote a nostalgic blog post looking back at the event, my presentation and the impact it had.
I spent a lot of time on Thursday interviewing prospective student partners for Jisc. We like to know what is important to students regarding their use of technology in education and research. What skills they think they need and how they want to learn. So every year we get a group of students from across HE and FE and work with them in a variety of different ways. Some attend our meetings, others our events, they participate in podcasts, panel sessions and workshops. I have always felt it was important to listen to the student voice to inform my work.
Friday I had various meetings, but managed to make a lot of progress on our Learning Technologist technical career pathway. We will be piloting this with individuals over the next twelve months.
My top tweet this week was this one.
It was on this day sixteen years ago that I was at Bristol Zoo and I took this photograph of a meerkat. Four years later I needed a picture for an avatar and the rest is, as they say, history. pic.twitter.com/Ax6jfyOFKE
A rather short week for me, as taking some leave. This week started for me on Wednesday as we had a bank holiday here in England and I took some additional leave.
I was off to London again, this time for an internal meeting about the Intelligent Campus, in which I provided some insights into the work I did on the project over the last few years. It reminded me about how much I enjoyed working on that project and the sheer quantity of ideas, use cases, blog posts I created and wrote over that time.
It also reminded me of how the presentation I created for the project evolved and developed over the life of the project.
When I ran the first community event at Sheffield Hallam in March 2018 the presentation was very wordy.
When I spoke about the Intelligent Campus in March 2019 at Digifest, the presentation was nearly all images.
I delivered variations of the presentation many times in that twelve month period, including a keynote in France, as well as versions at events and at meetings with universities. The more confident I got with the content and the details, meant I reduced the words and replaced them with images.
I have also been working on the assessment criteria for the Learning Technologist Technical Career Pathway using the SIFA framework.
I think it needs more work and some extra non-SIFA units to make it more aligned to the Learning Technologist role within Jisc.
I was only working two days this week, and Friday I was back in the office for more meetings and tying up loose ends from my growing inbox.
We have moved to a self-service model for booking travel and accommodation, which means for me less back and forth when booking hotels in cities I don’t know or have not stayed in before. Having booked a hotel for a trip to Leeds, my next booking will be for a meeting in Edinburgh.
I did find this article from Wonkhe interesting and insightful
I remember a long time ago, getting a job, not just because I matched the criteria and did a good interview, but because the panel felt that I was someone they could drink coffee with first thing in the morning. In other words I fitted their expectations of a colleague they could both work with, but also fit into their culture.
I doubt back then “unconscious bias” was even thought about, let alone even considered as an issue. Did the other candidates make them feel uncomfortable? Did they even understand why that was?
Interesting it was in that job, that I started to realise as white middle class male that I had privileges that came to me just because of my gender and ethnicity. I started to recognise that when working with people that they had different backgrounds, cultures and challenges, that were nothing like mine, so I had to ensure I didn’t let this impact on the decisions I was making.
Monday was another trip to London, I had been expecting to participate in a workshop, but this was cancelled late last week, and I already had train tickets and another meeting in the diary so decided to head up anyhow. The weather was changeable, raining whilst on the train, but this cleared up by the time I arrived in London.
I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think more about how we could use AI to support learning, but also reflect on some of the real challenges in making this happen. Also do we want this to happen!
In the afternoon in the office we were discussing Education 4.0 and how we are going to move this forward in terms of expert thinking and messages.
Tuesday was a busy day, first a meeting in the Bristol office, before heading up to Cheltenham for a meeting the HESA office.
I haven’t been on a CrossCountry train for a while now, so travelling to Cheltenham Spa from Bristol Temple Meads I was interested to see how the 3G connectivity issues I’ve always had on that route would be like, especially as I now have 4G with Three. Well same old problems, dipping in and out from 4G to 3G as well as periods of No Service. I would like to blame the train, but the reality is that there is poor phone signal connectivity on that route. As there is no incentive for mobile network providers to improve connectivity.
If I do go to Cheltenham again, I think I will take a book!
We were discussed the Data Matters 2020 Conference, which is now in my portfolio. Still a work in progress and the proposal needs to be signed off by key stakeholders.
Whilst I was in Cheltenham I bumped into my old colleague Deborah from Gloucestershire College and we had a chat about stuff. What was nice to hear was the number of my team and colleagues in that team that had started there in learning technology and were now doing new and more exciting jobs at universities across the UK.
Wednesday there was rain. I spent today preparing for a meeting in the afternoon and tidying up my inbox. Though I did find time for a coffee.
Thanks to Lawrie for the link, I read this report on the iPASS system, which uses data and analytics to identify students at risk.
The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers.
This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance.
Looks like that it didn’t have the impact that they thought it might.
In a couple of weeks I am recording a podcast and met with the organiser today to discuss content and format. Without giving too much away, we will be covering the importance of people in any digital transformation programme and ensuring that they are part of the process, consultation and are given appropriate training in the wider context of their overall skills and capabilities. You can’t just give people new digital systems and expect them to be able to use them from day one or with specific training. Familiarity with digital in its wider context is often critical, but is equally often forgotten.
Whilst writing a blog post about online learning I wrote the following
Conversations are really hard to follow in e-mail, mainly as people don’t respond in a linear manner, they add their comment to the top of their reply.
When I first started using e-mail in 1997, well actually I first started using e-mail in 1987, but then got flamed by the e-mail administrator at Brunel University, so stopped using it for ten years….
When I re-started using e-mail in 1997, there was an expectation when replying to e-mail that you would respond by writing your reply underneath the original e-mail, bottom posting, which really was something that I got from using usenet newsgroups. This from RFC 1855.
If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just enough text of the original to give a context. This will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a response to a message before seeing the original. Giving context helps everyone. But do not include the entire original!
By the early 2000s lots more people were using e-mail and most of the time they were replying at the start of the e-mail, top-posting. There were quite a few people in my circles who continued to bottom post their replies, which made sense when reading a threaded conversation, but confused the hell out of people who didn’t understand why someone replied to a conversation, and from what they could see, hadn’t written anything!
Today top-posting appears to be the norm and I can’t recall when I last saw someone responding to an e-mail by replying at the end of the quoted reply.
Here is the blog post I wrote, about how online learning doesn’t just happen.
Friday was about planning, planning and even some forward planning. One thing that has puzzled me for a long time was the difference between forward planning and planning. Thanks to Google I have a better idea now.
Forward planning is being pro-active, predicting the future and then planning to achieve that prediction.
The opposite is backward planning, which is more reactive, you wait until you get a request or management decision then create a plan to achieve it.
So what is plain and simple planning then?
Wikipedia says that planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal.
So some of what I am doing in my planning is responding to both requested goals and planning for some predicted goals.
We had our weekly meeting about the Technical Career Pathways we are developing at Jisc. I am responsible for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway.
On Monday I was off to London. I was originally planning to be in a workshop, but that didn’t work out, so I made the most of my trip to touch base with some key people in our London office. I spent some time planning a training and development session on presentations. This follows a talk I gave at an internal TEDx event.
The talk was about designing powerpoint slides and presenting information.
For the training and development session on presentations I will expand this into an interactive session that will cover presenting and presentations in more depth. The participants will need to design and deliver a five minute presentation as part of the session.
I will be helping them to understand what makes an effective presentation, some important aspects to consider when trying to communicate a message, how to focus on and reinforce key aspects of that messaging, as well as how to manage a Q&A session after presenting. I will be mentioning fonts and images. I will attempt to not mention clip-art!
Tuesday was another trip to London to meet with some consultants be part of a workshop to discuss and plan our messages for current and future public affairs. In order to get to the meeting I caught the tube to Blackfriars and crossed the Thames to Southwark. I have not been to that part of London before so was curious to see what was around as I walked to the meeting. The railway bridge over the Thames had a huge crest not quite attached to it which I found quite fascinating.
The bridge was once part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway network. This rail company was formed in 1859 and the crest is dated five years later 1864. It formed a union with the South Eastern Railway and though not formally merged they operated as the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. In 1923 it was merged with other rail companies to form Southern Railway. The line became part of British Railways following nationalisation in 1948. It remained part of British Railways (and from 1965 when it traded as British Rail) until re-privatisation in 1992. Services are now operated by Thameslink.
I used the phrase “not quite attached to it” as the original structure of the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge deteriorated until it was unsound. In 1961, two tracks were removed from the bridge to ease its load. The bridge was eventually removed in 1985. The current “bridge” is in fact Blackfriars Station now. The crest, which was restored in 1990, and the abutments are a listed building.
Wednesday I was in the office in Bristol for my end of year review, which I feel went well, despite it being an odd year with a role change mid-year. The office was packed and there were lots of people I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was good to catch up.
I spent quite some time reviewing operational plans in the context of the higher education strategy that we have which was an interesting exercise.
I have been given the task of leading on an Education 4.0 roadmap and it has been challenging to find suitable time in people’s diaries during the summer, as a lot of people are taking holiday.
Thursday I was off to London again, third time this week, an earlier train as I was travelling over to Queen Mary, University of London in East London. This was another part of London I had not been to before. It was a bit of a trek on the underground from Paddington to Mile End, but at least I didn’t have to change tubes.
We were having a round table discussion on how Jisc supports TNE for Jisc members. I gave a short presentation on how Jisc works in the HE learning and teaching space. We did though branch out into a wider educational technology discussion and I spent some time discussing the concept of the Intelligent Library. This I have spoken about before at various events across the UK.
An aspect of the discussion was use cases that could then drive how such a concept could be implemented. One we discussed was providing assessment information to libraries in a way that would support them in their provision of the library service.
I spent the afternoon working in our office in Fetter Lane.
Friday was a time to participate in a meeting about the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am developing at Jisc. I have made some progress, but still have some way to go to. I also took the time to undertake some planning.
Monday I was off to Lumen House, location of the Jisc offices in Harwell. This was for me, my first meeting of the Jisc Group Senior Leadership Team. In my new role I am now part of GSLT. We are going to be discussing strategy.
During a break I did read this article from BBC News.
…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.
Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable. Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”. We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.
Tuesday I was back in our Bristol office and had a few meetings across the day on various subjects from our student partner programme to the Twitter.
The meeting about the Twitter was interesting as it reminded me of the many blog posts I have written about using Twitter. My overall perspective after using the Twitter for over twelve years now is that I still don’t know how to use the Twitter and saying “the Twitter” really annoys people.
Wednesday with no meetings in the diary, I decided to work from home. The office when busy can be noisy and distracting. Sometimes that is a positive thing, and sometimes distractions allow you to interact and engage with people, sometimes though you just need to crack on and get the writing done.
One of the main things I have been working on this week is mapping the Learning and Research TCP to the SIFA Framework. This will allow us to have consistency across all the TCPs in Jisc. However one area which the SIFA is lacking in is the research side, so further work will need to be done in that space.
Despite having left the project six months ago, I still get the odd e-mail about the Intelligent Campus project, having been linked to the project for so long I am not surprised. It’s an area which still interests me and I do like to keep on top of what is happening in this space not just in the HE sector, but also wider as with Smart City developments.
The University of Bristol tweeted out this week
We have been awarded £100 MILLION by @ResEngland, our partners and philanthropists!
They have been awarded £100million by Research England to research and develop cutting-edge tech, which will benefit society and change the world, at the new Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be in Bristol’s new Temple Quarter development.
Lots of discussion about the recent announcement that Alexa will start offering NHS Health Advice.
People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.
Certainly the use of voice assistants has been growing in recent years, but also concerns about privacy, and this will only add fuel to that fire.
On Thursday I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.
WOW really interesting conversations over coffee at #MicrosoftTeams event with IT Directors facing what they describe as “price hike” from @echo360 and are thinking about switching to Teams – anyone already on this path – would love to chat
“ #MicrosoftTeams is not a VLE/LMS replacement – why would we replace like for like” my reading? “We want to be something different, but we think we are a learning environment.” Just my feeling about what I am hearing and seeing.