I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.
I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).
So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.
I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.
If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.
I have been listening, writing and talking about how universities are planning for September. There is so much uncertainly about what the landscape will be like then, so working out what and how to design an effective student experience is challenging.
Courses will not be the same as they were and won’t be the same as they are now.
Universities are reflecting on their plans in light of the current lockdown, the easing of the lockdown, social distancing as well as guidance from the regulator.
Students applying for university places in England must be told with “absolute clarity” how courses will be taught – before they make choices for the autumn, says Nicola Dandridge of the Office for Students.
This has implications for future planning and announcements of what universities will be doing in the Autumn. They will probably need to start publishing in June their plans. Some have done this already.
In what I suspected was to be the start of a trend, the University of Manchester decided to keep lectures online for the autumn.
The University of Manchester has confirmed it will keep all of its lectures online for at least one semester when the next academic year starts. In an email to students Professor McMahon, vice-president for teaching, learning and students, confirmed the university’s undergraduate teaching year would begin in late September “with little change to our start dates”, but it would “provide our lectures and some other aspects of learning online”.
The whole student experience is not going online though as the article continues.
However, students would be asked to return physically to campus in the autumn as Manchester was “keen to continue with other face-to-face activities, such as small group teaching and tutorials, as safely and as early as we can”, added Professor McMahon.
“Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the university has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year. Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social distancing requirements.
There was a similar announcement from the University of Bolton.
The University will teach our excellent Undergraduate and Postgraduate programmes on campus from the start of the new academic year in September 2020 and also support your learning using a range of dynamic virtual learning tools.
Though very similar pronouncements, reading this Twitter thread:
The Cambridge story is everywhere this morning – but I feel that the University of Bolton announcement will end up being the important one. https://t.co/qaNIjH32yx
It's been assumed that a September start isn't possible – Bolton has made it possible with technical measures.
Most are thinking that Bolton and Cambridge are doing the same thing, but just spun it differently.
So how can universities plan their courses and curriculum in an uncertain future?
We see and hear plans for online courses, non-online courses, blended courses and other types of courses.
A phrase I had been using in my conversations and discussions is hybrid courses. This is less hybrid as in combining online and physical courses into a single course, that’s more a blended approach. My view was that hybrid was much more about analogous to how hybrid vehicles function.
There is a petrol engine in the hybrid car, but the car can run on electric power when needed. On longer journeys the petrol engine takes over, but on shorter (slower) trips the car uses electric power. Which power is used is dependent on the environment and situation the car is in.
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.
These hybrid responsive courses will allow universities to easily clarify with prospective students about their experience and how they potentially could change as restrictions are either lifted or enforced. It helps staff plan their teaching and assessments to take into account the environment and changes to the situation.
There are hybrid variations across cars, some can be topped up by plugging in, whilst others just rely on charging form the petrol engine.
There could be a similar story with variations on hybrid courses. Some could have more online elements, whilst others reflecting the nature of that subject could have more physical face to face aspects.
There are of course still petrol cars and fully electric cars, but there is a whole spectrum of hybrid vehicles and it’s the same with hybrid courses.
You could translate your courses into online versions. You could transform them into courses which take advantage of the affordances of online. However the delivery of teaching is just one aspect of the overall student experience and thinking about that and reflecting on how your course and learning design will take into account the realities of an uncertain future, means you need to build that into the design of modules and courses. A hybrid model that is responsive and can adapt is one way which this could be done.
So it was interesting to see another person, Simon Thomson from University of Liverpool Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE) has been using it as well.
We’re using term hybrid. In the same that hybrid car has a mechanical engine and electric motor & you use each depending on journey you are taking you’ll potentially have an on campus or online experience which will reflect your learning journey (but maximise benefits of both)
“None of us know what’s going to be happening in the Autumn”, said OfS CEO Nicola Dandridge to the Commons Education Committee, who nevertheless added – in the same breath – that “we are requiring that universities are as clear as they can be to students so that students when they accept an offer from a university know in broad terms what they’ll be getting”. Via WonkHE
It’s an uncertain future and one that means courses will need to reflect that uncertainty. Designing hybrid courses which reflect the possibilities of that future, but are responsive enough to respond to changes are probably one way of ensuring that the student experience is meeting the demands of students in a challenging landscape.
A shorter week this week, due to the Easter holiday weekend, so the week started on a Tuesday.
I spent some time reflecting and reviewing some initial discovery work that Lawrie was doing on the emergence of new communication tools and platforms. He is looking at the impact on teaching practices and the student experience, as well as what Jisc could do in this space.
I attended an update on how the project was going that is looking at how Jisc can influence the influencers.
Though I have left the Intelligent Campus project I still have some interest in that space. One aspect is voice assistants, tools such as Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. I noticed some recent news articles in this space and wrote a blog post about one of the articles.
Back in January I presented at the Data Matters conference about the Intelligent Campus, I found out on Tuesday that I had been allocated an action: James Clay (Head of higher education and student experience) should work with the relevant members of the M5 group to prepare a proposal for the next Data Matters Conference. So I spent some time reviewing what this entails. The next Data Matters will take place in January 2020.
Wednesday saw me attending a debrief on and reviewing the workshop I lead last week looking at Jisc’s work in the Education 4.0 space and what others are doing in this space. We reviewed what worked well and what we would improve. We aim to run further workshops in a similar vein.
On Thursday I was in London for an Agile Implementation Workshop I am helping run.
On the train to London I skimmed Educauses’ Horizon Report, the end result was I realised how much I needed to read it in more detail. So when I got to London I printed it out , so I could annotate it.
At the workshop, I talked about reporting and also did an introductory demo of JIRA. Sometimes the value of a tool such as JIRA is not the value it adds to the individual using the tool, but the combined and added value you get when everyone in a team uses that tool. Reporting is something else that often is seen as a process between two people, but aggregated reports are valuable to a range of stakeholders in an organisation. It was a great workshop and it was nice to work with a wide range of people from across Jisc.
Friday I spent time discussing and reading about the “student journey”, the “student experience” and the “student lifecycle”. These are all terms used by different people and organisations and mean different things to different groups. I do wonder if they are similar or different things.
Lancaster use the term student journey and have mapped it out in a diagram.
This map outlines the student journey from deciding to attend Lancaster University right through to graduation.
So is the journey where the student is going to go, and the student experience is what happens when they get there?
So what of the student digital experience?
At Jisc we are developing a world-leading and holistic understanding of the student digital experience. What is the role of digital in students’ journeys into, through and out of study and into employment, as well as their interaction with a range of systems through the day. This understanding should include student wellbeing issues and the experiences of learners across different: backgrounds, modes and levels of study, subjects, types of learning provider, locations, family and work commitments, and disabilities.
What is clear is having a shared understanding across the organisation of the student digital experience.