On Monday I was reflecting with an international lens on our HE strategy. Jisc is not funded to support non-UK universities, but we do work closely with other NRENs overseas, sharing practice, advice and where we can collaborating on projects.
Tuesday I delivered a formal presentation to a university executive about a project we have done for them, they were very pleased with the final report, the presentation and the work we had done.
Later I was doing another presentation to another university with some thoughts about digital governance. My main point was that digital isn’t just a thing, nor does it just within its own silo within an university. Often the benefits that digital brings to a department or professional service won’t be within that service but will benefit the university as a whole. For example, when you bring in a digital HR system, the real benefits of such a system are not for HR, but for the efficiencies it brings managers across the university. However often those benefits are not always realised, and the affordances of such systems are also not realised.
Wednesday I was catching up with stuff and preparing for other meetings.
Universities could face fines over free speech breaches as reported by BBC News.
Universities in England could face fines under new legislation if they fail to protect free speech on campus. Visiting speakers, academics or students could seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of a university’s free speech obligations.
To be honest I am not sure how much of a problem and issue this is in higher education that it requires legislation. There was then a kerfuffle as the Universities Minister and Downing Street debated about what was allowed (as in free speech) and what wasn’t (as in hate speech). To be honest if the Government can’t work this out, what does this mean for universities?
On Thursday I was presenting at the QAA Conference, my presentation was entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses?
The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as more institutions move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning. In this session James Clay from Jisc will explore the challenges that growth in online learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. He will explore what is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the space and design implications of delivering online teaching as well. He will discuss what some universities are doing today to meet these challenges and requirements. He will reflect on a possible future where we are able to maximise the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.
So true Lawrie, so true.
One thing I have noticed in some presentations is that some academics will often report "their" success when an innovation in teaching works, and also "students failed to engage with it" when it doesn't work.
Well the week started later (as might be expected) with Easter Monday. Also with it being a school holiday and people taking leave, it was also a rather quiet week with very few meetings. This allowed me to crack on with a few things that were in my to do list.
University leaders said it was deeply unfair that students could get haircuts or work in pubs next week but still had no idea when their campuses would reopen, as the government announced that school pupils in England will be expected to wear masks until the middle of May.
The BBC News reported on Gavin Williamson wanting to ban mobile phones in schools.
Mobile phones should be banned from schools because lockdown has affected children’s “discipline and order,” the education secretary has warned. Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph phones should not be “used or seen during the school day”, though he said schools should make their own policies. Phones can act as a “breeding ground” for cyber-bullying and social media can damage mental health, he added. “It’s now time to put the screens away, especially mobile phones,” he wrote.
I was reminded of a blog post that I wrote back in 2008.
Does your institution ban mobile phones in the classroom? Does it just ban the use of mobile phones in the classroom? Or does it just ban the inappropriate use of mobile phones in the classroom?
The key with any great learning process is the relationship between teacher and student, get that right and you are onto a winner. Disruption happens with that relationship breaks down, not when a phone rings.
My experience of school policies today, is that they actually already ban mobile phones….
I also liked this response from @Simfin who is an expert in this space.
I did like this article on Wonkhe – Where next for digital learning? by Julie Swain. She says that the key pillars of action to support staff and students need to focus on are:
Digital Learning Spaces
Mental Health Support
Digital Learning Skills
In the article Julie recognises that digital poverty isn’t just about connectivity and hardware, it’s also about space and time.
She says about space: Space has proven to be a major issue. There were assumptions that students and staff had “study spaces” at home where they could shut off and dedicate themselves to learning. Again that is just not the case for many and it is not uncommon to be “inside someone’s spare room or even bedroom “.
Though I also think we need to consider low bandwidth and asynchronous learning activities as well as space, connections and hardware.
Jim Dickinson and Rosie Hunnam interrogate the student opportunities lost to the pandemic, and gather intel on what it would take to build them, and the student community they support, back higher.
This reflects a lot of conversations I have been having over the last few weeks on the importance of building student communities across the current covid-19 restrictions in place. Too often universities assume students can build their own online communities, but discussions with students reflect that this more than not doesn’t happen. Even where it does, it is often based on previous in-person communities. Going forward with potentially restrictions still in place in September, the importance of community building is there and how you do this online is still a real challenge.
After a range of virtual events, meetings, lectures, etc, often the last thing we need is more screen time on a virtual coffee break.
On Tuesday I was along with Doug Parkin and Lawrie Phipps presenting a a session on digital for a Spotlight Series for Senior Strategic Leaders. I was mainly talking about how to look at and embed digital into strategy. It was a good session.
On Wednesday I presented to the DigiLearn community about Learning and Teaching Reimagined.
This seemed to go down well with the attendees.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has shared outcomes of their work to explore the links between good practice in digital pedagogy and improved student engagement, progression and achievement.
I have been working on proposals this week, which is always a challenging activity for me, as I need to be concise and succinct, whilst my default when it comes to writing is to be extended and I make extensive use of redundant terms.
In the post I reflected that the key issue is rethinking the curriculum and the pedagogy. We have designed courses for in-person face to face teaching. Most of the time this has been converted (or translated) into a remote delivery format. It has not been converted to reflect the opportunities that online pedagogy can bring to the table. Even if it has then often the mobile pedagogy isn’t even thought about. Teaching and learning remotely is one thing, online teaching and learning is another, and mobile teaching and learning is different again. The solution appears to be a combination of redesigning the curriculum, to be a combination of low bandwidth, asynchronous type activities, alongside traditional live streaming, with option to deliver content to learners to access on their devices at a time and place to suit them.
Understanding where your learners are and how they will access teaching and on what device and connection is critical when it comes to successful curriculum design.
Daniel illustrated this idea of Bandwidth versus Immediacy through the following graphic.
Wonkhe on a similar note published this article on the same kind of subject.
Asynchronous learning gives students the chance to treat modules like box sets, bingeing or skipping as they see fit. Tom Lowe wonders what this might mean for learning.
I read this by Peter Bryant, which was published last week, on the snapback. He reflects on the changes that the pandemic has brought into higher education, but wonder what would happen when we can go back to in-person face to face teaching?
Whilst all these changes were borne out of the pandemic, would I want to go back to large didactic lectures, social isolation, mass exams and tutorials driven by repetition and memorisation? Firstly, that was never the exclusive way we taught, so many colleagues were doing amazing, innovative social pedagogies before and during the pandemic. But across the sector I reckon face to face lecture/tutorial/exam was a pretty dominant pathway for learning pre-pandemic. So, what happens when we can do those things again, face to face? What happens when we don’t have to worry about Zoom bombing, invasive proctoring solutions and the impersonality of online learning? Will we learn from this mess and value the ‘human interaction’ that a two-hour lecture using PowerPoint or a three-hour handwritten exam affords us?
With new safety protocols prompting design changes, traditional office spaces may be a thing of the past and this was explored in this article in The Guardian.
The pandemic has shown us that work can go on without a workplace. If it can be done online, it can be done from virtually anywhere with an internet connection. At the same time, however, the move to remote work has revealed the value of the workplace, as many employees hanker to return to the office. In light of these two opposing trends, what might the office of the future actually look like?
I had my mid-year review this week, and as with other reviews, these weeknotes have been useful in referencing some of my work. Seemed to go okay, which is nice. We reviewed my objectives, deleted a couple and added some more.
I had to write some notes for the Data Matters Conference, these I edited and published as an article on my blog.
Wednesday saw the inauguration of a new US President and hopefully a more positive future.
In 2018, the government launched a review of post-18 education and funding, with the aim of ensuring that post-18 education gives everyone a genuine choice between high quality technical and academic routes, that students and taxpayers are getting value for money, and that employers can access the skilled workforce they need. This week the Government published a paper, that sets out an interim conclusion of the review, which responds to some of the key recommendations of the report of the independent panel led by Dr Philip Augar.
On Thursday I spent most of the day judging the University of Coventry Post-Graduate Researcher of the Year award. This did mean spending most of the day on Zoom. Quite exhausting, but quite a rewarding process. There were eight finalists, and each had to prepare a written statement, deliver a presentation and be interviewed. Challenging for this at the best of times, but more so with everything happening on Zoom. Hats off to Jennifer and Heather for some excellent organisation of the event, which made my contributions much easier to do.
It’s sobering to think that this week saw the highest daily death rate recorded from Covid. In the last seven days, 8565 people have died within 28 days of positive Covid test. On Wednesday we saw 1820 deaths. Putting that into perspective, that is more than 50% of the total deaths in The Troubles in Northern Ireland over thirty years! It is more deaths than the number of people who died on the Titanic in 1912. These are troubling times and it looks like it will be some time before we can think that the pandemic is over.
The promising vaccine news is making bosses think about the return to work. But when it does happen, the office won’t ever be the same again.
I had a good discussion on Tuesday about the future university campus. I have worked on an intelligent campus project in the past, back then we had a vision. However the current landscape has changed and will continue to change. This has implications for campus planning and usage.
Wednesday saw the publication by the Government of guidance for universities on students returning in the spring.
Apologies I am on leave today, I will be unable to respond to any questions or requests on Twitter. I will not be posting pictures of my breakfast either. I will send replies and retweet interesting stuff tomorrow when I am back on the Twitter.
Friday was a full day of meetings and events. I actually have very few days where I spend most of the day in Zoom and Teams meetings, but today I had nearly six hours of online meetings. The key for me was to move away from the computer when I can.
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.
High case numbers in the early autumn have led some to conflate the second wave with students and universities. For David Kernohan, the data doesn’t show that.
This was an interesting article that looked at the data behind the second wave and how some people have been conflating the wave with university attendance and blaming students.
I spent a good part of Monday working on some internal documents for various projects, as well as some presentations for future events.
Tuesday I was on a panel session for the QAA looking at academic integrity. I don’t mind online events, but it can be really hard to read the audience compared to being on a panel at a live in-person face to face event.
On that note there was a discussion on Twitter about the term we use for that compared to online sessions.
I responded about how Jisc used the term in-person in their recent LTR report.
In the most recent Learning and teaching reimagined report https://t.co/jZZMtEOjxh we have been using the term "in-person". Language is always changing and we recognise that no single term fits all needs and practice. We try and ensure clarity in our communications.
Personally looking back over my recent blog posts I have been using the (slightly clunky) term physical face to face For some it is a real issue and in some cases how it is interpreted by employers and the press. I personally think we might be spending a little too much time over thinking this.
In an entirely expected move, the country faced a second wave of covid-19 and as a result there is now a second lockdown in place (in England to the 3rd December. Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time the Government has said universities should remain open. Despite that guidance a fair few universities have moved their provision back online as they did back in March.
It’s interesting to see how things keep changing adding much more to an uncertain future across the higher education sector. Back at the end of June as we started to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown I wrote a blog post wondering if we needed to worry so much about planning for online delivery for September.
In that blog post I was certainly overtly cautious about might happen.
Much has changed this week, and this means universities and colleges need to be more flexible and responsive as restrictions flex and change. We might see (hopefully) further easing of restrictions, but if the infection rate rises, then we might see a potential second wave and more restrictions imposed.
As the weeks went by and we saw gyms, cinemas, restaurants and barbers reopen, as well as none-essential shops. I did think that by September that universities would be a good position to have relatively open campuses, face to face teaching with some elements of their programmes online. So overall creating a positive student experience. Maybe, just maybe, universities wouldn’t need to worry as much as thought they might in designing and delivering courses online in the next academic year. Then again maybe they needed to.
I also knew that covid-19 hadn’t vanished, it was still there and as the cases grew in August I did start to think that we probably would, as predicted by many scientists, that there would be a second wave. Chatting with a few people in August, it was apparent that across many universities where was still concerns about social distancing and reducing the risk of infection, so plans were still being made to deliver blended or hybrid programmes, at least until January. The local lockdowns then happening regionally, demonstrated once more the need for effective flexible, responsive curriculum planning.
With the return of students to university in September, sadly we saw a huge spike in cases at many universities across the UK.
Initially there were a few cases as I shared in this blog post about the situation in the middle of September. We saw major news stories on a halls of residence in Dundee, but as the week progressed more infections were being reported.
Within a week it all went crazy and I wrote about that situation in this blog post. Thousands of students across the UK were being forced to self-isolate as infections rose across the student population.
Initial press coverage was quite negative and I did write the following
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.
The anti-student sentiment continued, so much so, that Johnson in a press conference actually was quite sympathetic towards the student situation.
One result of the increased number of infections and self-isolation was a lot of universities were moving back to online teaching.
… the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University both said they will move more learning online. The University of Sheffield said all teaching will move online … Sheffield Hallam said it will increase the proportion of online teaching, but keep some on-campus.
Both universities (Newcastle and Northumbria) said they had extensive plans in place to support students. Earlier today they said they would move most of their teaching online in response to the outbreaks.
The two main universities in Manchester are teaching online until “at least” the end of the month after a coronavirus outbreak among students. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester (UM) said it was a “collaborative decision” with public health bosses and “won’t impact” on teaching quality.
The situation over the next few weeks didn’t get any better, and alas across the country as a whole, there were more cases, more hospital admissions and sadly more deaths.
At the end of October the crisis resulted in a new second national lockdown to reduce the rising cases and deaths. However unlike the first lockdown schools, colleges and universities were to remain open.
Students in cities across England could begin a mass exodus back to their families ahead of new lockdown measures coming into force on Thursday. Hilary Gyebi-Ababio, National Union of Students vice president for higher education, said students were “really wanting to go home”.
This has implications for universities which were already struggling with delivering a blended curriculum in and around strict social distancing and mask requirements. They will need to think carefully about how the curriculum will need to change if face to face teaching is no longer possible or viable. This isn’t just about the students, the teaching staff (who may be more at risk of serious complications with covid-19) may also not want to be on campus during the lockdown.
Though the Government has said that the lockdown will stop on 3rd December, if it doesn’t then that adds more uncertainty, even if it does, certain areas will remain in Tier 3.
As I have written before about implementing a hybrid curriculum will help universities deal with this uncertainty. 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. Alas designing flexible, responsive, hybrid curriculum does take not just time, but also expertise. I don’t think you can easily assume staff have the relevant digital skills, capabilities and experience to design, develop and build such curriculum models. There is a lot more to this then merely providing the guidance, training and support. Where do you start for example? What works and what doesn’t? Trying to do this all during a national lockdown just creates even more headaches. I am going to review the hybrid blog post soon and publish an updated version.
We’re in an uncertain world in which the situation appears to be constantly changing creating planning headaches for universities, not just in terms of learning, teaching and assessment, but the entire student experience.
As I said back in June and again in September, what we do know is that the future is uncertain and this uncertainty looks like it is going to last sometimes.
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.
A glance at the Wonkhe dashboards would suggest this is a reasonable conclusion to draw – there are no Mid-level Super Output Areas (MSOA) in England with more than 100 Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days that have less than 2,000 students in residence. As you have probably come to expect, things are a bit more complicated than that.
David points out that blaming students for the rise in covid-19 isn’t just not helpful, but also isn’t accurate.
Universities were suffering again from negative press, saying they shouldn’t have opened. However they weren’t given much choice and on top of that in the most recent restrictions, even at the highest tier, universities are expected to remain open. What does open mean anymore? When we had the full lockdown back in March, yes students were sent home, however universities remained open, their campus may have been shut down, but research was still happening, teaching was going ahead and many students were learning.
Universities can remain open, but doesn’t mean the campus has to be open. Maybe the government should have listened to the advice from their own SAGE scientists who said three weeks ago that “all university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential.” If that advice had been followed maybe, many of those covid-19 infection hotspots could have been avoided.
What we do know is that many universities are moving to online delivery curriculum models and for many students self isolation is part of the student experience.
Universities are facing anger from students over conditions some have faced while self-isolating in campus accommodation. Students have criticised the cost and quality of food provided to them by universities while in isolation. Undergraduates say food parcels have often been filled with “junk”, meaning they have had to request fresh fruit and vegetables from parents.
Screwed over by the A-levels algorithm, new university students are being hit by another kind of techno dystopia. Locked in their accommodation – some with no means of escape – students are now being monitored, with tracking software keeping tabs on what lectures they attend, what reading materials they download and what books they take out of the library.
Libraries have always taken note of who takes what books out of the library, that was an essential part of the system, so you know what’s been taken out and by whom, so you can track it down if necessary.
Of course analytics means that if you start analysing that data you can start to discover new insights, on how people are using books from the library. Throw in more data and you can start to discover what the story is with different cohorts and subjects.
As with any data collection and analysis there are issues and I sent this missive to a mailing list in response to a question on this issue.
A highly statistically significant correlation exists between stork populations and human birth rates across Europe.
One of the challenges with interpretation of data is that it is a difficult thing to do. You can look at data and have a view, which may not actually be true. When I was working on the Jisc Digital Capability project, one of the core issues that I discussed with colleagues in universities was data capability, having an understanding of what the data was telling them, what was the narrative behind the data. Data is only part of the story. Though talking about analytics the implications of data from VLE systems is just as relevant, so would recommend looking at the Jisc code of practice on analytics.
On Thursday evening Twitter stopped working for me… well what was I going to do now!
Earlier in the day we had a meeting with the Data and Analytics directorate to hear about their future plans.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Why are obsessed with acronyms we move from MOOC to MOOCx SPOC, SOOC, MOPS, MAPS, KITS, MITS we spent too much time on names