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.
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.
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.
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 thefrequency 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.
The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.
University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.
We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.
It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.
We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.
I spent some of Monday reflecting on an article in the Guardian at the weekend.
No campus lectures and shut student bars: UK universities’ £1bn struggle to move online
UK universities need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to deliver degrees online, with warnings that many are unprepared to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students’ education.
It has contributions from the likes of Martin Weller, Neil Morris and Diana Laurillard. It got me thinking, that we know good online learning takes time and money, however we don’t really have the time (and probably not the money either), so the question is, what can we do, what will have the most impact, and what can we also do to reduce the problems we face in moving online?
Of course we have moved to remote delivery, rather than full online learning. Even in September it probably will be a mix of delivery modes, you could even call it a blend of learning (sounds familiar) .
Reflecting on this, if every UK university created one excellent online degree between now and September (certainly possible) and then all universities shared their models/designs/content then we could be in better position than we are now, or even do a series of online modules that could be used by other universities.
Yes there are problems, issues and challenges, but can we afford to not do something. Sharing something, even small, has to be better than not sharing at all. So is this possible? What needs to be in place to make this happen? What do we need to do to ensure it could work? What could you do to make this a success?
Jisc are hoping to run their Connect More events this year and I have been involved in a couple of early planning meetings. I was reminded of the article I contributed to about moving events online.
I spent part of the week (as I do now) collating voices from higher education about their needs and challenges across the current landscape, but also down the line for the next academic year.
Having moved down into assessment over the last few weeks, I am now looking at teaching online and student wellbeing (and engagement).
We know that the move to teaching online was very much done quickly and rapidly, with little time for planning. Platforms needed to be scaled up to widespread use and most academics moved to translate their existing practice into remote delivery. This wasn’t online teaching, this was teaching delivered remotely during a time of crisis.
The Easter break gave a bit of breathing room, but even then there wasn’t much time for planning and preparation, so even now much of the teaching will be a response to the lockdown rather than a well thought out planned online course.
Thinking further ahead though, with the potential restrictions continuing, institutions will need to plan a responsive curriculum model that takes into account possible lockdown, restrictions, as well as some kind of normality.
I was involved in a meeting discussing the content needs of Further Education, though my role is Higher Education, I am working on some responses to Covid-19 and content for teachers is one of those areas. What content do teachers need? Do they in fact need good online content? Who will provide that content? How will do the quality assurance? Do we even need quality assurance? And where does this content live? Continue reading Things are going to be different – Weeknote #60 – 24th April 2020→
It was a much busier week this time, with a lot more travelling, including trams, planes, trains, buses, cars and walking. At least the weather wasn’t too bad, but there was certainly some rain and wind about.
Monday I was in Wales for one of Jisc’s Stakeholder Forums. It was interesting to talk to colleagues form universities and colleges about how they felt about Jisc and the services we provide them. I really enjoyed the session delivered by my colleague on big challenges and co-design and on my table we had a really insightful and interesting discussion about a Netflix style model for education.
Monday I was undertaking the final preparations for some presentation training I am delivering on Thursday. This included printing some postcards as well as designing activities.
I took advantage of Pixabay to find images for my postcards, this is a great site for images, and due to their open licensing, you can use them in a variety of ways. Though I often attribute the site for the images I use, it’s not a requirement, so if you use them later or forget, it’s not really an issue.
Tuesday I was off to London for a meeting to discuss some future collaborative work that Jisc may undertake. What are the big challenges that HE (and FE) are facing for the future. One comment which was made I thought was interesting, was how challenging it was to get people to think about long term future challenges. Most people can identify current issues and potential near-future challenges but identifying the really big challenges that will impact education in the medium or long term, is really hard. Part of the challenge is that there are so many factors that can impact and predicting the future is thus very hard.
Reminded of this challenge of predicting the future, this week with the imminent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Watching the haunting nuclear war TV film, Threads in 1984, I had no idea that the Cold War was every going to end, it looked like it would last forever and we would always be living under the threat of nuclear war. Five years later on the 9thNovember 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching it on the news in my student accommodation, thinking, what’s happening, how is this happening? Back then we didn’t have social media, mobile phones or the web, so the only way for news to filter through was by television and newspapers. A year later we had the reunification of Germany. A year after that the USSR was dissolved. Continue reading Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #33 – 18th October 2019→
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 busy and confusing week for me with various non-work activities taking place, resulting in a more agile and flexible way of working.
On Monday, that Amazon Photos reminded me that on the 1st July in 2007 I was taking photographs of our brand new library at the new Gloucestershire College campus on the quays.
What really impressed me back then was that my library team came in over the weekend to unpack everything and ensure that the library was ready to open. They didn’t tell me they were going to do that, as they wanted to surprise me (and everyone else as it happens). The library was welcomed by staff and students. It would take a little time to embed the use of the library across the student body, but within a year or two we were there.
At Gloucestershire College I was responsible for TEL, the libraries and learning resources from 2006 until 2013. Ofsted at our March 2013 inspection. Ofsted said “Teachers and learners use learning technologies extensively and creatively inside and outside the classroom. Most courses provide a good range of materials for learners through the college’s VLE. Outside lessons, many learners make constructive use of the college’s libraries and resources.” This was achieved by working with curriculum teams and students on show how the library and technology could be used to support learners and enhance the learning experience. I was very proud that all the work myself and my team had put into the use of learning technologies, the VLE and the library was recognised.
I quite enjoyed the tweets this week from Microsoft celebrating the 1985 initial release of Windows.
With Excel, Chart, and even Flight Simulator, there’s no telling where Microsoft and the power of Windows will take you this summer. pic.twitter.com/sEHLuXysXn
My first experience of Windows was some time later with Windows 3.0 and remembering the big advance that Windows 3.1 brought to computing. It was probably Windows 3.1 that really made me appreciate the affordances that technology could bring to teaching.
I remember the huge fanfare that was Windows 95 and what a step change it was from 3.1. We even had video now on Windows, though it was quite small.
I never really moved to Windows 98 and moved straight to Windows 2000 when I started a new job in 2001. Well the laptop I was provided with did use Windows Me, but I soon moved over to 2000. I liked Windows XP and thought it was a huge improvement over previous versions of Windows.
After that I was more of a Mac person and rarely used Windows. I did have to use Windows 7 for a while, but found it confusing as I hadn’t used Windows for a long time. Today I have been known to use Windows 10, but my main computing platform these days is still OS X.
I’ve long argued that NSS by institution only isn’t helpful for prospective students or others – you include so many different student experiences l that an average doesn’t offer much help for understanding how your experience may compare.
He then goes through a range of visualisations including results that allows you to get as close to results for an individual course as the data allows.
I liked the use of Tableau to enable you to interact with the visualisations.
…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.
On Thursday, that Amazon Photos once more gave me a blast from the past and reminded me that thirteen years ago in 2006 I had presented at the EU e-Learning Conference in Espoo in Finland. I was presenting on behalf of Norton Radstock College (now part of Bath College) about a joint European project they had been working on. At the time I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium of which Norton Radstock was the lead college. I was on holiday when I got the call to see if I could attend, so it was a somewhat mad rush to sort out the travel. I started off in Bristol Airport and then there was a bit of a mad rush at Schiphol where I had to change to a flight to Helsinki. Schiphol is one huge airport…
Having arrived at Helsinki, I needed to get to Espoo and travelled by shared taxi to the hotel. I spent part of the evening walking around the area, before ending up in the hotel restaurant.
It was lovely and sunny, and as being so far north, the sun never really set. I also remember trying to access the BBC News website connected to the hotel wifi and being surprised by the advertising all across the BBC site. I then connected to the VPN in my office in Keynsham and all those adverts disappeared…
The conference was opened by a string quartet which I remember been something I hadn’t seen before at an e-learning conference. My presentation went down well, but the humour didn’t!
The conference meal was a little disappointing, I had been expecting a meal that would be full of Finnish delicacies and national dishes. What actually happened was we went to an Italian restaurant and had a buffet of Italian food.
It’s quite happenstance that I was reminded of that conference and trip, as in my new role I am now working with NREN colleagues across Europe on different projects,
I had some time the following day before my flight to have a quick look around Helsinki. I caught a bus to the centre and back.
As I didn’t know any Finnish I thought I did quite well to not get lost.
Spent some time reviewing and planning the Data Matters 2020 conference. I presented on the Intelligent Campus at Data Matters 2019 and in my new role the responsibility for planning the next conference falls of my shoulders.
I also spent a fair amount of time working on the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am working on at Jisc.