Can’t believe it is over a year since my last post – so much for New Year resolutions! 2021 was clearly an interesting year for the sector as online and hybrid became the norm in universities and colleges. After literally decades of trying to persuade academic colleagues to engage more with technology but finding resistance and lots of excuses, with Covid lockdowns suddenly it had happened.
The big question for me during this time was, ‘how much will stick?’. As I write the jury is still out, however from what I am hearing I fear the answer may be ‘not a lot’. As someone who has always believed that technology and the digital landscape can mitigate many of the barriers to engaging with full time higher education by enabling a hybrid approach, the impression I get is that in the post Covid world hybrid will be ditched in favour of a choice between online and classroom.
So students and staff will once again be constrained by a binary choice of course delivery method. The student who is incapacitated but not unwell (e.g. a broken leg) will not be able to participate in a classroom delivered course. Students with caring responsibilities may no longer be able to enrol on classroom delivered courses. The ability to participate in learning via Teams or Zoom may once again be reserved for online delivery only. Flexible learning will once again become pretty much only available through online and distance learning.
I do hope I am wrong because it would be a real shame to lose the knowledge and experience academics, support staff, and institutional have built up during Covid.
The institutional VLE is often blamed for all sorts of issues and challenges around teaching in an increasingly digital landscape. In a new addition to our workshop series, participants are given the chance to ‘lose the VLE’ and are tasked with redesigning one of their modules without using the VLE. In doing so, participants reflect on their use of educational technology and the affordances it can bring. This is achieved by identifying the activities undertaken in the VLE and attempting to undertake them in other systems. By the end of the session participants will have a greater understanding of their VLE and be in a position to decide if it is the most appropriate tool to deliver their teaching activities.
For the purposes of the workshop we offer alternatives for three key areas of VLE activity:
- Communications & activities: Microsoft Teams which allows sharing, collaboration, chat, group video calls, and is more likely to be used by students when they enter the workplace.
- Content: Kortext (www.kortext.com) as a repository for reading materials and Mediasite (www.mediasite.com) for video related materials; both of which offer analytics on use.
- Assessment: Turnitin (www.turnitin.com) as an end-to-end assessment platform
The workshop design can accommodate small or large numbers, with participants sat in groups of 5-10 for the redesign activity, with the whole cohort coming together to share feedback. At the end, participants are asked to vote on whether or not to keep their VLE – with some interesting results!
This workshop was first run at Perth UHI as part of their Learning & Teaching conference.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is to reflect regularly. One of the problems of being freelance is that reflection is often dropped to get the paid work done.
So today I re-read the paper I co-published at UoG with Vicki Dale & Josephine Adekola for the QAA Scotland Enhancement Theme, ’Student Transitions’ (https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1973/pdf_1). This paper provides a framework to support a campus based university in becoming capable in blended and online learning.
On re-reading it I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it resonates with much of the consultancy work I have undertaken since leaving Glasgow, as well as relating directly to keynotes and workshops delivered for HE & FE clients. Papers like this are essential underpinning to strategic change, but clients also need a tangible action plan with clearly identified activities and outcomes.
So, I have decided to start mapping actions against the framework to build a pick’n’mix set of options for universities and colleges as they develop their provision for learning & teaching in the evolving digital landscape – watch this space.