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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

Distance is Spatial, Temporal, and Cultural

Risor HarbourSo, day 1 back in the office (not the office), after a 9-week paternity leave which coincided with a sudden decision as a family to move countries. We are getting settled now in Risor – Trehusbyen (The town of wooden houses) Norway. Everyone seems to be settling faster than me, I have been asked by daughter when I am going to Norwegian classes, she did add not because your language is bad but … for those that don’t know, our family has a connection to Norway, my partner is Norwegian and we lived here for years from 2012 to 2016, so it’s not totally random.

I’m currently working from Norway, where we will obviously be one hour ahead. So, we have a temporal distance to contend with, which on the face of it, sounds not too bad at 1+ hour! Compared to say working from Australia – Ahem, Jess, how do you do it? however, this 1 + hour has heavier cultural implications, which only become apparent with day to day living. Firstly, everyone and everything begins at 8am in Norway, schools, shops, cafes,  places of work. So, I’m already 1 hour out of sync. It also has the knock-on effect at the other end of the day, Norwegians tend to eat dinner early at around 4pm, so while most of the country will be sitting down for dinner I will still have a part of my working day to consider. Norwegians eat lunch early too, I have had a call at 11 O’clock asking if I was having lunch.

The Norwegian workday runs from 8am until 3pm, 3:15pm, 3:30pm I’m never 100% sure, it seems short but you have no lunch break, well you do but it tends to be around 20 minutes and generally spent with colleagues, and if you happen to work in University for example, if you were in the cafe,  while having lunch, you could expect people to come and ask about why the VLE is doing X and Y 🙂

I guess it’s worth bearing this in mind for our distant students (or staff) and not so distant students, 1 hour temporally can seem small, but combined with cultural distance can be larger than first assumed, and have an impact that is not initially obvious to us without local cultural context. Also, that one hour difference will have a hugely different cultural context if you happen to be in Spain or France for example. I’m sure this is all early days teething problems. And it actually makes things like school/nursery run less frantic.

It seems there are also technical distances to contend with, my computer clock shows Norwegian time, and my diary entries seem to show Scotland time (I think) – Stuart when you said 12:30 when did you mean? 😉

This should be referenced properly but it’s a blog post and I’m sure Michael won’t mind. But thanks to Michael Gallagher without whom, I’m not sure I would have considered Distance in this way.

(Jon Jack 2020)


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