The Pandemic Pivot

These are unique days in which we are trying to evolve and adapt to a situation that is unpredictable and unrelenting to everyone. The current pandemic is generating stresses in both professessional and domestic lives with the only certainty being that in the short term are lives will be flipped and we all be affected somehow over the coming months.

In all levels of education we are witnessing a unique event however instead of closing the doors teachers want to continue teaching (which is great and pretty inspiring). However for an IS department this can create a few unique issues, as although we would love all users to use are snazzy tools all the time (when there
isn’t a global crisis) but adoption varies depending on numerous factors (and we don’t judge as the technology shouldn’t lead or force academics into a style of teaching based on what is possible via a tool).

Some of the unique issues IS Departments are facing:

  • Can the service(s) take the potential load generated by the institution
  • Can the service(s) take the potential load generated by all institutions moving to online globally
  • Are we speaking to service vendors regarding the increase and impact
  • Will the vendors be affected by the current pandemic (they are humans too) and what are they doing to mitigate against these risks
  • Do we have a robust support structure to meet an increase in queries
  • Do we have information on the services we offer in PLAIN ENGLISH (not legal lingo)
  • Do we offer information on the services in various formats (for accessibility and multi-modal learners)
  • Are we offering additional online and in person training sessions on keys tools
  • Can we shift to working at home and still support the services plus anything else that may emerge
  • Is data secure?

And that is me just brain dumping my head in no order! Colleagues across IS have been doing the above to meet the Universities 23rd March deadline to move all teaching online.  The Teaching Continuity Preparation webpages is a resource that can be used by anyone and is a 1-stop-shop for key teaching tools to help colleagues transition whatever they deem to the digital online world.

A collaboration between IS learning, Teaching and Web teams and (the awesome) Michael Gallagher (Lecturer in Digital Education, Moray House School of Education and Sport) created and ran multiple technology and pedagogy onboarding sessions over 2 weeks attended by over 800 users. These sessions explored the technology recommended by IS to allow staff to continue teaching online( providing a basic overview and allowing an opportunity to ask questions) and talked about how to teach online with the key message being simplicity and the 3 Cs (care, continuity and contact). Myself, Michael and Karen Howie (Head of Digital Applications and Media) talked about this mass maneuvering in the recent podcast (plug, plug, plug, link below).

Online or digital or whatever you want to call it doesn’t float everyone’s boat and that’s ok. When I hear screencasts with me talking I instantly wonder who is that squeaky Irish man talking with an aggressive tone! Or when I stew over a drafted discussion post (or blog) I usually overthink every detail in the fear that somebody tags me and replies “your wrong plus you type like your a squeaky aggressive irish man”.

The online world can be daunting for numerous reasons however in the short term we are working to try and offer a platform to allow people to connect and access knowledge. Learn (as an example) doesn’t have the capability to add snazzy stickers of famous celebrities in the discussion boards however it does allow users to watch and interact with last weeks recorded lecture in Media Hopper Replay, go off and do some collaborative group work in Collaborate, reflect and blog collectively or individually in the University blogging platform, take a formative quiz to gauge knowledge in TopHat all whilst reviewing the library linked resource list in their spare time (plus and importantly IS have performed accessibility, data protections and market reviews on all the above to ensure users don’t need to worry).

I haven’t even gone into the creating auto-graded coding exercises in python that requires no local software installation and is accessed via a browser …. or the open educational content crafted by peers and colleagues who have poured numerous hours into creating, tweaking and producing which anyone can reuse.

All the above may sound utopian however we are working to try and make the transition easier for all. The impact this pivot will have longer term will be interesting to see whether the pivot becomes the norm, whether the technology can handle the pivot and whether we see a wider use of digital teaching tools post pandemic.




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