What a difference a day makes: resolutions, unexpected realities and reflection

Thanks to the Timehop app I was reminded today that a year ago I gave not 1, but 2 keynotes at Heriot Watt University. One was online, quite early in the morning for their Malaysia and Dubai campuses, the other a bit later in the day on the Edinburgh campus.  Yes, dear reader,  I was in a room with actual people in it who weren’t physically distanced!

The theme of new year resolutions was chosen to help promote and raise awareness of a digital learning initiative that the Learning and Teaching Academy were launching.  How little we knew then about how much, and how fast things would change. 

In my talk I talked about how to balance the  at times seemingly “big” challenges strategy documents bring with the reality of doing seemingly small things, which can often make quite “big” differences in how you teach and how your students engage. 

Obviously, a year ago I had no idea that we were actually on the cusp of a global pandemic. COVID 19 still seemed quite distant, mainly affecting China and some cruise ships.  I had no idea how rapidly attitudes to digital learning would have to evolve.  The LTA Team did an outstanding job last year of providing support with and for their teaching colleagues and students, particularly with their  awarding winning project  Supporting Student Learning Online .  A fantastic set of  openly available resources.

As Martha highlighted in her tweet, a huge amount was done in a very short time.  There wasn’t really the luxury to focus on just one or two things, everyone had to get up to speed and online.  Phil made a good point about big changes and small ideas.

Looking back at the slides and my notes, I think the overall sense of it is still ok,  particularly the focus on humanity first. The importance of human contact and care has really been brought to the fore during 2020. Though, I still think we haven’t quite got there. I know of far too many friends and colleagues in HE whose default working day seems to have extended too long – both in terms of daily hours, and in terms of the length of time “all this” has lasted.  A 15 hour day isn’t normal, isn’t sustainable and shouldn’t be expected. Neither should days filled with back to back online meetings. I also don’t think I explicitly mentioned equity in the talk, and I would definitely do that now.

I hope there is some time this year for reflection on what happened last year. I hope that there is an acceptance that “normal” is a very long way away, that there are some serious discussions about how to adapt now old curriculum to the current realities of our working/learning/teaching/living spaces and places.

So maybe instead of resolutions this year we all should be making sure we have time for some reflections about what we really should be taking forward this year.

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