Author Topic: University Challenged  (Read 26807 times)

Alberon

  • His heart is an empty fridge
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #300 on: September 11, 2020, 05:41:50 PM »
We've been reworking all the centrally booked classrooms to socially distance each seat and redid all the classroom information (that no one ever reads anyway). Then this week we had to go in and take out more seats to keep the lecturer 2m or more away from students and redid the classroom information again. There's a good chance we'll have to go back in next week to tape an area of the floor in each room that the lecturer must stay inside, because obviously they can't be trusted to not start licking the students.

I've heard from a good few people that many lecturers are complaining about doing face to face lectures at all this term, but quite what will happen there is hard to say. The uni is strongly suggesting the use of face masks in corridors and classrooms, but is not mandating it, probably because then they'd have to supply the masks.

The R rate is rising and we've got over 15,000 students back in a fortnight.

BlodwynPig

  • The Last Living Member of COVID-20
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #301 on: September 11, 2020, 06:39:47 PM »
We've been reworking all the centrally booked classrooms to socially distance each seat and redid all the classroom information (that no one ever reads anyway). Then this week we had to go in and take out more seats to keep the lecturer 2m or more away from students and redid the classroom information again. There's a good chance we'll have to go back in next week to tape an area of the floor in each room that the lecturer must stay inside, because obviously they can't be trusted to not start licking the students.

I've heard from a good few people that many lecturers are complaining about doing face to face lectures at all this term, but quite what will happen there is hard to say. The uni is strongly suggesting the use of face masks in corridors and classrooms, but is not mandating it, probably because then they'd have to supply the masks.

The R rate is rising and we've got over 15,000 students back in a fortnight.

Good luck. We got an e-mail today from HoS saying that some staff were not wearing masks when walking around buildings. Glad I'm never going back*

*still need to retrieve my stuff from my beloved** desk

**makeshift

I'll miss the excitement of being first on campus waiting for the canteen to open and getting my morning coffee before the sun had risen. Peace. Out.

bgmnts

  • Depressed to the point of poisonous toxicity.
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #302 on: September 11, 2020, 06:58:26 PM »
My OU dreams were shattered before they began so I'll have to continue to experience the misery of academia vicariously through this thread!

Blue Jam

  • A nub of cheese? You absolute traitor!
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #303 on: September 12, 2020, 08:37:10 PM »
Just went food shopping and saw lots of empty shelves, young adults with their parents doing huge shops for them, groups of people with English accents pointing and laughing at haggis- yep, the students are back in Embra with a vengeance.

I also saw a mother and daughter wearing full hazmat suits while moving the daughter's belongings into halls. I doubt most of the students will be that careful though. Getting a bit worried about a second wave. Might try and get out for a nice meal at the pub before The Sturge declares a return to lockdown.

Blue Jam

  • A nub of cheese? You absolute traitor!
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #304 on: September 12, 2020, 08:47:31 PM »
I also saw a young man telling his dad what a ledge he was for buying him loads of beer and steak when his mum would have bought him fruit and pasta. I bet he was called Russell and that in five years' time he'll be a T-shirt and haircut comedian doing a My Dad's A Legend show at the Fringe.

greencalx

  • Never knowingly knowledgeable
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #305 on: September 13, 2020, 12:00:34 PM »
It's at times like this that I'm glad I live in an unfashionable part of town.

Freshers' week starts tomorrow. I have most of my ducks in a row, but am still waiting for some people to do their bits so I can finish everything off. I think we will more or less know what we are doing by the time the first lecture goes out.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when the usual Freshers' cough starts. Technically speaking, they will have to isolate and get a test (in the same way that we've all had to as our kids have come home from school with the cold that's doing the rounds at the moment, and happens also to be accompanied by a cough). I have a feeling that this alone will end in-person teaching from around week 2. Might not be a bad thing, all things considered.

[EDIT: bad choice of language]

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #306 on: September 13, 2020, 02:24:21 PM »
It's at times like this that I'm glad I live in an unfashionable part of town.

Freshers' week starts tomorrow. I have most of my ducks in a row, but am still waiting for some people to do their bits so I can finish everything off. I think we will more or less know what we are doing by the time the first lecture goes out.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when the usual Freshers' cough starts. Technically speaking, they will have to isolate and get a test (in the same way that we've all had to as our kids have come home from school with the cold that's doing the rounds at the moment, and happens also to be accompanied by a cough). I have a feeling that this alone will end in-person teaching from around week 2. Might not be a bad thing, all things considered.

[EDIT: bad choice of language]

My wager has been on getting through to the end of Week 3, and then moving completely online.

My university has stated, however, that unless the government says we have to go online, we will continue face to face teaching no matter how many cases are confirmed amongst students and staff.

Absolutely no idea how our version of blended learning is going to go (and I have classes on Monday of week 1 next week). I have literally 100s of pages of instructions, templates, initiatives, statements, plans, guidelines that I'm supposed to adhere to. Several times a week I get new ones that supercede the old to the point where I have no idea which is the current one. There is an 18 hours' worth of 'training' online I'm supposed to have sat through -- with much of that material now obsolete.

We've been told that every and anything we've been planning so far may all be for nothing once the 'rule of six' comes into play -- in which case, it's possible that we are reduced to only 5 students in a classroom at a time. This would leave me with roughly 16 seminars to teach every week (were this a normal semester, I would have 3 or 4 on top of lectures). However, we are being paid as if we're teaching the normal workload, because all of these extra seminars are just duplicates of one original, so it's not any additional work.

I wonder if senior management would see it that way: give the same rotten town hall talk 4 times a week, but only get speaker's fee for one because, after all, the other three would just be the same speech three more times and it's not more work, is it.

My laptop will last only an hour or so running Teams off its battery, as Teams eats energy. Two days a week at present, I have five one-hour seminars in a row, and no time to recharge in between (let alone eat, go for a wee, or, in one case, get from one side of campus to the other in the time allotted).

Oh, and it's been noted already that roughly 1/2 of the teaching rooms on campus do not have an HDMI cable which means that lecturers can't plug in laptops to run Teams/record/all the other stuff that they want us to do. (Why they didn't spring for webcams w/mikes for the big, robust desktop PCs in each of the classrooms absolutely baffles me. Instead they bought a bunch of laptops that are apparently problematic -- already -- and in short supply).
« Last Edit: September 13, 2020, 03:00:26 PM by Attila »

Blue Jam

  • A nub of cheese? You absolute traitor!
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #307 on: September 13, 2020, 02:54:05 PM »
I'm guessing there'll be no meetings of the student union's Harry Potter society, or twats playing Quidditch in The Meadows. Partly because of Covid, partly because JK Rowling is a TERF.

Puce Moment

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #308 on: September 14, 2020, 12:50:58 PM »
I went back to work last week after months of being away and I have 1,458 emails to read.

Yes reader, I'm going to ignore all of them until my Line Manager asks for something.

Hoping that the second spike forces us into all online teaching asap.

BlodwynPig

  • The Last Living Member of COVID-20
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #309 on: September 14, 2020, 12:59:47 PM »
I went back to work last week after months of being away and I have 1,458 emails to read.

Yes reader, I'm going to ignore all of them until my Line Manager asks for something.

Hoping that the second spike forces us into all online teaching asap.

Readers, I'm head of IT/Admissions

Blue Jam

  • A nub of cheese? You absolute traitor!
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #310 on: September 14, 2020, 08:01:50 PM »
I went back to work last week after months of being away and I have 1,458 emails to read.

Is that all? I had more than that before lockdown. That's despite having a filter that sends all newsletters to Spam.

Just checked, I have well over 2,000. Think that was also the case back in February tbh. And I don't even teach.

buttgammon

  • How thick is wall?
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #311 on: September 14, 2020, 08:53:13 PM »
The timetables are finally out: lots of students have clashes, online and face-to-face classes one after the other and days when they're only in for an hour (which isn't supposed to happen to make things easier for students who commute).

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #312 on: September 15, 2020, 12:30:06 AM »
I know a few people at Birmingham and they've had people back in from today - compulsory to be in at least some of the time I believe, and they're HOTDESKING.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #313 on: September 15, 2020, 07:57:22 AM »
I know a few people at Birmingham and they've had people back in from today - compulsory to be in at least some of the time I believe, and they're HOTDESKING.

We've got a hot-desking scheme as well, because it's been declared there can be no more than 5 people at a time in our office block (a part of the building which has about 30 offices in it normally.) They set up a system where you could book time (hour at a time) in your own office during the semester, and immediately a handful of people block-booked entire weeks, including times when they are teaching on another part of campus and then they're working from home. So if you can't get into your office then, you're meant to book workspace in one of several 'staff hubs' elsewhere on campus -- essentially hot-desking with dozens of other people. You can't book office space before 9am, which is a pain in the ass for people like me who take early trains and get to campus around 8am.

We've also been told that whether we're teaching live or working from home that we must answer all student emails within 24 hours (including weekends -- prior to this it was within 72 hours during the business week), and that we must be available on email between 8am and 7pm M-F.

The timetables we have are mad, as well -- and yep, with the rota system for students, some are attending a class live on campus immediately followed by a seminar that meets via Teams. We've already been inundated with students asking to be swapped around on the rota schedule to avoid this, especially as we have a good number of commuters, as well.

I've got teaching days where I have to make a 2-3 hour round trip commute for 45 minutes of live teaching, and days where I have five seminars in a row with barely enough time to run from one side of the campus to the other between them, let along grab something to eat, go for a wee, and even get my stuff set up in the classrooms.

A colleague asked, if we have all of the students on a group actually live in the classroom for a seminar, do we still have to go through the palaver of setting up Teams, recording everything, etc. Yes.

Absolutely dreading the start of classes next week; I've been having anxiety dreams and panic attacks for a couple of weeks now waking me up at nights.

Back to recording lectures...it's so hard now, getting everything recorded, converting to online delivery -- I dread spring semester, where there is far less time due to marking and a much shorter break, to try to get all of the stuff ready for those classes. (And something tells me even if we go back to normal face-to-face lectures/seminars next autumn, the university will still expect us to stream and record everything)

pancreas

  • The islets of Langerhans are the very best islets
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #314 on: September 15, 2020, 08:11:48 AM »
FFS what is your union doing about it? They should be getting regional to endorse industrial action. It's absurd, and you need to threaten to down tools, before you've recorded everything and they can just press play.

And if the union's shit, then take it over.

Norton Canes

  • In today's room, with today's view
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #315 on: September 15, 2020, 09:23:19 AM »
30 Spanish overseas students, all in self-isolation as newly arrived on campus last night, decide to celebrate by holding a party.

Gonna be a fun term. Though possibly a very short one.

buttgammon

  • How thick is wall?
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #316 on: September 15, 2020, 09:36:19 AM »
30 Spanish overseas students, all in self-isolation as newly arrived on campus last night, decide to celebrate by holding a party.

Gonna be a fun term. Though possibly a very short one.

Question: does anyone here actually expect to make it through the term in its current form?

Here, we're just operating on the assumption that we'll make a clumsy shift online like we did last year (not least because cases are rising and there's the possibility of restrictions being tightened in the city). What I've said all along is that they basically had the choice of going online in a planned and orderly fashion, or deluding themselves with the possibility of keeping campus open and going through a stressful, messy and sudden move online when there's an outbreak in college.

Alberon

  • His heart is an empty fridge
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #317 on: September 15, 2020, 09:49:39 AM »
I’m just rearranging classrooms for the third time due to revised rules.

General feeling here is we’ll last three weeks before an outbreak pushes us online only.

Puce Moment

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #318 on: September 15, 2020, 10:51:47 AM »
Is that all? I had more than that before lockdown. That's despite having a filter that sends all newsletters to Spam.

Just checked, I have well over 2,000. Think that was also the case back in February tbh. And I don't even teach.

Well, I have over 12,000 emails - it's just that 1,400 of the recent ones are unread. Most of them are about covid restrictions and keep changing weekly or so. I think I will wait until the Friday before teaching to take them seriously.

Attila

  • gif made by hedgehog90
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #319 on: September 15, 2020, 12:41:26 PM »
I’m just rearranging classrooms for the third time due to revised rules.

General feeling here is we’ll last three weeks before an outbreak pushes us online only.

Union here is just making weak noises that we should go completely online.

Uni has already stated no matter how many cases we get, we stay face-to-face as much as possible (unless the government tell universities to go online, since senior management here is basing its directives on whatever is coming from the government).

Just had an email sent around today that the exciting! perfect! shiny! plan for using Teams....actually doesn't work. Half the Teams that were supposed to be set up for our modules haven't been. They want us to create separate channels on each module Teams page not only for each week's lessons, but each of the multiple sections. It's already causing chaos -- and of course, you know students will get totally confused and sit in the wrong Teams meetings every week because there are so many, &c.

Absolute clusterfuck.

buttgammon

  • How thick is wall?
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #320 on: September 15, 2020, 12:44:31 PM »
The government here has just unveiled its confusing new plan, and is now talking about keeping universities open as one of its top priorities, alongside keeping children in school. Dulce et decorum est...

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #321 on: September 15, 2020, 04:52:13 PM »
This bit in particular:


We've also been told that whether we're teaching live or working from home that we must answer all student emails within 24 hours (including weekends -- prior to this it was within 72 hours during the business week), and that we must be available on email between 8am and 7pm M-F.



is absolutely horrific, Attila, and surely your UCU branch (I appreciate they are often rather toothless - our own branch is good at individual casework, but hopeless at challenging broad policies) should be contesting this? It's setting a precedent for an unacceptable minimum 55-hour work week, and that's without mentioning the requirement to answer emails at weekends. Covid or not, your management are taking the absolute piss here. I'd recommend contacting Jo Grady directly, or at least your regional office, for guidance, and at the very least publicising the behaviour of your management. I haven't heard of friends at any other institutions facing anything quite so draconian, but we know from experience that as soon as one institution gets away with it it becomes written into every contract as "standard practice across the sector, so shut the fuck up and get back to work".

Edit: just realised that pancreas has said pretty much the same thing. If your local branch is housetrained, go over their heads. We're all grateful to have jobs in this climate, etc. etc., but fucking hell you're being treated disgracefully.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2020, 05:04:24 PM by Small Potatoes »

Puce Moment

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #322 on: September 15, 2020, 04:56:53 PM »
Yeah, my Uni now pushing Blackboard Collaborate instead of Teams or Zoom.

Haven't had training on BB for donkeys so I think I will just continually blame it on my PC until they buy me a new one.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #323 on: September 15, 2020, 05:06:16 PM »
Yeah, my Uni now pushing Blackboard Collaborate instead of Teams or Zoom.

Haven't had training on BB for donkeys so I think I will just continually blame it on my PC until they buy me a new one.

We're getting our first Collaborate training tomorrow (term starts on Monday), and have just found out that management have emailed students to say "each of your lecturers has recorded a video describing their modules for the coming year, and they'll be going live at 8am Monday morning". First I've fucking heard of it.

Alberon

  • His heart is an empty fridge
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #324 on: September 15, 2020, 05:58:26 PM »
Fourth time rearranging classrooms and had to work late to manage it.

If I never see another classroom table it will be too soon.

sirhenry

  • That worked out well...
Re: University Challenged
« Reply #325 on: September 15, 2020, 06:16:14 PM »
I'm guessing there'll be no meetings of the student union's Harry Potter society, or twats playing Quidditch in The Meadows. Partly because of Covid, partly because JK Rowling is a TERF.
None of that muggle talk down here in Leeds - the Quiddich society have decided that the best way to deal with all the current problems is to continue to play but without brooms, so it becomes an even more contact sport with some dodgeball thrown in. Expiriamus!

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #326 on: September 15, 2020, 06:29:06 PM »
This bit in particular:

is absolutely horrific, Attila, and surely your UCU branch (I appreciate they are often rather toothless - our own branch is good at individual casework, but hopeless at challenging broad policies) should be contesting this? It's setting a precedent for an unacceptable minimum 55-hour work week, and that's without mentioning the requirement to answer emails at weekends. Covid or not, your management are taking the absolute piss here. I'd recommend contacting Jo Grady directly, or at least your regional office, for guidance, and at the very least publicising the behaviour of your management. I haven't heard of friends at any other institutions facing anything quite so draconian, but we know from experience that as soon as one institution gets away with it it becomes written into every contract as "standard practice across the sector, so shut the fuck up and get back to work".

Edit: just realised that pancreas has said pretty much the same thing. If your local branch is housetrained, go over their heads. We're all grateful to have jobs in this climate, etc. etc., but fucking hell you're being treated disgracefully.

That business about the emails? That's an old policy -- we've been asked to limit email writing/sending to between 8am and 7pm during the work week in the past. (Ie, not to send emails and expect answers/action outside of those times or at weekends) -- the main reason they were reiterated is because people have been sending emails and expecting action all over the shop since earlier this summer.

There's been pushback about the 24 hours response -- apparently students on one programme (not in my Faculty) complained on the NSS this year that staff didn't answer their emails fast enough, so this came down as an initiative. In the past, it's been 72 hours during business-hours.

Current fave of mine is that we have to have weekly meetings with each year's cohort to see how they're doing, get feedback from them, see if there are any issues facing them that we need to address. I get so little time to do anything this semester because of this hybrid learning scheme and all of the additional prep/constant changes, I really don't want to add an extra meeting to my workload every week!

It could be worse, as there has been almost daily new initiatives to make sure that the students are happy and getting good value for money, etc.

My goal right now is to survive the semester, and pretty much not think ahead by more than about a week at a time.

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #327 on: September 15, 2020, 07:15:31 PM »
That business about the emails? That's an old policy -- we've been asked to limit email writing/sending to between 8am and 7pm during the work week in the past. (Ie, not to send emails and expect answers/action outside of those times or at weekends) -- the main reason they were reiterated is because people have been sending emails and expecting action all over the shop since earlier this summer.


That makes total sense, and a policy I try my utmost to adopt and request that my students (and staff, when I was a HoD) do the same - I make a point of NOT reading my emails after 5pm, and tend to push any received after then to the very bottom of my to-do list for the next day. But you mentioned that you "must be available on email between 8am and 7pm M-F" which is a different issue, and seems to imply that you are expected to be checking (and acting upon) any email received within that timeframe, implying an "always-on" employee relationship which is at odds with the aforementioned policy. Apologies if I've misread, but these seem like two very distinct policies with very different ideas about staff wellbeing. Being available 9-5 would be a reasonable demand, given that our contracts (and workload models, lest we forget) are for a nominal 37 hours a week. I know we all do more than that, but is your institution really saying that you can't swtich your work email off at 5pm, but need to be "available" until 7pm every day?

Re: University Challenged
« Reply #328 on: September 15, 2020, 10:45:59 PM »
We're getting our first Collaborate training tomorrow (term starts on Monday), and have just found out that management have emailed students to say "each of your lecturers has recorded a video describing their modules for the coming year, and they'll be going live at 8am Monday morning". First I've fucking heard of it.

My favourite Blackboard Collaborate quirk is that it runs only on a module by module basis. So if you have one lecture taken by several modules, then, well, you need to either find the workaround (which we are working on here) or teach it twice.

We've recently changed our entire module structure, so any student trailing is, for what we all hope is one year only, on a different module entirely. We need to find the workaround, or teach it thrice.

My main issues all revolve around labs now. New university policy on lab coats, so we have no lab coats. New university policy on safety goggles, fingers crossed they arrive on the 21st. No guidance on what to do if students do not obey the social distancing etc rules in the lab. Placement chap has decided not to update anything over the summer, so we're currently flying blind on numbers.

Once that's sorted, I may be able to prepare for my lectures! Thankfully only 5 before Christmas and, err, 20 hours of tutorials.

Attila

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Re: University Challenged
« Reply #329 on: September 15, 2020, 11:00:39 PM »
That makes total sense, and a policy I try my utmost to adopt and request that my students (and staff, when I was a HoD) do the same - I make a point of NOT reading my emails after 5pm, and tend to push any received after then to the very bottom of my to-do list for the next day. But you mentioned that you "must be available on email between 8am and 7pm M-F" which is a different issue, and seems to imply that you are expected to be checking (and acting upon) any email received within that timeframe, implying an "always-on" employee relationship which is at odds with the aforementioned policy. Apologies if I've misread, but these seem like two very distinct policies with very different ideas about staff wellbeing. Being available 9-5 would be a reasonable demand, given that our contracts (and workload models, lest we forget) are for a nominal 37 hours a week. I know we all do more than that, but is your institution really saying that you can't swtich your work email off at 5pm, but need to be "available" until 7pm every day?

You do raise very good points -- it's actually something as a dept we do need to clarify == my dean is actually being protective here, in that he doesn't want people to feel that they ought to be answering emails before 8 or after 1900, or expecting others to, as well (he's a big believer is putting emails on daily -- so at 8am on Mondays, one receives a barrage of emails).

Senior management are the ones banging on about the 24 hour response time no matter what day it is. And I've noticed from emails I receive that roll in on weekends, after hours, and when I'm on leave, people deffo expect an answer -- not students, but  certain colleagues or managers who seem to assum that we're all checking and acting on emails 24.7.  My fave so far is an email that arrived at 9pm on the Saturday of the Bank Holiday that just passed, demanding that depts let management know who would be representing programmes on a suddenly new open day -- and letting them know by 9am that following Tuesday.

The dean said he did acknowledge that some people do indeed work at night and fire off emails -- but not to expect any answers except between 8 and 19.00.

It's all overwhelming. I have a flexible work contract, and when I initially applied (asking that all of my teaching fall between 9 and 4pm rather than 9 an 6pm -- which before the official contract was no problem at all, and I even invariably had at least one day with no teaching at all), the dean hesitated, saying that if I went 9 to 4pm -- even knowing that I'm frequently at my desk and working from 8am -- that I would be losing too many hours out of the time I am expected to be on call (which is 9-6pm M-F). I've had the flexible contract for about 3 years now, and it's been fine in terms of squashing in my 5 and 6 modules every semester.

The real pain in the arse was the previous dean, who fully expected people to start back at work from midday on Sundays -- they would frequently send around emails on Sunday afternoon with stuff they expected to be actioned and back in response by 9am on Monday. They also had a habit of suddenly summoning you to their office for a 10 minute meeting -- and if it was a non teaching day, that might mean having to race onto campus, despite the commute involved. The present dean never pulls that shit, for which my faculty is grateful.

So it's a confusing policy -- we  are expected to be around to answer emails during those times if we're not teaching, but there is a sort of mixed message that it's considered polite only to email people during those times and not before or after. On the positive side, I do have an exceptional group of colleagues who pretty much down tools at 5pm and will make it very clear in subject headngs if something is an emergency, or anything that can wait til the next day. My head of dept is supportive to this extent as well.

I think management is trying to take the mick since we've gone so much on line, and also a knee-jerk reaction to a handful of students complaining that they don't get responses to emails within minutes of sending them at 2am or whatever.

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