Webinars – Why Do We Bother?

You may have heard the phrase, let’s not waste a crisis? So why not sign up to lots of webinars to keep ourselves informed and occupied whilst trying to work from home. I’m sure that your inbox holds numerous invitations to webinars and online conferences, promising the holy grail for these times. Magic solutions to cope in the Corona-crisis and ideas to solve the complex issues surrounding the future of learning for higher education. I’ve signed up to many of these sessions, I think of them as chasing rainbows, hoping to find something new and valuable at the end.

Well it hasn’t worked out quite like that, but I have found some good sessions with empathetic comments from colleagues across the sector in the UK and the world to share.

The highlights listed here I’ve written as bullets for easy reading.

Firstly from EDEN [European Distance and E-Learning Network], a session called “How do we plan for education after the pandemic?’ Lofty aims but the panel from across the globe were unanimous on key points




  • If we try to go back to ‘normal’ we are going to do our students a big disservice. We have a chance to bring a learning experience that is student centred, challenge the assumptions and create authentic new realities
  • Moving to a digital experience isn’t just replicating a classroom experience to a digital one.
  • Planning for the future of learning is here, now, otherwise we will be left behind.
  • The early days of the crisis was all about survival, now we need to think about recovery, what do want to keep and what works now? If it survives the storm it will survive afterwards, biggest challenge is to go online.
  • What is most difficult to change is the mindset, we need to change the culture of learning and teaching, not just new technology.
  • Most academic’s training has not been done in an immersive way, people learn to teach online with virtually no experience. We must make this from a learner’s perspective, reflect on digital competences, students are not necessarily digital literates, so we need training to know how to learn in this environment.
  • Education is controlled by so many bodies its tied university’s up, especially with assessment, these are associated with quality, so there’s a need to rethink university education. We need to involve the future learners, what do they need? We don’t allow people to be creative enough, it should be more open, then we can move towards the future, not the one that has been established by industry.

Secondly from an online forum of UK and Ireland universities, run by Steelcase of which I was a panellist. They have a guide to designing learning spaces post Covid-19 

  • If we ask students back, what kind of experience is going to be safe, valuable and authentic? Its about not trying to replicate the classroom to an online experience, and then thinking about technology, providing accessibility thinking of culture and equality.
  • The University of Wolverhampton has a 3 year plan ‘Recommence, Recovery and Revival’ looking at how they operate, with a blended approach, with people on campus only for specific reasons.
  • HEI’s should be talking about going back, but reaching for a new reality, and the language that we use is so important, being inclusive and considering accessibility, as is a holistic approach by all stakeholders.
  • Cardiff University is investigating the new reality, how they actually use the campus, bearing in mind new financial plans, looking at changes to the footprint of the campus, including the plan to stop using some buildings to save money.

Thirdly from Advance HE, and the Creating Socially Distanced Campuses and Education Project, this from Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management at Advance HE




Parkin writes that “There is much more at stake here than calculating room capacities for social distancing, putting lectures on-line to prevent large group gatherings, and marking out one-way people-flow systems, although those things may be important. When John Henry Newman wrote about The Idea of a University (1852) he put across the notion that “a university’s ‘soul’ lies in the mark it leaves on students”. The decisions we make now regarding space and place need to keep that soul alive.” The full report is here: Space and Place – Creating Socially Distanced Campuses and Education Project

And secondly from Eve Alcock, Students’ Union President, University of Bath

  • It should be more about connection than content. Students need to feel that they are part of a university rather than just receiving information. It’s a partnership, universities must listen to students
  • Our facilities need to support student group activity and therefore cater for life outside the virtual classroom [How is not addressed]
  • Learning and teaching spaces both online and on campus need to allow for those vital serendipitous encounters [see above]
  • Communication and honesty is key
  • Humanity, show compassion and understanding, in this unprecedented time
  • Inclusion, start with the minority then think of the majority it’s not all about demand

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