Covid-19: Adjusting to a new ‘normal’ – the TEL team’s experience so far…
Just like millions of people across the country, and indeed the world, members of the University’s Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team are having to adjust to new working practices. As we isolate ourselves to help slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we’re also adapting to working from home for the foreseeable future. We thought we’d share how we’re getting on so far – what tools we’re using and how we’re using them. We appreciate that different teams work in different ways but if our experience gives you some ideas to help you work from home and collaborate with your colleagues, that’s great!
Ordinarily, we’re quite a tightknit and structured team of thirteen, composed of two sub-teams and based across three offices in Blandford Lodge on the Whiteknights campus. Committed to providing the best and least disrupted service we can to support our staff as they rapidly move to online teaching, we’ve been keen to retain as much of our structure and routine as possible. We’ve transferred our regular meeting schedule online and, instead of meeting in person, we’re using Microsoft Teams for our various team and sub-team meetings.
To help retain the cohesion of our team and enable to us to feel informed and up -to-date in a fast-changing situation, our fortnightly team briefing has been increased to twice weekly briefings (on days when all colleagues in the team are ‘in’). We have a rolling agenda on Teams to which all colleagues can add items to share as they arise and, again, we’re using Teams to meet.
To replace greeting each other in person in the mornings and to help retain some of the social aspect of work, we’ve set up a daily meeting in Teams which appears in our Outlook calendars, is open from 08:00-10:00 and serves as an open space in to which, as we each arrive to start work online, we can pop in, say good morning, have a quick chat and check colleagues are OK. We’re calling this our ‘virtual water cooler’ – available when and if we want to drop by.
During the day, we’re using the Teams Chat function to communicate informally within the team – sometimes with the whole team, sometimes with individual colleagues. We’re tending to use email for more formal things, as we would normally At the end of the day, we use our Team Chat to let each other know that we’re leaving to help keep people posted and demarcate for each of us the end of our working day.
Finally, we’ve set up a What’s App group on our phones for social chat, and for sharing banter and the obligatory amusing images and videos out of hours – to help keep our spirits up!
We’ve worked flexibly to accommodate for those in the team who have caring responsibilities, with children at home or a need to support elderly relatives and neighbours. A few of us have found downloading the MS Teams app on to our phones helpful to keep in touch with our team chat when attending to other commitments during the day.
As I write, it’s nearing the end of only day three of our new working arrangements, but we seem to be doing pretty well so far. Things feel more settled even within 72 hours. Like everyone else, we’re feeling our way as routines and practices evolve and we’ll reflect and refine as we progress.
A reminder that the TEL team is here to support all staff to use technology effectively to enhance teaching, learning and assessment, and enrich the student experience. You can find the TEL team’s guidance for teaching online and details of staff development sessions – Teaching & Learning Online and Getting started with webinars (using Blackboard Collaborate) – on Blackboard’s Help for Staff tab. Guidance on personal capture (recording) tools for creating screencast videos (including narrated PowerPoints) can be found there too.
If you’d like to know more about using MS Teams (part of Office 365), DTS have some useful guidance on their website.
If you’re reading this blog post and don’t already follow us on Twitter, you can do so using @UniRdg_TEL. We’re sharing timely information and resources from within and beyond the university – please tell your friends!
Stay safe and well – good luck and please remember that we are here to help you. To contact us with a query or request for advice, please email it@reading or log a ticket using the IT Self-Service Portal. If you’d like to share how you / your colleagues have been adapting to working / teaching from home, please drop me a line (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – we’d love to hear how you’re getting on.
Lauren McCann (Senior TEL Advisor, CQSD)